European box art
|Developer(s)||People Can Fly
|Engine||Unreal Engine 3|
|Release date(s)||NA February 22, 2011
|Distribution||Optical disc, download|
Bulletstorm is a 2011 first-person shooter video game made by Polish developer People Can Fly and the American company Epic Games, and is published by Electronic Arts for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Microsoft Windows. The game was released on February 22, 2011 in North America and on February 25, 2011 in Europe.
The game is distinguished by its sense of style and crass humor, rewarding players with points for performing increasingly ludicrous and creative kills. Bulletstorm does not have any competitive multiplayer modes, preferring instead to include cooperative online play as well as score attack modes.
Bulletstorm takes place in the 26th century, where the universe is run by the Confederation of Planets. Star General Sarrano sends his secret black ops team, the Dead Echo team, led by Grayson Hunt (Steve Blum), to do his dirty work. Following Sarrano's orders and assassinating those whom they believe are criminals, Dead Echo kill a man known as Bryce Novak, but soon discover he was a civilian reporter, documenting civilian deaths caused by Dead Echo. Grayson and his team realize they have been duped by Sarrano and desert, becoming space pirates on the run from Sarrano's forces.
Ten years later, Grayson drunkenly attacks Sarrano's battlecruiser, the Ulysses, while near the planet of Stygia. Grayson rams the Ulysses, hoping to gain revenge on Sarrano. The ships collide, forcing both to crash land on the surface of Stygia. One of Grayson's men, Ishi Sato (Andrew Kishino), is critically wounded in the crash and Grayson is forced to find an energy cell to drive the ship's medical equipment. On the planet, a former popular tropical-like resort destination, the population has mutated into feral tribes and carnivorous plants. Grayson fights through to one of the Ulysses escape pods, and retrieves the escape pod's energy cell, as well as an "instinct leash." The leash, when worn, begins to provide him strange tactile information, such as points for each enemy he kills.
Grayson returns with the cell, and while Ishi is under operation, the mutants attack their ship, leaving Ishi a disfigured cyborg. Grayson and Ishi, the only survivors, decide to work together to get off the planet, despite Ishi's disapproval of Grayson's thirst for revenge. The instinct leash leads Grayson to another escape pod, where they find Trishka (Jennifer Hale), a Final Echo soldier who agrees to work with Grayson and Ishi, but only after they rescue Sarrano. As they battle through the ravaged city, Trishka explains that Stygia has been used by Final Echo as a sort of training grounds, with the instinct leashes the soldiers wear as a means of ranking those within the test; those that scored kills would be the only ones that could get ammunition and other supplies to survive. When Grayson learns that Trishka was Novak's daughter, he tells her that Sarrano was responsible for her father's death, but claims he does not know who actually killed him.
The three make their way to the top of a skyscraper where Sarrano's pod landed. Trishka accuses Sarrano of her father's death, but he simply pushes her off the side of the building. Sarrano then warns Grayson and Ishi that there is an armed "DNA bomb" on the Ulysses that will wipe out all life on the planet, and they must go and disarm it, as his rescue ship will not arrive in time. As they travel underground, Sarrano explains that prison convicts were used as the labor force to maintain the planet; they rebelled when toxic byproducts, created by the planet's solar radiation shields, were dumped in the underground prison. The convicts destroyed the shields, exposing the entire population to mutating radiation.
Aboard the Ulysses, Sarrano tricks Grayson and Ishi into arming what was actually an inert bomb, and leaves them to die. As fire breaks out aboard the fallen ship, the two are saved by Trishka, who survived the fall by catching a power line on her way down.
The three race to where Sarrano's rescue ship is landing and manage to get on board. They make their way through Sarrano's elite troops and eventually face Sarrano alone. Trishka demands to know who actually killed her father, and Sarrano reveals Grayson's squad carried out the order. As they talk, Sarrano hijacks Ishi's computer systems with his own leash, forcing Ishi to turn on his friends. Grayson manages to break Sarrano's control of Ishi, and Ishi sacrifices himself to save Grayson. Grayson then impales Sarrano on the wall of a ship, leaving him for dead, but Sarrano performs one final act: ejecting Grayson, Trishka and several of his men from the ship back onto the planet.
Grayson and Trishka race back to the Ulysses where one escape pod remains unlaunched; they are able to board it and escape into low orbit, propelled into space by the explosion of the DNA bomb. Grayson and Trishka have a short chat in the escape pod concerning Grayson's revenge, the loss of his team, and Sarrano's escape. The scene fades after Trishka asks Grayson what he is going to do about Sarrano escaping.
In a post-credits scene, it is revealed that Sarrano was revived, now a cyborg like Ishi, and Ishi has also been revived now under Sarrano's control.
As a first-person shooter, Bulletstorm focuses on combat, both with firearms and melee attacks. There are a variety of fictional firearms available, although the game also places heavy emphasis on kicking enemies and using the energy leash.
The weapons range from a pistol to a cannon that shoots a bolas weighted by grenades. The player can aim down the weapon's iron sights or optical sights for increased accuracy. Each weapon has an "alternate fire" mode which uses charges; for example, the assault rifle's alternate fire is a single blast of bullets that destroy almost everything in its path. Much of the story and gameplay revolves around the "energy leash", a rope of energy projected from a device on Grayson's left hand. The leash allows him to pull enemies towards him, activate certain devices and traps, and slam down a ball of energy that launches all nearby enemies into the air. The player can also kick enemies and run and slide into them. If an enemy is launched into the air from the whip or by being kicked, the enemy goes into slow motion to allow the player more opportunity to perform skillshots.
One of the game's unique features is the "skillshot" gameplay system, which rewards the player for killing opponents in the most creative and destructive ways possible, from killing an enemy in midair to pushing an enemy into a carnivorous plant to executing an enemy after shooting him in the testicles. The more complicated or unusual the skillshot, the more points players acquire. The points are used to purchase weapons and upgrades. The weapons are unlocked at set points throughout the game, and after a weapon has been "re-armed" by purchasing it, a "charge shot" for the gun is unlocked at another set point.
Points are used as currency at "dropkits" scattered across the planet, which the player can use to replenish munitions. The dropkits include a gun shop, a skillshot checklist, and gameplay statistics. The player cannot upgrade their weapons, but can equip different guns, purchase ammunition, upgrade the amount of ammunition they can carry, and even purchase special-ammunition "charges". The player can equip up to three weapons, the assault rifle being the default weapon; it is always equipped, and is considered the main prop weapon in cutscenes.
Bulletstorm uses a recharging health system, in which damage to the player is reflected by the screen turning red, and the player quickly returns to full health when not taking damage.
Development began in June 2007. In 2008, Electronic Arts announced that it would be publishing a new IP from independent game developer Epic Games. A trademark for the name "Bulletstorm" was revealed when game developer People Can Fly filed a trademark for the name in December 2009. Epic Games designer Cliff Bleszinski was originally scheduled to announce the game alongside Gears of War 3 during an appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on April 8, 2010. However, his appearance was delayed to April 12, 2010 after his slot was taken by pop singer Justin Bieber. Soon after Bleszinski announced on social networking website Twitter that he would be announcing two games on the show on April 12, 2010. However, the game was revealed before the scheduled appearance when gaming magazine Game Informer released its May 2010 issue which revealed the game on its cover.
On December 17, 2010, two months prior to its release, Epic Games announced that there would be a limited edition for Bulletstorm exclusively for Xbox 360 known as the Epic Edition. The Epic Edition includes bonus in-game content for Bulletstorm when playing online, including 25,000 experience points, visual upgrades for the leash, Peace Maker Carbine, boots and armor as well as access to the multiplayer beta of Gears of War 3.
On January 14, 2011, Electronic Arts announced that a demo of the game would be available on January 25, 2011 for the Xbox 360 and on January 26, 2011 for the PlayStation 3. No demo was announced to be planned for the PC, which was described as odd by some reviewers, especially for an unproven video game franchise. It was remarked that Mark Rein, president of Epic Games, previously described Bulletstorm as "a full-blown, oh-my-god amazing PC game". Following this announcement, Cliff Bleszinski, producer for the game, wrote a tweet on January 14, 2011 about how the demo was only for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, which was considered by game reviewers as a way of making fun of PC players. Both Mark Rein and the official developer blog later stated that a PC demo would still happen. The PC demo was finally released on April 4 on Steam and Games for Windows – Live, and featured the same level as the console versions.
On January 30, 2011, Destructoid discovered that the Electronic Arts disclosure page for the game announced that a permanent internet connection was required to play. Adrian Chmielarz, a designer at People Can Fly, denied it on his Twitter page.
A sequel was planned but was later cancelled.
In January 2011, a viral video for Bulletstorm was released, parodying the Halo 3 "Believe" diorama. Television advertisements were aired on major networks and blocks such as Spike TV and Adult Swim.
Film director John Stalberg, Jr. was hired to shoot two short films and four 30 second commercial spots that aired on the game's launch program on G4 network. The short films star R. Lee Ermey and comedian Brian Posehn.
Some of the game footage is featured in the comedy Bridesmaids.
On February 22, 2011, Electronic Arts announced Gun Sonata, the first downloadable content (DLC) for Bulletstorm. The DLC was released on April 14, 2011 on PlayStation Store and Xbox Live Marketplace, and on May 19, 2011 on Games for Windows Marketplace. The content includes three "Anarchy" maps, two "Echo" missions and two "Leash" colors and adds five achievements/trophies (on Games for Windows – Live/Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, respectively).
Blood Symphony was released on June 10, 2011 on Games for Windows Marketplace and Xbox Live Marketplace, and in July 2011 on the PlayStation Store. The content includes 2 "Echoes" maps, 3 "Anarchy" maps, a new mode called "The Ultimate Echoes" and five additional achievements/trophies.
Bulletstorm has received positive reviews from critics. The game scored 9.1/10 from CVG, 8/10 from IGN, 9/10 from Eurogamer, 9.25/10 from Game Informer, 10/10 from GamesRadar. and 8/10 from Jeuxvideo.fr.
Game Informer's Tim Turi gave Bulletstorm a 9.25/10, praising the game's degree of character control, which he compared to Mirror's Edge. He also praised the game's darkly humorous storyline, calling it a "goofy sci-fi romp that doesn't deserve to have its cut-scenes skipped", and also liked Bulletstorm's complex Skillshot-based combat and weapons system, praising them as very creative. However, he criticized the game's lack of multiplayer maps and the final hours of the campaign, calling it "stale". Eurogamer synthesis of the game was that it was "an astonishingly clever game folded up inside an exquisitely stupid one".
However, several reviewers criticized the game design. For example, 1UP.com and The Escapist judged that the plot was overly serious considering the focus put by the designers on the gameplay, "dragging the game down." Others considered that the multiplayer part of the game was limited and "gets tiresome". NoFrag found the plot fairly conventional and the dialogues not really funny, and the end of the solo campaign "sugary" contrary to the developers which said that the game was not taking itself too seriously. The game was also using too many quick time and scripted events for their liking, often breaking the flow of the gameplay.
As of July 25, 2011, Epic Games declared that they had failed to turn a profit on the game.
Bulletstorm sold just under 1 million copies.
While the final sales numbers were disappointing to both EA and Epic Games, the game has garnered a cult following in the years after its release. Video game podcast site RageSelect declared it "One of the most underappreciated games of the last five years."
On February 8, 2011, the game came under scrutiny by Fox News through an article on their website by John Brandon and later on February 20, 2011 through their televised broadcast and another article. The game was targeted because of its profanity, crude behavior (examples of which including the game's skill-shot system, which has a move that rewards players for shooting at an enemy's genitals), and sexual innuendo. Alongside the panel of Fox News was psychologist Carole Lieberman, who remarked: "Video games have increasingly, and more brazenly, connected sex and violence in images, actions and words. This has the psychological impact of doubling the excitement, stimulation and incitement to copycat acts. The increase in rapes can be attributed, in large part, to the playing out of such scenes in video games." Other claims include that the game could reach audiences as young as nine years old, and that the gore and profanity could seriously traumatize a child of that age group. Rock, Paper, Shotgun analysed Lieberman's claims, and found only one of eight sources she provided had anything to do with the subject at hand. Another argument was offered by a University of Maryland professor, Melanie Killen, who claimed that the gameplay videos were targeted towards "young adolescents and children."
EA responded to this argument: "As you know, Bulletstorm is a work of entertainment fiction... The game and its marketing adhere to all guidelines set forth by the ESRB; both designed for people 17+... Much like Tarantino's Kill Bill or Rodriguez's Sin City, this game is an expression of creative entertainment for adults."
In an interview the main developer Adrian Chmielarz stated that English was not their mother language and that they did not realise how crude the swearing was. "Swearwords in another language have less impact than in your own language. Those F-words just sounded funny to us. We didn't feel the impact." However he also admitted: "I swear often, and by that I mean really a lot, and yet I feel a little ashamed for the language in the game."
Hal Levy of the National Youth Rights Association said that the game promotes innovative thinking through dispatching enemies in unique ways, and that "Plenty of emotionally unstable adults will play the game and they'll be fine."
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- "Bulletstorm demo confirmed". Eurogamer. 2011-01-14. Retrieved 2011-01-16. "A demo of People Can Fly's first-person shooter Bulletstorm will release on 25th January on Xbox Live PSN, EA has announced. No mention was made of a PC demo."
- "More of a Drizzle: Bulletstorm Demo Skipping PC". Maximum PC. 2011-01-16. Retrieved 2011-01-16. "Still though, seems like a rather unfortunate move on Epic's part. We're hardly businessmen, but putting a tangible piece of your new, unproven IP into as many gamers' hands as possible as quickly as possible seems like a no-brainer. Also—while we definitely don't endorse it—too many PC gamers tend to have a "No demo? Ok then, piracy!" policy. Bulletstorm may have gained a reputation for being goofy and somewhat mindless, but that doesn't mean its pre-release build-up should follow suit."
- "Bulletstorm gets a demo! But not on PC!". fragland.net. 2011-01-15. Retrieved 2011-01-16. "Joke of the day: although Epic's Mark Rein once described Bulletstorm as "a full-blown, oh-my-god amazing PC game", there are no plans for a PC demo."
- "Gears of War Creator Epic Games Still Devoted to PC Development". 1UP.com. 2010-07-02. Retrieved 2011-01-16. "Bulletstorm is PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 and you'll see when it comes out, it will be a full-blown, oh-my-god amazing PC game. I think that's a myth that we’ve abandoned the PC, it's just not true."
- Cliff Bleszinski (2011-01-14). "BULLETSTORM DEMO COMING TO 360/PS3 JANUARY 25th". Retrieved 2011-01-16. "BULLETSTORM DEMO COMING TO 360/PS3 JANUARY 25th. In other news, PC gamers are grumpy about this."
- "Bulletstorm : une légion d'ennemis". NoFrag. 2011-01-17. Retrieved 2011-01-16. "Pendant ce temps, CliffyB se moque des joueurs qui se plaignent de l'absence de démo PC pour Bulletstorm. Rappelons qu'Epic Games est l'un des rares membres de la PC Gaming Alliance et est donc censé promouvoir le jeu PC..."
- "No PC demo for Bulletstorm, PC gamers reported 'grumpy',". Destructoid. 2011-01-17. Retrieved 2011-01-16. "Sir Clifford of Bleszinski, who I think is handsome and has great hair, upset a few PC gamers today by making a little jab about the lack of a non-console Bulletstorm demo(...)You'd think PC gamers would've gotten used to being screwed by now, but it doesn't take much to set off the hornet's nest."
- "Bulletstorm demo upsets "grumpy" PC gamers". mcvuk.com. 2011-01-17. Retrieved 2011-01-16. "PC fans of upcoming shooter Bulletstorm have been described as "grumpy" as disputes emerge over the game’s demo. Epic Games’ Cliff Bleszinski has teased consumers that have already expressed disappointment that only Xbox 360 and PS3 owners will be able to sample the studio’s over-the-top FPS."
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- Adrian Chmielarz (2011-01-30). "Bulletstorm". Retrieved 2011-01-16. "Fucking Internets... No, Bulletstorm PC does not require any constant connection, only for install and for online play (duh!)."
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- "Bulletstorm". Eurogamer. 2011-02-22. Retrieved 2011-03-02. "Bulletstorm is an astonishingly clever game folded up inside an exquisitely stupid one."
- "Bulletstorm Review". 1UP.com. 2011-02-22. Retrieved 2011-03-02. "There's a discrepancy between the Skillshot-heavy gameplay and the overtly serious plot that drags the campaign down. (...)Bulletstorm is a game unsure of what it wants to achieve. When it lets itself, it's a fantastic adrenaline rush through well-constructed set-pieces and gloriously fun-to-watch violence. But it too often drags itself down with overly structured situations and restrictive, strategy-heavy gameplay. (...)as it stands, Bulletstorm is a mechanically enjoyable game that's missing what it needed to be great. "
- "Review: Bulletstorm". The Escapist. 2011-02-22. Retrieved 2011-03-02. "The worst part about Bulletstorm is, in fact, the story, or more precisely the imprecise interjection thereof. It's as if the team couldn't decide if they wanted to make a space opera or a mindless videogame and compromised. Their mistake. Between cutscenes, intentional slowing of the pace and annoying in-mission jabber, the story interrupts the high-octane fun just enough to continually remind you it's there — and is terrible."
- "Bulletstorm review". digitalbattle.com. 2011-02-25. Retrieved 2011-03-02. "Multiplayer is quite limited and the mode that’s available quickly gets tiresome "
- "Netsabes et Dr.Loser testent Bulletstorm". NoFrag. 2011-02-25. Retrieved 2011-03-13. "Durant la promo du jeu, Epic n’a cessé de nous répéter que Bulletstorm ne se prenait pas au sérieux : c’est faux. Le scénario est convenu, les dialogues ne sont pas drôles et la campagne se termine dans un mièvre élan dramatique qui n’a rien à envier à un épisode des Feux de l’Amour (During the promotion of the game, Epic repeatedly told us that Bulletstorm did not take himself seriously: it is false. The scenario is conventional, the dialogues aren't funny and the campaign ends in a sugary dramatic momentum that looks like an episode of The Young and the Restless)"
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