Bulletstorm Hands On: Big Guns, Big Boots & Big Combos

Playing Bulletstorm for the first time, I felt less like playing another me-too first-person shooter and more like a Tony Hawk Pro Skater game I used to lose hours in.

During my first hands-on experience with Bulletstorm, the big, brash FPS from Epic Games and Painkiller creators People Can Fly, I found myself forgetting ingrained shooter tactics. I didn't pop from cover to cover, strafing to avoid a storm of enemy fire or retreating to wait for my health to regen. Instead, I thought, "If I use the Thumper to pop that body into the air, lob a Bouncer round just off-target, can I score an Iron Maiden bonus?"

Let me try to make some sense of that. Bulletstorm's greatest gimmick is its creative killing combinations. Players, as space-jerk-seeking-revenge Grayson Hunt, will have access to an energy whip called the Thumper, which lets players ensnare enemies, yanking them within melee range or, if charged, bouncing them into the air. Set 'em up, kick 'em back, headshot 'em down.

Every opportunity to creatively kill a squad of evil space thugs is a delightfully sadistic challenge.

Bulletstorm Hands On: Big Guns, Big Boots & Big Combos

At TGS, we did our killing with a combination of the Thumper and two guns: the Peacemaker Carbine, a chunky assault rifle, and the Bouncer, a mutant grenade launcher that lobs explosive, bouncing cannonballs. The latter can launch Bouncer rounds that explode on a timed charge or, if the right trigger is held, a bouncing ball that will only blow up when the trigger is released.

(You'll run into a bad dude near the end of the level we played at TGS who's also armed with a Bouncer. Kicking back his Bouncer rounds is the best way to take him down.)

The PMC gun also has a charged shot, an overheated round that can puncture its way through multiple enemies with one shot. I was not successful in lining up any charged PMC shots.

Bulletstorm's TGS demo also offered a chance to use a pair of limited use weapons. The first was a mounted mini-gun that could be unmounted and then fired for a short while. The other was an elevator car that squished a squad of baddies at the bottom of a toppled elevator shaft. Both featured their own unique combo rewards.

While using the Thumper, PMC and Bouncer to grind my way through dozens of enemies, after nearly every kill, I'd think "Well, I could probably do that better." Just like I used to do while playing Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2, when every railgrind combo or string of tricks launched from a half-pipe felt like an opportunity to improve, to push Bulletstorm's combo mechanics to their limits.

The rewards for creative killing will be expanded by Bulletstorm's upgrade system, which lets players buy new weapon abilities, ammo and other power-ups. The murderous possibilities seem endless, perhaps why I'm so excited to play Bulletstorm for real—reloading levels again and again and again until I get them right—in 2011.