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One of the more unique titles coming out in the next month is Electronic Arts’ Bulletstorm, a creativity-based first person shooter by developers People Can Fly and Epic Games. Ironically, Bulletstorm isn’t all about guns. Rather than pushing forward what has become an exercise in repetition, it changes the goals of a FPS from the standard “shoot everything you see before you die” to a whole new paradigm: Skillshots. Itself a tongue-in-cheek title with overlarge weapons and cartoony effects, Bulletstorm rewards players by finishing off enemies as creatively as possible be it from kicking them into electric fences to juggling them off a cliff. With the focus taken off clearing stages of enemies and onto the Skillshots, Bulletstorm has the chance to innovate the genre above convention.

The plot details are a bit sparse, but it takes place across a confederation of planets that has achieved a seemingly perfect society, protected by a corps of mercenaries called the Dead Echo. After an incident that reveals that all is not as it should be, two members of Dead Echo named Grayson Hunt and Ishi Sato are exiled to an abandoned planet called Stygia. Of course, the mission from then on out is to crush the mutants who want you dead and bring pain and sadness to your exilers. Adrian Chmielarz, the founder of People Can Fly, reveals that the game is going to have more depth than is apparent from the low-brow ads for the title, including “thousands of lines of dialogue and hundreds of scripted events”.  From the videos and screenshots that have so far been released, the visuals are fantastic as well, but time will tell to see if the quality of the writing matches the graphical splendor.

All plot details aside, the point of Bulletstorm, in a word, is mayhem. Each unusual kill is referred to as a Skillshot, a core element of the game that plays a part in everything the player does. As players utilize techniques and abilities in innovative ways to destroy the environment and enemies, points are granted to the player to unlock upgrades and new equipment which then allow more insane and flashy Skillshots. As more Skillshots are linked together it causes a max-out: the player has reached the maximum amount of epic skills and each kill becomes a one-shot, allowing rapid chained Skillshots in an orgy of violence and awesomeness with point multipliers. However, if the player continues to use the same type of Skillshot repeatedly, the awesomeness becomes less apparent, providing decreasing returns on each subsequent Skillshot. So, rather than ending a battle immediately, it proves fruitful to keep combat going as long as possible in order to find new and more bizarre ways to entertain yourself with Skillshots.

Often in FPS titles conservative efficiency is vital for successful results; ammo must be counted, stealthy passages must be found and enemies must be dispatched as quickly and silently as possible. With Bulletstorm, this conventional logic has left the galaxy. The player is not intended to be careful or methodical in their mission, except for the awareness of chances possible environmental obliteration.  Your tools to accomplish this mayhem are varied and numerous; while ridiculous guns are a part of the action, the primary focus is on the more unique equipment available like an energy whip that can snare or toss enemies. Another welcome addition is the mighty boot, a tool put to good use in other games to deliver a solid kick to the faces of foes – very satisfying.  It comes in handy when environmental hazards are in just the right place to knock enemies into it.

There is a multiplayer element to the madness. Rather than amassing kills like every other FPS game in existence, the point of the game is to gather as many points through Skillshots. There are two modes that make use of this mechanic in different ways: Echo and Anarchy modes.  Echo mode allows a player to gather as many points as possible in the normal campaign, which is then matched online against friend point totals to see who is best. Anarchy has a player and three allies face off against waves of enemies in progressively more difficult stages. Combining attacks creates Team Skillshots, which are what the game counts for progression rather than just mundane fragging of enemies. The possibilities are endless.

Although its primary audience is PC gamers, no demo has or will be released for PC. However, a demo has been released for Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3.  Despite this, all versions are set for a February 22, 2011 release.  Considering the pedigree of the developers, Bulletstorm may prove itself to be an interesting experience, to say the least.

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