Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition review by Neil Bolt
Doom’s revival last year, alongside Titanfall 2’s stellar campaign, seemed to be a long overdue return to form for single layer shooters. It was, as the last one to truly stand out as a riotously inventive fun shootybang bang game was Bulletstorm, and now Gearbox has aided developer People Can Fly in giving that game a second bite of the cherry on new hardware.
Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition brings everything from the 2011 original and throws in higher res visuals, new modes and more to sweeten the pot. As with the PS3 version, you are Grayson Hunt, a boozy mercenary with a planet-sized grudge against his former employer, and said grudge proves to be particularly damaging to both parties as a crash landing sees everyone end up on a beleaguered resort planet that’s been taken over by some gruesome and violent locals. Now Grayson, his freshly-cybernetic friend Ishi, and a tough, bolshy enemy soldier must get off this hellish rock before a DNA bomb vaporizes all life. To do this, there’s a whole lotta stylish killing to be done.
You see, Bulletstorm’s main hook is its skillshots. You get points for performing certain contextual kill types by using any of your weaponry and manipulating the scenery, often both in unison. This is closer to Tony Hawk’s than Call of Duty, and it plays a massive part in why Bulletstorm is so bloody enjoyable.
On the weaponry side you have your trusty boot (good for knocking back enemies, and knocking them into/off of things) and an laser lasso called a leash that pulls enemies towards you (and later, with an upgrade, sends them up into the air), but beyond that is an arsenal of guns, each with their own individual skillshots, upgradeable secondary fire, and manner of death-bringing, that team up with your leash and your boot to wreak merry hell on the loopy inhabitants of the resort.
Bullstorm review highlights
Highlights are plentiful. There’s sliding into an enemy, causing them to somersault, in slow motion, as you use the force of your shotgun to send their flailing body into a big ‘ol prickly cactus. Or you have the sniper rifle with steerable bullets that have secondary fire that lets you steer impacted enemies into other hazards or foes and detonate them in a demented version of bowling. Then you have guns that fire explosive bolos, bouncing bombs you can kick, sends the target flying into the air before exploding, and disintegrate baddies into fiery dust. You can only have three in your arsenal at any given time, but this makes for more focused experimentation.
Come for the inventive chaos, stay for the cornball banter. Bulletstorm’s consummate anti-hero Grayson Hunt is surly, reckless, stupid, and quick to dish out childish insults and jabs. In short, he’s brilliant. Sure he’s not the deepest of protagonists, but there’s something inexplicably endearing about this gruff soldier with a rockabilly hairdo and a love for booze and violence. He’s almost like the Kurt Russell of Bulletstorm. The supporting cast maintain the trashy, foul-mouthed feel. Gray’s pal Ishi, now part cyborg because of Gray’s reckless behaviour, plays the straight man role perfectly, incorporating the machine side of his personality into it. Trishka’s introduction is defined with a foul-mouthed diatribe that stuns even Gray. Her no nonsense style is a great foil for our protagonist’s sarcastic grumbling. Then you have a potential show stealer in General Serrano, Gray’s former boss, and all round bastard. These aren’t well-rounded characters, but they are rather entertaining.
If you saw the descriptions of the cast and thought ‘Hey, Duke Nukem would be a great fit for that kind of puerile violence, well then you’re in luck (if you got the pre-order) as you can play as the gaming world’s most celebrated misogynists from start to finish. The delivery is typically Duke, and unique enough that it’s worth a go for a second playthrough. The running joke where Duke corrects the cast every time they call him Gray is amusing, but there’s a lack of enthusiasm to John St. John’s delivery at times that makes it less fun that it should be.
Duke aside, the remastered Bulletstorm has a few more tweaks and changes. Visually, the game’s polished and tarted up a bit, with improved textures and particle effects, while PS4 Pro owners get the added benefit of 4k, and the game runs just that bit smoother than before. Bulletstorm was a fairly handsome game, if not a stone cold looker, but even the enhancements can’t hide the age of an outdated Unreal engine, and a six year old game. The scenery is fine, but the character models suffer. Regardless, Full Clip Edition isn’t going to insult your eyes as any graphical fidelity issues are offset by the busy, colorful displays of carnage that frequently occur.
The game’s Echoes mode (a score attack that takes place in certain sections of the game world) is also pumped up with extra content that adds rulesets to spice up the challenge (such as not using skillshots, weapons etc). It’s the same set of maps, but it definitely adds to a mode that’s already immensely engrossing thanks to the way it distills the main campaign into snack-sized, points-based set pieces.
Rounding the package off is a 4 player online multiplayer mode that acts essentially a wave-based survival, where skillshot variety racks up the points. It’s a blast, if not anything that’ll hold your attention for any length of time. Finding matches was difficult given the pre-release nature of the game, to the point where I gave up waiting on a couple of occasions, but when I did get on, it was a lot smoother than I recall it being on PS3. Just be wary that matchmaking could possibly be an issue.
I think what pleased me most about returning to Bulletstorm was that it remains as gleefully dumb and fun as it was six years ago, and still makes me pine for a sequel for this generation. Aptly, considering its special guest star, Bulletstorm rides that same line between dumb and smart that Duke Nukem 3D did two decades ago, appearing shallow and crude on the surface while hiding great game design underneath. Nothing I’ve seen here changes my mind about that, and I came out of playing the remaster feeling exactly the same fondness for Grayson Hunt’s potty-mouthed adventure as I did beforehand. Time may have robbed it of a little of its sparkle, but Bulletstorm still throws a cheeky wink and melts your heart with big dumb, creative violence.
Bulletstorm Full Clip Edition review code was provided by the publisher.