Bulletstorm was originally released in 2011, with the updated “Full Clip Edition” released in 2017. The game is a fast-paced first-person shooter with a pretty gross but funny sense of humor. It did not do as well as expected on the initial release, with the Full Clip Edition doing a bit better. However, not well enough that there is any news regarding the clearly set up sequel for the game that we will likely never see.
The game follows Grayson, the leader of an elite group called Dead Echo that gets their orders from General Sarrano. We learn that while on a mission, Grayson and the team realize that Dead Echo is actually just the arm for Sarrano to carry out various war crimes and not the heroes they thought they were. They cut ties with Sarrano, and Grayson falls into alcoholism, depression, and a thirst for revenge. At the start of the game, they cross paths with Sarrano, and Grayson’s obsession for revenge gets most of his team killed. As well as him and the remaining member, Ishi, stranded. Ishi has undergone extreme cybernetics to keep him alive, which also threaten to take over his mind, and his and Grayson’s relationship is tenuous at best while they look for a way off the planet.
The game is, as I said, a fast-paced first-person shooter with battles being bloody, enemy filled, and can be challenging. Aside from standard FPS play, the game also brings in “skillshots,” which give the player points for their creativity in kills and variety. Things like kicking enemies into surrounding traps and the like, killing enemies while they are mid-air, etc. Skillshots are measured in the game as part of a program that Sarrano was trying and tied to a glove that Grayson wears, as the in-game explanation for this, and allow Grayson to refill ammo and buy upgrades. The glove also has a leash that can be used in combat. It allows the game to be a bit more fun than a standard FPS and also adds to the humor of the game.
Which speaking of… This game has the same tongue-in-cheek, bad humor that you might see in the original Duke Nukem games, and the game itself has ties to the disappointing Duke Nukem Forever. Unlike Forever, though, the humor is less grating, although it still has its moments and knows to pull back a little. It is also clearly still meant to be pretty tongue-in-cheek, whereas Forever sometimes felt like it didn’t “get the joke” as far as Duke Nukem went and just went in without that aspect of it.
Also important, this game has actual heart and a decent story. Grayson’s struggles with his role as the leader of Sarrano’s Dead Echo is a sad story to watch. He truly feels guilty and has an extreme amount of self-hatred for what he did for the General. He also feels extreme guilt for getting his team killed and puts everything, including his desire for revenge, aside for the sake of Ishi. Ishi pokes at this guilt a lot as he struggles with who he is vs. the AI processor, and even Sarrano himself starts to dig at Grayson. Added to that, the two meet up with a new member of Sarrano’s team, still under his spell, and who Grayson personally wronged in the past.
In the midst of over-testosterone, in-your-face, crude humor, you have a real story that is compelling and characters that are easy to care about. Grayson makes crass jokes, then has a moment of trying to defend Ishi while he becomes more hateful in the wake of what happened to him. It can sort of give you emotional whiplash, but it is actually well done. It also sets this game apart from other games like it. I am not saying all humorous games need a compelling story underneath it, but and not to dig on Forever too much, having that story keeps this game from being just another forgettable game like Forever was.
That and the gameplay being solid and the skillshots adding a lot of fun.
The game is not perfect, though. Only being able to carry three weapons is frankly a bit lousy, in my opinion. There also isn’t a whole lot of variety in enemies and locations. While there is some attempt at both, it falls a bit flat. Both of these can fairly be blamed on age, though, but with the updates in the Full Clip Edition, it can sometimes be easy to forget you are actually playing a game that is more than 10 years old.
The worst parts, though, are story glitches and gameplay bugs. There is a well-known glitch in which Grayson doesn’t actually deliver his lines in an extremely important scene toward the end, which is just a bummer. I also only had a black screen for the post-credits scene which sucked. There are also times when you will have to reset a chapter or checkpoint because of various gameplay glitches, like the dino robot not being able to do damage. In an “updated” version of a game, these issues especially stand out.
Aside from that, the game is pretty solid. A few issues, like the same button for sliding and climbing over things, so you’ll get stuck not actually climbing at times. Being forced to use certain weapons in a game that largely is about finding your own game style. But nothing that is a deal breaker or entirely unexpected; small issues like this pop up in most games.
I will also say, though this is more of a personal taste complaint, that the game starts to feel a bit flat after a while. However, action-packed FPSs aren’t my favorite games, so that is as much me as the game itself.
So bottom line? I really think that if you haven’t, you should consider giving this game a chance. I think it didn’t get the credit it deserved. It’s fun, has a decent story, solid characters, and while the humor is crude, some of it is actually damn hilarious. If it’s been a while since you played it, it’s worth revisiting. It’s a decent game that is unlikely to go on anybody’s “all-time favorites” list, but it’s solidly fun and worth returning to every once in a while. Also, Grayson is voiced by Steve Blum, who is the English voice of Spike Spiegel, and that’s just awesome.