Epic clearly understands what a great thing it’s on to with the skillshot system, using it as the basis for a second ‘Echoes’ game mode. Echoes requires you to replay small sections of the campaign against the clock while trying to score as many skill points as possible, with different final scores earning different amounts of stars. And it’s surprisingly addictive, especially when you start trying to nudge yourself further up the provided global leaderboards.
But for us it’s with the campaign that the skillshot system achieves its fullest expression. Needless to say, we expect to see it endlessly copied by other future FPS games.
While the campaign earns most of its plaudits for the quality of its near-constant action, it also deserves acclaim for the exceptional location variety it delivers, and for being longer than expected – as noted earlier, we clocked up around 14 hours playing on the Hard difficulty setting. There’s also replay value thanks to both the sheer fun of raising the difficulty for a subsequent play through, and ‘collectibles’ such as electric fly swarms and annoying news robots.
The game’s difficulty curve is pretty well thought through meanwhile, with only one or two big set pieces feeling like a skill leap too far. But there’s nothing we didn’t managed to get past after at most six or seven tries, even on the game’s second-toughest Hard setting.
For all its adrenaline-fuelled highs and intensely satisfying combat, though, Bulletstorm isn’t totally perfect. The storyline, for instance, gets almost totally lost about half way through for three or four of the game’s seven ‘Acts’; so much so that when the story suddenly kicked back in, we could no longer remember what had been going on earlier.
Next, the game’s wit takes a bit of a hit in the latter stages, with the ultra-macho banter losing some of the quite self-effacing charm that illuminated the game’s earlier levels. And finally, one or two of the later levels stick with the old-school ‘corridors’ approach for a little too long. Though to be fair, we probably only even noticed this because so much of the rest of the game uses such varied and epic locations.
All in all, though, Bulletstorm is an absolute blast from start to finish that it’s hard to imagine anyone not enjoying. Unless, perhaps, it’s unsuspecting mums who bought this ultra-violent, dirty-mouthed FPS extravaganza for their 12 year old without realising that the 18 PEGI rating the game carries really is there for a reason.
Apart from one or two minor mis-steps, the set of achievements/trophies Epic has come up with for Bulletstorm are excellent.
For a start, it feels like just the right amount of points are available for reaching certain parts of the campaign and then finishing it on its different difficulty levels. For example, you get 40 points for finishing the game on hard mode, plus the points available for finishing it on easier levels; there’s no excessive 100 point giveaway for just doing something a good game like Bulletstorm should encourage you to do anyway.
This leaves plenty of points to share out among different things that both add longevity to the game and inspire you to play in as varied and therefore fun a way as possible. Particularly enticing are the rewards for achieving different numbers of skillshots, right the way up to 50 points for getting all 131; the 10-20pt rewards for killing all the enemies during the game’s against the clock sequences; and the ones associated with earning various levels of prowess on the Echoes levels.
None of the achievements on offer require you to be online to get them, though it has to be said that the four achievements associated with the Anarchy game mode – which we’ll actually cover in the Online section, for simplicity’s sake – will be seriously tough to get without some online help.