There are one hundred and thirty-one ways to kill a bad guy in People Can Fly’s Bulletstorm. You can fling them into spiked walls and electrical sources, kick them off cliffs and bridges, set fire to them then fill them full of holes or just good old slo-mo shoot their heads off. You can slice them, dice them, explode them and de-choad them, or, preferably, all of the above mixed together in quick succession.
This is a first-person shooter that boldly encourages you to do anything other than boringly aim down your sights to shoot at the enemy and, a full eight years after its original release, we’re pleased to report it’s lost none of its charm. It may be puerile, it may be crass, but this is still one of the most enjoyable, ingenious FPS experiences you’ll find anywhere, and it arrives on Switch in the form of one of the technically strongest ports we’ve seen on the console so far.
For those who have yet to experience the delights of Bulletstorm, you assume control of Grayson Hunt, the leader of Dead Echo, a group of foul-mouthed 26th century bounty hunters who find themselves marooned (not to mention down a few members) as they fight for survival on the planet of Stygia, where they take on some rather angry locals as well as the forces of the evil General Earl Sarrano across seven hugely inventive acts.
It’s a story filled with cheesy banter, childish humour and ultra-naff dick-joke dialogue all wrapped up in a game so fiendishly clever and addictive that all of these things can easily be overlooked because, first and foremost, Bulletstorm is a hell of a good time. This is a shooter whose central strength lies in the combination of an ingenious Skillshot system, inventive level design and constant drip-feed of excellent weaponry that all mesh perfectly together, cleverly pacing the expansion of your arsenal and abilities in order to keep gameplay kicking along at a fresh and frantic pace all the way to the finish line.
Starting out with a simple energy leash which allows you to pull enemies towards you in slow motion, you'll go on to gain access to Flailguns, Bouncers, Screamers, Penetrators, Bonedusters and heavy-hitting melee attacks, providing you with an almost inexhaustible number of ways to put paid to anyone, or anything, dumb enough to run in your general direction.
The game’s Skillshot system sees you earn XP for being inventive in the ways in which you employ its arsenal to dispatch your foes, combining your lethal assortment of weaponry with all sorts of deadly background scenery to chain together stylish kills as quickly and fluidly as you can for maximum XP gains, which can then be traded at caches for upgrades and powerful alternate fire modes.
Your Skillshot codex keeps track of each and every way in which you manage to off enemies, and slowly revealing each of the 131 combinations of comical death on offer gives the game a hugely moreish and addictive core that is lacking in so many first-person shooters; it gives you a reason, beyond just campaign progression, to bust out the big guns and get creative.
Adding to all of this is some stellar level design filled with hazards with which to snuff the life out of Sarrano’s forces. Everywhere you look you’ll find busted electrical outlets, giant fans, spiked walls and chasms just begging you to kick someone in their direction. The set-pieces also never let up, from an early turret sequence which sees you outrunning a giant spinning wheel, to a shootout through an awesome miniature city or taking the controls of a robotic laser-shooting dinosaur to pound your way through your enemies. It’s pretty amazing how People Can Fly decided that the wild amount of weapons and ways to kill your opponents wasn’t enough and layered all of this level variety on top like so much delicious death gravy.
There are Newsbots to kick to pieces and swarms of Electro-flies to hunt down as a half-assed nod to the usual boring collectables that pad out your run-of-the-mill shooter, but it’s filling in every missing entry in that Skillshot codex that keeps Bulletstorm from growing stale, and watching XP scorestreaks and zany death descriptions fill the screen as you decimate your enemies never grows old. It’s really beyond us as to why the game wasn’t widely imitated upon after its original release.
In terms of this port, what you get here is the 2017 remastered version which updates the graphical side of things nicely from the original 2011 offering and also comes complete with the Duke Nukem campaign mode, which adds not just Duke’s visage but a whole bunch of his inane dribbling to proceedings. The game runs at what seems to be a solid 1080p docked and employs a dynamic resolution solution in handheld mode which does a phenomenal job of keeping things smooth whilst remaining barely noticeable for the most part. Capped at 30fps – as it was for its original 360/PS3 release – the game didn’t drop a single frame for us in docked mode and stutters were infrequent and mild enough in handheld to be hardly worth mentioning.
There are a few flies in the ointment, however. The multiplayer portion of the game, including co-op Anarchy mode, has gone AWOL, which is a shame. It certainly isn’t the strongest part of the game’s overall package but is something we would have expected to see retained, and it’s always good to have a bit of multiplayer for longevity purposes. Another omission, and something we really hope can be patched in at a later date, is the lack of gyroscopic controls for fine-tuning those headshots. There's still aim-assist at work, which helps, but gyro really does add to the FPS experience on Switch by giving you the ability to line up those tricky shots just how you want them, and it's a shame it hasn't been implemented here.
With its multiplayer offering still intact it would have been hard to fault any aspect of Bulletstorm: Duke of Switch Edition, and it's a shame it's been strangely omitted here, but the campaign still holds up as one of the best shooters on Nintendo's console, easily sitting alongside DOOM and Wolfenstein II, and, in many ways, surpassing them in delivering a consistently smooth and eminently playable experience.
Bulletstorm was positively received by critics on its initial release all the way back in 2011 but it didn’t sell anywhere near as well as it really should have – a wrong that should hopefully be corrected with this Switch version. This is easily one of the most inventive and straight-up fun shooters of the past ten years; its fantastic Skillshot system, tight combat and ludicrously OTT levels of violence effortlessly make up for any problems it has in the cheesy dialogue or story department. Yes, it’s missing its multiplayer component here and we’d love to see gyroscopic controls patched in pretty sharpish, but overall this is a technically top-notch port of a stellar first-person shooter that you should really check out – especially if you missed out on it the first time around.