Bulletstorm – Digital Bubblegum

It’s raining bullets, better grab my brella. Okay, now I’m ready to chew gum AND type into this nostalgic postbox. Can you believe people used keyboards to send messages in 2020? It was the first form of writing according to the credible historians of 2600. Ah yes, information has gotten much more accurate with media advancements.

Here goes… *publish*. I’ll set the date 600 years backwards and hope for the best. Pietriots.com? Yeah, that place is probably still going.

Bulletstorm is a first-person shooter that combines explosive warfare with spectacular graphics to blow your mind and melt your screen. It actually does smear shit on your TV until you turn off motion blur. This game is almost a decade old now, but they did an amazing job optimising the graphics for the Switch port. It’s almost looks too good because so much environmental detail combined with fast-paced action can often feel overwhelming. I could never play for more than an hour at a time. The graphics taste like candy where pretty much everything has overwhelming sweetness and soon you get a massive sugar crash and need to take a nap.

The following pic shows the detail in a place you spend about 30 seconds in. They really put a lot of effort into maximising the experience and overwhelming you as intentional design. There’s always something to look at in every crevasse.

Unfortunately while the graphics are top tier, it doesn’t have motion controls which hurts the accuracy of the gameplay. Getting headshots and aiming quickly are key parts of the combo system and it doesn’t feel as natural as it could. The game’s pacing is also broken up with a ton of scripted quicktime events, just to remind you this game is from 2011. Like Duke Nukem, they always show up at the wrong time.

Duke Nukem is in this game? Yeah, they make a big deal about this being the “Duke of Switch” edition but it’s the same game with different dialogue really. I found his lines a bit funnier than the other main character…. what’s his name again? Brad? John? Doesn’t matter.

The combo system is the currency of the game, so the more creative you get in battle, the more points you can get to buy extra ammo or upgrades. Here for example I blew up an explosive barrel and someone flew into the water on the left (off-screen) so I got some multipliers. If they fly off the edge of the stage, into a wall, into spikes, you get extra points for each one. You’ve also got a grapple beam and melee attack to get creative with.

The environmental design adds a key layer to the combo system, as each area usually has its own unique kill opportunities such as spike walls or electricity. You can also break media screens to make your own electric death trap. That’s right, it took 600 years to find a positive use for advertising. I’m here to kick ass (+10) and chew bubblegum (+25) and I’m all outta gum (Gumless Glory +500). You start to see every dangerous object as an opportunity for points, not something you want conditioned into your brain, but fine in the context of this game. It’s just a game right?

Wait, context? Is that a bubblegum flavour? The story is wrapped up in high anti-government and anti-war satire, simply achieved by being as ridiculously blatant as possible. You thought you were doing something good, you find out you’re doing something bad, and you spend the whole game rationalising it while blowing stuff up and killing people. The life of a US soldier.

Overall I found Bulletstorm highly entertaining but not for the best reasons. It’s a fun B tier action movie romp, but the gameplay gets repetitive even in the short 8 hours of the main campaign. So much of it is scripted and the enemies don’t change much, despite the environment diversity. While the combo system itself has depth, it starts to feel a bit awkward forcing these situations when the core gunplay isn’t very satisfying. It was on sale for $10 on Switch and I’d say that’s the perfect price if you’re looking for some cheap thrills.

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