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Bulletstorm E3 Hands-On Preview

First person shooters have become the most dominant game genre of recent times with countless numbers of bestselling franchises being based on this classic perspective. There have been plenty of attempts to add more variety to the violence with many titles incorporating additional gameplay elements (RPG-style experience points, open world environments etc). EA's latest shooter, Bulletstorm, developed by People Can Fly and Epic Games sets other FPS games in its sights and aims to deliver an over-the-top experience.

Bulletstorm Screenshots

Taking place in a stylized but gritty futuristic setting (as per usual), the game's story focuses on a confederation and the bodyguards who are tasked with protecting it, a group called Dead Echo. Two of these mercenaries, Grayson Hunt and Ishi Sato, realise their side might not be the right one and subsequently rebel, but are exiled to the corners of space. The pair is eventually reunited by fate on a distant planet populated by bizarre and aggressive humans and they both agree to do whatever it takes to get revenge on their squad. While the plot is clich├ęd and the apocalyptic visual style will certainly be familiar, People Can Fly are emphasising that the gameplay will deliver in a manner very different to other FPS titles.

Bulletstorm Screenshots

Before we could start our hands-on demo, the developers showed us an introductory video as Bulletstorm doesn't play in the same way as other shooters. Here the game's "Skillshot" system was shown and explained, which really seems to set it apart from any of its genre competition. Killing enemies in the levels will earn you skill points which add up to a total in one corner of the screen. These points can ultimately be used to buy upgrades and new abilities for your various weapons at special stations available throughout the levels. This RPG style element is not entirely dissimilar from other titles, but it's the manner in which you earn points that really makes Bulletstorm stand-out.

Bulletstorm Screenshots

Shooting and killing an enemy will net you a paltry 10 points as this is a dull and simple method of getting rid of the opposition. Instead you are encouraged to come up with the most elaborate and sadistic methods possible which will net you more points, allowing you to improve your weapons opening up even more potential for inflicting pain. Using the standard assault rifle, the Peace Maker Carbine or PMC for short, you can perform a number of different Skillshots without too much effort. In true first person shooter style getting a headshot earns you a much more impressive 100 points with the added gory payoff of an exploding head. However, there are more twisted methods available such as the "Mercy" Skillshot awarding 150 points for shooting an enemy in the groin until they keel to the floor and then finishing them with a headshot. More gruesome still is the "Gag Reflex" where an enemy dies from a shot to the neck, with some really unpleasant effects to accompany it. This certainly looks set to be an 18 rated title and expect the grisly kills to invoke some controversy from the more conservative media.

BS10

Using variety is the key to earning as many Skillshots as possible and alongside the PMC, you have a number of other tools at your disposal to brutalise your foes. One of the most important weapons is your humble foot, which allows you to kick enemies into the air and follow up with another attack to net you more points. As you launch the baddie into the air, time slows down and they are highlighted with a glowing blue outline, allowing you to focus and shoot them out of the air. The kick also brings the numerous environmental hazards into play, with gigantic cactuses, flesh-eating plants and explosive rubbish bins littering the levels just asking to be introduced to the opposition. Another essential tool for stringing together these Skillshots is the leash, an electrified whip that can draw enemies towards you. This works particularly well if you grab someone, fling them towards you, then use the kick to send them flying back to where they came from.

Using these different techniques opens up a world of different combinations of attack, in a system which brings to mind fighting game combos. For example sliding along the floor, followed by a kick can send enemies hurtling upwards to be further juggled or shot out of the air like a clay pigeon. The whip also allows you to defeat the larger and stronger enemies, who cannot be manipulated so easily, by turning them around and exposing the weaker parts on their back. As such there's no prize for guessing where the "Fire in the Hole" bonus is awarded for shooting.

Bulletstorm Screenshots

The final weapon we were given the chance to experiment with was the Flail Gun, which is frankly twisted. This gun fires out two grenades attached to a chain which then wrap around anything in the environment, including enemies. If anyone is unlucky enough to get hit with this explosive, they are temporarily left struggling and unable to move, allowing you to tap the fire button again and detonate the chain. In order to maximise the effectiveness of the Flail Gun you can hit an enemy with it, then whip and kick them into a group of their friends before hitting the fire button for maximum carnage. Combining all of the demo's weapons with the environment led to a lot of different possibilities especially when dealing with the handful of enemy types.

During the playthrough we encountered occasional upgrade stations where you could select a specific power-up for one aspect of your weapons. The PMC rifle could be overcharged, activated with a quick button press which allowed you to fire a one-off burst of a hundred bullets at once. This was particularly nasty, leaving only a white-hot skeleton stood where the enemy once was, awarding you a healthy bonus to your score. The Flail Gun's upgrade heated the chain up which made the device even more deadly, with it slicing anyone in two that was in its way, before exploding.

Bulletstorm was a real surprise, as it was both intensely fast-paced and so over-the-top that it proved satisfying to earn the Skillshots. Instead of simply thinking how to kill your enemies and survive, you have to add in how to do this to maximise your points. However, it will be important to ensure that this isn't a mechanic that gets old too quickly by including a diverse selection of weapons and enemies to let you get creative with your tactics. In the short demo this didn't seem like a problem, but in the full game it will be important to help keep you interested and involved. People Can Fly promise there will be a healthy range of enemies, weapons and environmental kills to keep things fresh and varied. Due for release on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC early next year, Bulletstorm looked one of the most unique and unusual new projects of this year's E3.

evilgiraffeman | 18th June, 2010
Wedgeh's picture
Definitely looking forward to this one for sure can't wait to experiment on some kill combo's to see what crazy destruction I can pull off
Angelfromabove's picture
After seeing the E3 vids i too am looking forward to this, great preview as always Giraffe
Rasher's picture
this is going to be an interesting one, this is on my buy list now.
Come on EA, dont let us down.

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