The bouncy-fireball cannon is just the tip of the iceberg, and the weapons get even more ludicrous the deeper you delve. Stalwart weapons of the FPS genre, such as shotguns and grenade launchers, are given an exciting twist with the introduction of incendiary rounds and more.
The grenade launcher, for example, can connect two bombs with a length of rope that allows them to be slingshot around cover or used to tie enemies together. Truss an enemy up with the rope and kick him back into a crowd before the grenades detonate to get the Gang Bang skill shot and net yourself a nice bonus.
Guns aren’t the limit of Grayson’s arsenal, however. He also has access to a telekinetic leash, allowing him to reach out and grab enemies, to throw them around or fling mobs into the air. On a more basic level he can also lash out with his feet, sliding around on the floor to trip enemies up or kick them into traps.
Traps are an integral part of Bulletstorm’s levels, it seems. Giant man-eating flowers are dotted through the levels, while the spikes adorn every other wall and balconies never have railings. Dark Messiah of Might and Magic seems an obvious influence given how easily you can kick enemies to their doom.
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Where Bulletstorm expands on both the skill shot and trap systems the most is in it’s four-player co-op mode, Anarchy, and not in the singleplayer campaign. There are a bunch of extra modes built into Bulletstorm beyond the standard singleplayer, including the mission-based Echo mode, but Anarchy is by far our favourite.
Basically, Anarchy is a wave-attack mode, where up to four players can jump in and fight against hordes of enemies who gradually escalate in toughness and number. The level we got a chance to try was disappointingly small – it took only ten seconds to run around the whole loop – but that doesn’t matter a huge amount when so many baddies are dumped in.
As with most horde modes, it’s a classic structure where, as long as one player survives, all players can continue to the next round. Every kill you get earns you points that you can put towards unlocking new weapons and buying ammo, which forces players to work together if they want to stand a chance. You can act as a lone gun if you want, but if you work with the team to get more elaborate skill shots then you stand a chance of reaping much greater rewards.
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The only downside, however, is that team skill shots seem to require both a detailed knowledge of the game and a lot of co-ordination. Certain enemies are labelled with the specific skill shot they need to be hit with in order to be killed, and the various stages of that skill shot have to be divided among the players. One of you might have to lift a foe with the telekinetic whip while others juggle him over the edge with sustained rocket fire. It’s a complex manoeuvre and it’s not made easier by the lack of step-by-step guides.
The plus side, of course, is that once a community of players has established itself around Bulletstorm, then this mode will likely see a lot of play. It’s merely a question as to whether Bulletstorm can unite the otherwise at-odds elements of itself enough to get players interested. We like what we’ve played of Bulletstorm, but we can’t quite shake the suspicion that the serious story will sit incongruously with the hammy performances and hyper-violent action, creating something which sits uncomfortably between players' tastes.
Bulletstorm is being developed by People Can Fly and will be published by Electronic Arts on PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in February 2011.