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August 2018

Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Publisher: Gearbox Software
Developer: People Can Fly
Release Date: April 7, 2017


PS4 Review - 'Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on April 7, 2017 @ 2:30 a.m. PDT

Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition brings new furor to first-person shooter action with its signature "kill with skill" gameplay, which is packed with blockbuster moments.

Buy Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition

Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition follows the story of Grayson Hunt, who used to be an elite mercenary until he discovered that his targets were innocent men, women and children. This horrifying discovery led Grayson to a life of drinking that culminates in a suicidal charge on the ship of the officer who set him up. Unfortunately for Grayson, he survives and lands on a horrifying planet full of cannibal monsters. His only ally is Ishi, whose injuries have left him as a half-cyborg. Together, Grayson and Ishi must find a way off a planet where every living resident is out to kill them.

The plot's strength is in its humor and disregard for anything that resembles sanity. The characters are complete jerks, and it works since the humor is largely character-driven. Everyone is some degree of drunkard, monster or sociopath, but the way they interact with one another gives them enough depth to be funny and likeable. It's rare that the character and gameplay mesh almost perfectly, but the game balances over-the-top excess with moments of humanity.

At first blush, Bulletstorm looks like most shooters released in the late 2000s: regenerating health, little mobility and brutal weapons. What made Bulletstorm stand out at the time, and even now, is how there is no realism or sense of scope. The closest comparison is the new Doom, where your goal is to crush everything in your path. Bulletstorm isn't as fast-paced as Doom, but it's one of the most enjoyable arcade-style console shooters for its unrepentant energy.

The weapon variety helps. Every weapon is fun to use, and each has its own purpose. You have your garden variety shotgun/machine gun/rocket launcher weapons, but they're bookended by some more creative stuff. One weapon sends out explosive bolos that can trip up enemies or bind them in place, turning them into grenades that you can use against other enemies. The sniper rifle is a joy to use because it has a lock-on feature, and every shot is followed by a slow-motion bullet cam, so you can manually guide the bullet to an enemy's most vulnerable point. You can also purchase weapon that use charge shots to cause extra damage, so your pistol can shoot a deadly flare that ignites enemies. The sniper rifle's shot becomes an explosive that can be manually detonated before it hits its target.

Grayson has the ability to manipulate enemies with his mighty kick and personal tether. Both weapons send enemies flying and temporarily suspends them in mid-air. This renders them helpless to do anything, and it means they can be shot, thrown, or otherwise brutalized. You can upgrade your tether to do an AoE attack that disables all enemies in the environment, but certain enemies are too fast to be tethered and must be shot or otherwise stunned first. Grabbing an enemy and shotgunning them off a cliff or into a whirling buzzsaw feels like an integrated part of the gameplay experience.

A major factor in Bulletstorm are Skillshots. Grayson has a fancy gadget that grades him on how he fights and rewards him with credits. This gadget wants to see brutality and variety instead of efficiency. Shooting an enemy may earn you a paltry 10 points, but if you grab them with your tether and send them flying into a cactus, you get 250 points.  Disable an enemy with a shot to the groin and kick their head off, and you can earn a smooth 500. Every weapon has a list of Skillshots in addition to more general context-sensitive ones that rely on the environment or specific situations, such as battles against minibosses.

Perhaps the most critical thing about Bulletstorm is that it's fun. The gameplay isn't the deepest, but that works in its favor. When everything you do is scored, it encourages you to look at the most enjoyable solution. It's a game where shooting someone in the head is worth less than slide-kicking them into the air and then filling them with lead. You can play the game with brutal efficiency, but then you're given less ammunition and fewer upgrades. Experiment, try new things and swap weapons constantly, and it'll keep the gameplay fresh, and you'll be stronger and better equipped to boot.

There's no reason to be boring in Bulletstorm. A lot of games fail to achieve the mix of freedom and effectiveness, but that isn't true here. This isn't a game to play if you're looking for a challenge because the enemies are disposable combat sponges that are designed to be killed in a variety of ways. The focus of the game is on chaining together absurd and excessive kills as quickly as possible. There are harder difficulty modes, but even then, you're going to mix up your kills for precious bonus points.

This is perhaps why the weakest moments in Bulletstorm are the ones that minimize your freedom. The game doesn't do it often, but it likes to take away some control in favor of turret segments, which are fun for a short while but outstay their welcome. One for example involves you taking control of a giant, laser-equipped, mechanical dinosaur, which sounds like it should be amazing, and for a while, it is. Eventually, it becomes clear that you're just holding down the fire button until the sequence ends. These scenes are impressive on the surface but have the weakest gameplay of the lot.

Bulletstorm isn't a particularly long game, but it has a lot of replay value. You can replay the story or play arcade-style missions that let you fight hordes of enemies. The arcade missions are fun and provide some lasting value, but the campaign lacks the visceral pick-up-and-play gameplay that Bulletstorm so desperately needs.  Bulletstorm is no longer the king of the pick-up-and-play field, but it's aged well enough to still be a lot of fun, though the lack of mobility stands out more in an era of Doom and Titanfall.

Visually, some improvements have been made to Bulletstorm over the console originals. The lighting and textures have been enhanced, and it runs much more smoothly. It's the best way to experience Bulletstorm on consoles, but compared to recent HD remasters, it doesn't look too much better than the original PC release. It's a reasonable upgrade for console owners but nothing similar to the jaw-dropping improvements in The Last of Us or God of War 3.

Perhaps the largest addition to Full Clip Edition is the option to play the game as classic FPS hero, Duke Nukem. Unfortunately, this is a disappointment because Duke is basically pasted over the main character and the end result feels sloppy. Most of the dialogue is the same, though Duke adds some new lines. It's clear the line reads were basically spliced in, and they sound awkward and out of place. One of Bulletstorm's strengths is the quippy back-and-forth dialogue, so it's a negative to have Jon St. John dubbed over another character's dialogue. It's a shame because there are some funny lines, and St. John's Nukem is still a delight, but at the end of the, day I couldn't imagine anyone but the most die-hard Nukem fan preferring this over the original. Add that to the fact that Nukem is a preorder bonus and not part of the game, and it's rather unimpressive.

That brings us to the Full Clip Edition's biggest flaw: It's the same game with some decent visual upgrades, and that's about it. Bulletstorm is only about six years old, and it was a good-looking game at the time. Aside from the addition of Duke Nukem, there isn't much else that's new about the game. That isn't a critical flaw, as Bulletstorm was a delight, but the $60 price tag might be a tough pill to swallow since it's the full price of a new game for a barely updated remaster.

Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition is an unsatisfying remaster of an excellent game. Everything that made Bulletstorm a delight has been faithfully replicated, and the game runs extremely well. It's still one of the most enjoyable shooters in the past decade, and it's aged remarkably well. At the end of the day, it's about as bare-bones of a remaster as they come, but it still bears the price of a brand-new title. That's difficult to justify when the original is available for around $5 . If price is no object, Bulletstorm is still a top-notch game, but otherwise, it's probably better to wait for a price drop.

Score: 7.0/10

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