Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition
Bulletstorm is the best shooter that nobody’s ever played. It’s not perfect and it’s a deliberate gory cartoon of a game, but it has one of the best arsenals and some of the best levels in recent history. It didn’t get a fair shake when it came out back in 2011, and primarily, I have to figure that it’s because it was a new IP. It had some star power behind it – such as Gears of War creator Cliff Blezinski and the Polish studio People Can Fly, makers of Painkiller – but even in 2011, people were hesitant to take a risk on a game that wasn’t any kind of franchise entry.
The Full Clip Edition, now published by Gearbox rather than EA, is a second chance for Bulletstorm to find an audience. I hope it does, since in the post-Doom 4 age, there might very well be a market for its kind of cathartic violence, and a theoretical sequel could trim off some of the messy Gears of War bits that mostly got in the way last time.
I gave Bulletstorm an 88% back in 2011, and I think that’s fair. It’s a generally good game that I still come back to every so often, because very few shooters in the modern period deliver the same kind of experience. It’s a cheerfully profane, immature black comedy, where every new wave of enemies is a series of barely-disguised opportunities, with an all-star cast of voice actors and a plot that’s at once incredibly dumb and much smarter than it appears. I found myself going back to it every so often over the course of the last six years, because while shooters are a dime a dozen, not many have Bulletstorm’s sense of raw satisfaction.
The weapons in Bulletstorm, like those in Painkiller, all have a vicious sense of impact, particularly the revolver and the quad-barreled shotgun. The basic assault rifle’s a little weak, but its alt-fire turns people into glowing skeletons, and even my least favorite weapon, the grenade launcher, can do some horrible things to enemies if it’s fired in an enclosed space.
As such, the best feature in the Full Clip Edition is Overkill Mode, which lets you restart the campaign with your full arsenal available from the beginning. The biggest weak spot in Bulletstorm on a second run was always that it takes a while before you start picking up additional weapons, and Overkill Mode fixes that. It’s especially nice because it gives you more time with the game’s last gun, which fires spinning drill bits into and through people.
This is the kind of game Bulletstorm is. You can’t discuss it without sounding like a psychopath. I have made my peace with this.
It’s got a few flaws, here and there, like how the plot takes a sudden turn for the weirdly serious in its last half, and that several of the skillshots require precise enough aiming that even trying to do them with a controller is a recipe for frustration, but overall, Bulletstorm has aged surprisingly well. I’m playing it as a digital download on the PS4, which fixes the original’s problem with long loading times.
The other big additions in the Full Clip Edition are a bunch of additional Echo stages, which turns bite-size chunks of the main game into levels of a score-attack mode, and an option to completely replace the protagonist with a fully-voiced Duke Nukem. The latter adds almost nothing to the game, and many of the lines are word-for-word taken from the original script; the former is fun, but as in the original, it would’ve made more sense if they’d done more to change up enemy placement or thrown in a couple of all-new stages. In particular, the skillshot system seems to demand an “endless mode,” set in an open arena full of hazards, and one is not immediately apparent.
All in all, though, for sheer violent, messy, often immature fun, Bulletstorm was probably my favorite shooter for the last console generation, and six years later, it still puts a big smile on my face. Even in as stacked a year as 2017 is turning out to be, it deserves a second look.
Reviewed By: Thomas Wilde
Publisher: Gearbox Publishing
This review is based on a digital copy of Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition for the PlayStation 4 provided by Gearbox Publishing.