Bulletstorm, an excellent new first-person shooter from People Can Fly and Epic Games (Gears of War), has been recently singled out for the way it rewards particularly gruesome acts of violence. For example, players can earn “Skill Shots” for blowing off an arm (Surgeon), shooting an enemy in the neck (Gag Reflex), and impaling an enemy on a large cactus (Pricked). These aren’t minor features, but a central aspect of the gameplay.
But Bulletstorm is not as ludicrous as either the media or the game studios would have you think. It has firm roots in earlier PC shooters—games like Duke Nukem 3D and Serious Sam, which set the tone for Bulletstorm by tossing hypermasculine protagonists with big guns in cartoonish worlds; and Soldier of Fortune, whose main selling point was the ability to dismember enemies with well-placed bullets. Bulletstorm is a smart and meaningful evolution of those cult classics, updating their run-and-gun antics for a modern palate. The real issue is that it doesn’t go quite far enough to create something new.