Bulletstorm Xbox 360 Review
There's method to this madness, as you might have expected. You'll regularly come across drop points, which are effectively shops where you can upgrade your weapons, buy more ammo and so on. The currency you'll be using is Skill Points, which you accrue by performing kills. The more spectacular or unique the kill, the more Skill Points you get for it, especially if it's one you've never done before.
So, there's a definite reason to experiment with every one of your kills, although on Normal difficulty you'll find it's not quite as essential as it is on Hard, naturally. Still, it's always worth going for the difficult and the spectacular, as it'll make your progress that much smoother later on when enemies get more challenging, and ammo starts being used up at a far quicker rate.
All this fancy killing can be a bit of a distraction, though, and there are a couple of issues with the single player campaign that need to be addressed. The first is the almost insulting and definitely uncomfortable level of machismo that exudes from pretty much all the characters like testosterone-scented sweat. The nature of the over the top gunplay naturally makes it necessary to have equally overblown characters, but at times it can grate, especially in scenes starring your nemesis, General Serrano.
As a bad guy, it's impressive just how utterly hateful the General is. Really, it's difficult to think of any gaming villain more loathsome, despicable and deserving of your wrath than Serrano; a complete swine of a human being. In fact, he's such a bastard that you begin to forget about any other machismo coming from the other characters.
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He's certainly very well developed to have ended up this horrible, and the desire to see how he gets his comeuppance drives you forwards at all times, but still; he’s an ass.
Bulletstorm’s other big failing is that your AI team-mates won't necessarily always do their best to help you complete your mission, as they tend to suffer from random intelligence blackouts. This usually leaves you having to fend for yourself as your useless allies stand around doing nothing. It's not a huge problem, as it only rears its head occasionally and you can usually recover, but things still go awry more often than they really should.
Another problem is that you can sometimes get stuck if an enemy gets behind you, or if you're crowded. This usually leads to death while attempting to escape, and isn't so much of an issue when using the more precise keyboard and mouse controls of a PC, but having an enemy behind you pushing and shoving can really become frustrating with a 360 or PS3 pad. The lack of a Jump key usually means that your attempts to get away will often come to a crashing halt against a tiny bit of scenery too.
Because you have to double-tap the Run button to slide, you might also find yourself desperately trying to get over an obstacle only to keep sliding into rather than over it. Again, annoying and something the inclusion of a Jump button may have avoided. Just keeping your cool and not hammering away at the button will solve the problem, but it's easier to say than do in the middle of a gunfight, and it's something we wish wasn’t an issue at all.
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Multiplayer is also a contentious issue, not because it's rubbish but because there's not that much of it. There are two modes, Anarchy and Echo. The former is a four player co-op mode in which you and your chums rack up a target score as waves of enemies advance on you. The latter is a leaderboard-based challenge where you post a skill point total on one of a number of single player stages and see if you can beat your friends' totals – i.e., not a true multiplayer mode.
That's all there is to it. No deathmatch, no campaign co-op, just those two modes. The developer has made it clear that it would be difficult to retain the core Bulletstorm gameplay in a competitive environment without people becoming frustrated but, while the reasoning is sound, it’s still a notable omission. The reason for not having a campaign co-op mode is less clear, and is apparently due to players avoiding using skill shots
and just racing through the levels. Plus, the special set-pieces such as the giant robot dinosaur are much easier to program when Player 2 isn't a consideration.
Regardless of smaller issues and the potential lack of pre-DLC multiplayer modes, it remains clear that Bulletstorm is a very exciting, hugely enjoyable action shooter. People Can Fly has benefited from having the expertise of Epic on its side, allowing the developer to provide the over the top action of Painkiller, but in a much slicker, more natural and successful way.
It might not have the longevity needed to keep the disc in the tray – not unless upcoming DLC contains plenty of new multiplayer features, maps and modes – but it's very efficient as a first-person blaster designed purely for entertainment.