Bulletstorm: I don’t want your story

Video-games are awesome. That’s Bulletstorm’s philosophy. That’s an awesome philosophy. If you wanna make something awesome, turn the ‘Duke Nukem’ factor up to 11. Honestly, if you haven’t heard or seen Bulletstorm then you don’t know what it means to just play an enjoyable FPS. The past few years I haven’t really ‘enjoyed’ myself or marvelled at my actions like I have done with the likes of Super Meat Boy or Minecraft, but Bulletstorm gives you the means and motivations to use your imagination within a potentially limitless array of game mechanic combinations.

You can shoot people, like any game nowadays, but you can also fire cannons and kick those cannons into people. Combining all of these with a giant wrecker of a shotgun, and a whip that can flail people around like you’ve got the force in your fingers, probably the most fun you can ever have. If you like shooting people, which ever gamer should do by now (as there’s nothing else to do) then you’ll love the fricken froob out of Bulletstorm. It’s too bad that the developers decided instead of centrally focusing on this, instead of letting the player just do shit and entertain himself, to shove in something completely unnecessary.

There’s a plot, in fact, there’s en emphasis on it. The game will stop every so often for five minutes to show you something scripted, which will really get on my nerves. For starters, the game is linear, which isn’t a bad thing at all. I don’t mind being forced down a corridor as long as the corridor is full of awesome. But when you make me stop to watch and listen and take in stuff that isn’t awesome, when you restrict my control of doing awesome things, then I get angry. I don’t want your story, Bulletstorm, it’ll probably be bad.

I’m guessing, of course I am, the screams and catchphrases and stuff that comes out of everybody’s mouth (including the player character’s) are all massively hilarious. It’s going to be the Duke Nukem of 2011, no doubt… oh wait… anyway I can safely say that Bulletstorm’s passive scripted things (such as stuff that blurts out of your mouth or the spawn points of enemies) will all be fair and will. The stuff that says ‘Look at our story!’ that’s unskippable, not talking about cut-scenes, such as being forced to wait five minutes for a character to open a door or ‘do something’.

In essence, they’ve designed a game that puts gameplay above story, which is a great design philosophy if you’re not wanting to put story in the gameplay. Instead, they’ve decided to not defy the trend and put story within gameplay, just lazily put it scripted on the sidelines. That’s what I hate about nearly every game ever, they treat story and gameplay separately. Bioshock‘s mechanics revolved around the story and was tied to its thematics, as is such games as Canabalt and Shadow of the Colossus. Weaving all those nice juicy artsy bits into the mechanics really doesn’t take that much work.

So why even bother trying to make a ‘strong story’? Why? Honestly, it doesn’t make sense when you want to sell your game as the most fun you’ll have with shooting things, when you’re also shoving in bits that involve not shooting things. Keep it simple. You’re spending money hiring writers and outside parties to write all the scripted bullshit, because they don’t know how to apply their field into an actual interactive context. That’s the tough part, and it’s stupid. We’re trapped in a loop of great games mixed with horrible stories that just get shoved in because Bioshock sold tremendously well.

That’s my critique of Bulletstorm, that it’ll take an idea such as shooting things to a whole new dimension of funtown, but try and shove a narrative down our throats. It won’t be smart or new about it, it’ll do the same thing that’s been done before. The same thing that just angers and angers me, and then it’ll sell millions. It’ll shove and shove and push harder and harder to get that narrative down our throats; Red Dead Redemption, Halo Reach, Black Ops, God of War 3 all have this lack of player identity and horrible ideas when it comes to narrative design. Bulletstorm will be joining them, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it wins tonnes of ‘game of the year’ accolades.

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