It seems churlish in the extreme to complain about the high-quality role-playing games that have come out in 2017 so far. But while the likes of Breath of the Wild, Horizon Zero Dawn, Persona 5, Nier: Automata and Yakuza 0 are all amazing in their own rights, damn, don't they eat up the hours. If I put together all the time I've spent on them so far, without even finishing one of them, it comes to… I've wasted my life.
You get the idea: There's a lot of game in every one of these games. And, just the other day, I vented ever so slightly on Twitter. A total "first world problem," I know, but nonetheless I posted:
The answer was staring me in the face. Well, not quite—I posted that, up there, while on a train, and the answer was sitting on my PlayStation 4 dashboard at home. Point being: I'd downloaded the "Full Clip Edition" of Bulletstorm (which was directed by Adrian Chmielarz) a few hours earlier (the game being released for PS4, PC and Xbox One on April 7th), and that ticks almost all of my desired boxes.
Eight to 10-hour campaign? I blasted through the sci-fi first-person shooter on its original 2011 release in around that time. (How Long to Beat places it at between seven and a half and nine and a half hours long.) Linear? You betcha—as pretty as those alien landscapes are, you're only ever funneled in one direction, towards and through hordes of cannon-fodder foes. Shiny? In this remastered guise, Bulletstorm, which was already far from unattractive, is looking very good, with just a few cracks showing, particularly in the facial animations of the core cast. But to glance at it, you'd be convinced this was a current game, rather than a dusty gem of the previous gen given a generous glob of spit and polish.
New, though? To me, no, obviously not. Been there, done it, and you'll never catch me in a game t-shirt. But I've got to say that while I intended to only tickle the opening of Bulletstorm, to see how it's been pumped up for the PS4, I soon found myself losing a solid two hours to it (only turning off when my wife rightfully protested that I had said I'd only be 20 minutes or so). It's hard not to—to me at least, it's that kind of instant-click experience, where all the moving parts whir and hum in a kind of sweet harmony that only the best shooters possess.
Guns feel chunky, weighty, powerful, even the introductory, out-the-crashed-ship models. Use them, plus the quickly acquired energy leash (a whip, basically) and slides and kicks, alongside the game's "skillshots"—glory kill-style affairs, very many and varied, ranging from impaling an enemy on a cactus to physically launching them into the wide blue yonder—and everything adopts a rhythm and flow that rewards experimentation with both (redeemable) points and gleefully macabre physical comedy. Yes, it's okay to laugh, a little, when a bad guy gets a fatal bullet up his backside and a "Fire in the Hole" notification pops up, with a +100 score beside it.
The skillshots alone are almost worth the price of entry—although it's understandable that this edition's $60 status stateside is a prickle of contention, given that it's available for around £35 in the UK.
They keep you constantly thinking about the environment, about how and when to use your abilities, harnessing the potential of the leash to yank an enemy right where you want them before POW, right in the kisser, and off they fly to some awful(ly inventive) fate. It's the game's own "active reload," a feature that adds freshness to what otherwise would have been an enjoyable, but more generic experience.
The expletives-laden story's a whole bunch of hokum about mercenaries on the run and corrupt officials— The A-Team in space, basically, but with dirtier mouths—but crackles with B-movie-style knowing badness, if you get me. It's just a vehicle for the action, and the game's makers at Epic and People Can Fly knew that.
The mileage you get out of the dialogue's sense of humor—decorated as it is with "dick" this, "pussy" that, and an unsavory smattering of "bitch" and "whore" for unnecessary emphasis—will vary, but I can't say I didn't crack a smile, even the second time around, at booze-loving protagonist Grayson Hunt's outburst of "Oh, cock-fucker-rimjob-piece-of-shit".
Some of the turn-the-air-purple banter between Hunt and his colleagues is actually, weirdly, sort of touching, and that's entirely because of the acting talent. Steve Blum, Andrew Kishono and Jennifer Hale fill the three main "hero" roles, as Hunt, Ishi Sato and Trishka Novak respectively. And while their exchanges are often swollen with swear words, the delivery carries genuine affection. You certainly don't expect to develop feelings for characters in a game like this, but it's hard to come away from Bulletstorm without a soft spot for any of its central players.
Putting that cuddly stuff aside, Bulletstorm, on paper, is the kind of game the makers of South Park would invent for the parents of the town to protest against. Willfully over-the-top of action—Epic's Gears of War pedigree shines through in its blockbuster set-pieces—and singularly puerile of phallic funnies, it could have been one of gaming's greatest tonal miscalculations if it wasn't for the fact that it positively sings when all of its ingredients are mixed together. It was already one of my favorite shooters of my 360-playing days—beside Vanquish and Metro 2033—and on the PS4, it's quite the unlikely palate cleanser, a welcome change from the side-questing and collectible-gathering.
So if you, like me, fancy putting a brief pause on your role-player of choice right now, to tear through a short, sharp and comically savage shooter campaign, few come as recommended right now as Bulletstorm's. Commit a couple of evenings to its shenanigans and you'll easily see it through to the credits. What it lacks in nuance, in storyline unexpectedness and subtlety, it more than makes up for in accomplished ass-kickery, and deserves this second chance to impress anyone who passed on it first time.