A visual upgrade makes Bulletstorm sing, but a lack of extras feels like a missed opportunity.
Bulletstorm demonstrates the value of “why” for action games. Taken out of the context of its fiction, People Can Fly would have something fun but forgettable on their hands, but the way Bulletstorm fits together results in something cool and memorable. Multiplayer failings notwithstanding, Bulletstorm shines as a single-player shooter. Despite its crass humor and wang-flinging bravado, it’s got some real character and heart to it. I’m not happy about the story’s sequel-bait belly flop of an ending, but I’m excited to see where Grayson and Bulletstorm go next.
Though it may not feel as edgy as it once did, especially next to modern gory popcorn shooters like 2016’s Doom (which also revelled in a heavy metal sensibility) there’s still plenty of gleefully homicidal fun still to be had in Bulletstorm. This remaster adds a significant graphical upgrade that makes some of its original moments sing.
Though its campaign is six years old, Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition looks at home on this console generation in Unreal Engine 4. Textures are detailed, lines are sharp, and a new lighting system has brightened things up significantly. This is particularly noticeable in Bulletstorm’s darker environments, where brightness brings life to previously muddied tones, and in its plentiful gore, where individual intestines can be picked out in among the previously blobby viscera.
The upgrade has lent a lot to Bulletstorm’s moments of spectacle. Large vistas and frenetic escape sequences that looked pretty good in 2011 now look much more impressive and feel more urgent; particularly in 4K on PC and PS4 Pro. There’s a feeling that developer People Can Fly has given these moments their due in this remaster.
Elsewhere, Full Clip Edition shows its age. While it runs a lot more smoothly than the original at 60fps, I noticed framerate judders when moving into new environments from a checkpoint, and frustrating invisible walls, sticky environments and the lack of a jump button speak to the most inflexible kind of linearity of that was once a mainstay of the shooter genre. Its adjective-abusing gross-out humour seems less daring than it did in 2011, too; kind of like watching an old episode of South Park and finding it tame and slightly embarrassing compared to the new stuff.
Its main distinctive ideas, though, are still a ton of fun. Its central mechanic, the leash that allows you to pull objects towards you, remains the catalyst for all sorts of creative mayhem – turns out kicking a guy into a cactus is still a lot of fun six years later – and its powerful and fun weapons make finishing blows feel crunchy and satisfying. The planet Stygia, a pleasure capital turned ruin, feels cohesive and lived-in, a testament to People Can Fly’s worldbuilding at the time.
Considering its foundations remain as strong as they ever were, it’s a shame that there’s not a huge amount of extras in Full Clip Edition to make returning Bulletstorm fans feel like they’re getting something new. A handful of new challenge maps for its score-based Echo mode and packaged add-ons from the original don’t add much beyond what’s already accessible (including Bulletstorm’s original – and rather disappointing – Anarchy co-op mode). The only thing that’s actually notable is a pre-order bonus that lets you play as a Jon St John-voiced Duke Nukem, a fun and completely off the wall addition considering nothing else in Bulletstorm’s cut-scenes have changed (characters still address the Duke by the name of Bulletstorm’s protagonist, Grayson). It’s a shame, then, that this bonus isn’t available for everyone.