Bulletstorm Multiplayer Hands-On Preview – Is There An Echo in Here?
Written Wednesday, December 08, 2010 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
In some ways, Bulletstorm is a bit of a throwback to the real old-school FPSes with big guns, outlandish action and pure, unadulterated explosive gameplay. A complete lack of subtlety is what lends Epic and People Can Fly's shooter its brazen, bare-faced charm, with comic book writer Rick Remender's shouty, sweary script somehow making it even more likeable. And that's no more evident than in our latest hands-on with the game, which introduces us to two brand-new modes that'll potentially have you playing well beyond Bulletstorm's core story-driven campaign.
First up is Echo; a single-player score attack mode that proves to be insanely compulsive right off the bat, dumping you into any of Bulletstorm's campaign missions with the expository cut-scenes edited out so that you're able to complete the action in one seamless run. “Kill With Skill” is the game's remit and ubiquitous tagline of course, so if you want to rack up the big scores, then that's the way to do it.
Echo is pretty straightforward, tasking you with simply tearing through a level in an effort to rank as high as possible on the leaderboards, so speed and inventive kills are paramount. Kicking obstacles into enemies, grabbing them with your tether and booting them into a generator crackling with electricity will net you reams of points for instance, and this predictably never gets old. Looking around for scenery to use is always inherently fun and the feedback from the guns as they kick is mighty satisfying, so Echo, with its leaderboard-based competition could run and run as you strive to climb the ranks and beat your friends.
Anarchy is really where it's at for our hands-on though, and it's this mode that we find ourself becoming irrevocably sucked into for far longer than we should have been, given the time we were allocated to play. A team-based score attack, you start by selecting your loadout from a couple of weapons, with more being gradually unlocked as you progress through the waves of enemies. Essentially, Anarchy is a new twist on Horde, pitting four players against increasingly tough foes. The difference is that you're given a finite number of baddies to blast in order to fill a score meter before the enemy numbers are depleted.
Defeat all of the enemies without reaching the allotted target score and it's game over, so clubbing together to co-operate and get really creative with your kills is the key to achieving the really high point tallies required in the later waves. When there's four of you all communicating properly however, it's possible to string together some fantastic moves, such as four coordinated tethers all grabbing one enemy simultaneously to pull him apart into four meaty chunks for a 'drawn and quartered' kill. Genius.
Playing on Bulletstorm's 'Dead Rock' Anarchy map, the action can get extremely chaotic as hostiles pour in from all angles, but there's plenty of opportunities for scenery-based kills as well as single and co-op efforts. There are spikes on certain walls for kicking enemies into, the edges of the level offer another chance to boot a bad guy into a vertiginous drop to his doom, there's a huge carnivorous plant to feed, more electric generators and a large chasm in the centre of the stage, which is filled with dark swirling fog and lightning. Suffice to say, a descent into that last hazard is a one-way trip.
While these 'enviro-mental' executions are great fun and indeed, they certainly make it very tempting to just go off on your own, however, it's actually in your and your team's best interests to stick together to try and bag as many co-operative kills as possible. Occasionally, a bad guy will wander in with a 'kill with skill' challenge above his head, which usually requires the help of another player. Killing this particular enemy in the way specified will accumulate a load of points towards your score target and make completing the wave that little bit easier.
Between each wave, there's time to regroup as dropships thump into the ground from the sky too, enabling you to interface using your tether and purchase upgrades and unlock more weaponry for the ensuing waves.
With things become even more chaotic and frantic with each passing wave, it can cause the frame rate to stutter a little bit at the moment, though that's nothing that can't be fixed. And with your team all striving to build up as many points as humanly possible within the parameters set by the size of the score gauge, the frame rate issues are barely noticeable anyway when there's the cacophonous sound of everyone shouting at each other to get coordinated and perform the correct action at the right time.
Being able to enter the 'Blood Symphony' mode by pressing in the right stick when you've gained enough kills is a mixed blessing too, allowing you to rip great swathes of enemies to shreds with a single attack at the expense of your teammates and the potential co-operative executions that could contribute to a higher overall score. Although for clearing space, Blood Symphony certainly does the job, and it's visceral, overblown and gory fun while it lasts.
And that description really extends to every aspect of Bulletstorm we've played so far. Not only does the team-based Anarchy mode more than live up to its name, but the rest of the game we've seen to date, with its own brand of inimitably crude, loud and unashamedly violent gunplay matching the pithy one-liners, should make Bulletstorm a pure guilty pleasure that deserves to be on everyone's shortlist for 2011.
Bulletstorm is due to kick your ass in February 22nd, 2011 in North America and February 25th, 2011 in the UK and Europe.