Boot to the Head


I spent a fair amount of time last year getting caught up on the various Call of Duty games that I’d missed.  These are, of course, very serious military shooters where Serious Men make Hard Choices to save the world.  There’s not a lot of dialogue during the actual shooty bits; just Serious Men shouting what sound like very official commands at each other while they try to eliminate all the tangos.

Bulletstorm is NOT a very serious shooter.  Apparently the developers intended it to be at least a little serious, but then there was a bit of a disconnect between their intentions and what they actually wrote into the script, and the result is that it is one of the most wonderfully dumb pieces of entertainment I’ve enjoyed in the last year of gaming.  The main character is little more than an ambulatory slab of beef with a massive arsenal and a boundless supply of rage, and he is an endless source of frustration for every other character in the game.

As an example:

At one point, your small band of soldiers – outnumbered, outgunned, in hopelessly over their heads – is sneaking through the ruins of a city, and you come across a chasm which needs to be crossed.  The nearest makeshift bridge is a large metal sign, and you cheerfully give it a good kick to make it fall across the chasm.

This is followed by a Rube Goldberg-style chain of events that ends with a nearby building collapsing and every enemy in the city being alerted to your presence.

But, as you helpfully point out, “At least we don’t need to whisper any more”

One of the other characters usually just calls you “monkey”, and I vaguely recall that that ISN’T your proper name, but it quite aptly fits.

It’s also a terrifically fun shooter, thanks in part to a scoring system that rewards style over efficiency.  As you progress through the story, you’re constantly being graded on how well you do in combat (and there is a vague story explanation of this), with the points earned usable towards unlocking weapon upgrades and buying ammunition.  You CAN kill a mutant charging at you by simply holding the target over him pressing the button until he falls down, and this will get you 10 points towards your next purchase.

Alternately, you can yank him off his feet with an energy whip, and – while he is suspended in mid-air – give him a strong, manly kick to send him flying into the gaping maw of a nearby carnivorous plant, for a 250 point payout, or into some convenient-but-dangerous rebar protruding from the broken concrete of a nearby wall, or stun him long enough for you to throw an exploding hot dog cart at him, or…

…well, there are a lot of combinations of ways to kill the things that are trying to kill you in this game, and you are rewarded for seeing out new and exciting ones.

I completely missed this game when it came out in 2011, and it doesn’t seem to have been a commercial success.  It’s regularly available for pennies on the used market, and I am personally very sad that we will probably never see a sequel.


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