Bulletstorm — A Retrospective at this Attempt at Innovation

Jeffrey McGee
4 min readMar 24, 2023

It was a nice try

My computer is weak, and at this point, it’s not news. I’m just running out of ideas on how to write a good opening paragraph, and I can’t imagine that this is the one. Regardless, until I can afford a better PC, I have decided to look back at games that came out over a decade ago. I remembered that there was a really cool game back then, or better yet, a game that tried too hard to be cool despite how cool of an idea it is. But that’s it, it’s just a good idea, whereas in practice, it’s not always effective.

Bulletstorm is a game that introduced itself as unique by offering the player the ability to perform “cool kills”. By that I mean in-game kills that are flashy and look awesome, even though the game appears as a first-person shooter. During this game’s hype (what was of it, anyway), which was well over 12 years, I was really excited at the game’s premise and was more than eager to try out its system of “cool kills”. To me it just meant I could express my creativity in an intricate combat system. Alas, the dream did not become reality, since, as it turns out, the whole cool kill shtick is kinda rough in practice and the game is clumsy as hell.

I recently decided to revisit the game, after completing it for the first time 11 years ago, and I find the mechanics as frustrating today as I did back then. Except now I don’t have the patience to put up with the game till the end. Not that I need to, since I remember most of its events. Anyways, this is what it was like 11 years later…

At least now I don’t have to worry about old computers

Upon booting the game, I’m introduced with a familiar vanity card. The game gets to the main menu and I’m all too familiar with it, as both Grayson and Ishi, the two main characters, are standing exactly where I remembered. I take a good look at them and think “I can’t believe I used to think these graphics were high-end”. It just goes to show how technology advanced, although arguably not enough. Anyways, I start the game…

The game opens up with a cutscene I’m slightly unfamiliar with, so I’m guessing I forgot that one. The characters are using a vocabulary made up of really creative vulgarities, often combined with their off-putting sense of humor. Hearing the same jokes 11 years later, I can’t believe I used to chuckle at these childish attempts at making the protagonist appear somewhat charismatic, as if the alcoholism wasn’t enough.

So, the first hour or so is mostly introducing me to the game’s mechanics, which I’m trying to figure out how the hell to perform. Upon getting to the actual meat of the game, I try to kick some baddies into a cactus to score a cool kill. But the requirement to position myself in an angle, while the enemy constantly moves around trying to kill me, is thoroughly frustrating. I get to the point where I would rather just go for a headshot over something as complicated.

Y’see, the idea of being creative with killing your enemies in a humorous FPS is hyped up because, in theory, it sounds really awesome. However, in practice, the constant requirement to consider not only your position, but your enemy’s as well, makes this feature inapplicable. Basically, pulling any kind of creative move is hard when you lack control over the actions of the enemy, who just won’t stop moving. More so, it’s kinda difficult to explain to a computer how to use imagination to apply “creativity” in a video game, when it’s nothing but an algorithm. And it’s even harder to write several different in-program codes so that the player can have as much creative freedom as they want. I mean, some players are just more imaginative than others.

In any case, I’m baffled by how I enjoyed this game 11 years ago, but continue to play for a while to see where it takes me. I repeatedly experience the same hardship of trying to pull off a cool move when I don’t even know what I can do, and the mechanics are all over the place. So, I continue to shoot baddies until the point where I find myself wondering “how the hell did I enjoy this 11 years ago?”. I eventually decided to just stop playing wherever I was at the game, because I could no longer put up with the frustration of this whole “cool kill” bullshit. Whether my attitude would change or not, it didn’t matter anymore.

I guess some good things should stay in the past…

Do you remember Bulletstorm?

So, I guess it was just more enjoyable back then because… well… things were different. Anyways, if you remember this game, and maybe even played it, then be sure to leave your say. Then again, you can still say something even if you’re playing it now. Maybe I’ve just changed…

In conclusion…

So… Bulletstorm… I used to like it better back in the day, but times have changed. Now in retrospect, I fail to realize what I liked about it. I was really eager to try out the mechanics back then, but I guess I didn’t realize that it was all too messy. Not that it matters since it’s been such a long time. I’d prefer to just move on and let the past stay in the past, and so should you.

In any case, I have to revisit the next decade-old game… I just need to decide which game that is.

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