Undoubtedly the most original shooter of 2011 that we played, Bulletstorm introduced us to the hilarious skillshot system. Its easy to shoot a guy in the face with a shotgun. But its harder to whip a guy towards you, boot him in the balls so his body flies towards a huge wall of spikes, and then shotgun him in the face seconds before he’s impaled. This is the only game I know of that rewards such imaginative thinking, and we had endless fun figuring out the hundreds of skillshots in the game. Bulletstorm deserves its place on this list.
When I reviewed Bulletstorm earlier this year, I had a lot of praise for it, and by jove I meant it. In no other game have I seen such attention to detail with regards to flinging people into the air with laser whip, pummeling them with a machine gun, then kicking them in the face as they plummet back toward the earth, placing them nicely into a prickly embrace of a giant cactus. Instant satisfaction, and that was just one enemy! Humongous beasts, enormous machines, and all round glorious set-pieces made Bulletstorm truly spectacular, along with the almost comically unique take on typical FPS gameplay, making the priority less about killing men and more about doing it creatively.
What’s that you say? A monstrous concept? Well, yes I suppose to some it might be, but all the horrific and mutilating skill shots you can make are positively hilariously named, things like ‘Sausage Fest’ for killing someone with a hot-dog cart, ‘Fire in the Hole’ for shooting someone in the rear end, and how about the utterly charming ‘Nut Cracker’ which involves flying a guided sniper bullet into the privates of an unsuspecting enemy in the distance. Yes, I’ve never seen a game do such a thing, and it damn well did it good. Not to mention the storyline wasn’t bad at all, and with all the epic explosions, monsters, and fun characters to be seen throughout the duration of the game, there was plenty to keep me entertained.
I had great fun playing Bulletstorm. The Unreal engine is used by so many studios, but its only when Epic themselves are involved that they really know how to push it to its limits. The most memorable moments for me are when you’re fighting enormous towering monsters, or being chased by a gigantic runaway rolling ball of steel across a desert. The environments ranged from huge sprawling outdoor fields to run-down derelict and overgrown cities, and everything in between. Half the game was even set in a post-apocalyptic holiday resort – something we saw a couple of times in 2011, but Bulletstorm did it first, and arguably best.
Its hard not to love those skillshots, too. For years, shooters have allowed us to take out bad guys in sadistically entertaining ways, but never before has there been a system in place that actively recognises and rewards clever acts of violence such as this. To unlock new weapons and upgrades, you simply have to play Bulletstorm creatively, otherwise you’ll be stuck with the regular gear. Amusingly, this system is integrated into the story itself, which has its tongue so firmly in its cheek for the duration of the campaign that only the biggest prude would be offended by its gloriously juvenile humour.