The Duke Nukem We Never Asked For, Never Thought Of, and Are Indifferent About
Epic Games and People Can Fly released the original Bulletstorm back in 2011. At the time, the industry was saturated with first person shooters, so it may come as no surprise that this flew under the radar for many consumers; however those who gave it a shot found a surprisingly fast-paced, albeit criminally short campaign with an interest gimmick that encouraged players to express their creativity in how they killed enemies. Some of the glaring issues at the time were mainly due to the Unreal 3 engine’s tougher time at porting over to the Playstation 3 – showcasing its reputable texture pop-in. The campaign itself was fairly tongue-in-cheek, though the characters were largely forgettable.
The game quickly fell into discount bins over time, and so when Gearbox Software announced that there was to be a remaster of Bulletstorm for the Playstation 4 and Xbox One, it came off as a rather random surprise. The Full Clip Edition was set to include a host of visual upgrades, including texture resolution, and 4K support for Playstation Pro Models. On top of all that, Gearbox announced that there was an amendment of sorts to the main campaign in the form of Duke Nukem’s Bulletstorm Tour. This separate piece of “pre-order exclusive” content would replace the rather forgettable protagonist, and for all intents and purposes a wannabe-Duke, in place of the real deal, complete with Jon St John’s classic Duke voice and a fully re-recorded script so that NPC characters would react to the Duke and his unique mannerisms.
The ending result was far better than I could imagine, though it’s not without its glaring flaws. In fact, it makes Bulletstorm feel as though it were a canceled Duke Nukem game that was repurposed with different characters. The Duke feels right at home in this nonsensical, lewd and overtly violent shooter with other characters that try and exert their ego almost as much as The King himself. While the character models still leave a lot to be desired in this day and age, the gameplay is adequately smooth, and the framerate is noticeably more stable, however expect to see some slowdown in sections where either enemies are spawning, new portions of the level are opening, or when it transitions to cutscene material. It’s a shame more time wasn’t put into the overall performance of the game, but then again I’d have never thought this would get the remaster treatment.
Going back to the character models, it’s very clear that the Duke feels inserted with the lack of work done on his mouth and lip syncing to the point where there are some scenes where he speaks but doesn’t move, or when his model will point to things (that Grayson may have commented on in the actual campaign) but Duke says nothing. Other characters will refer to Duke as Grayson – the original main character, and they try to jokingly make Duke question who that person is, but the novelty wears out fast and it seems more than apparent that they probably just couldn’t hire the voice actors to redo the lines along with Jon St. John.
All these issues aside, I still get a kick out of the campaign now more than ever with Duke at the helm. He’s so out of place in design with everything and everyone around him that it feels like a great B-movie. The plot is the same wafer thin story, and the overall campaign can be beaten in a sitting. There are 7 acts and 19 chapters in total, but the levels are as linear as they come and given the nature of the gameplay, you are almost encouraged to glide through them.
For those who are unaware, Bulletstorm is a game devoid of a jump button; to compensate, the game’s level design is riddled with chest-high walls and objects to crawl or vault over to transition to new areas. You can however slide across great distances, and this is to complement the core gameplay as contact with an enemy during a slide knocks them in the air for you to then tether other combo manoeuvres.
Every level has some sort of interactivity with the map, whereby you can use the environment to improve your grade in killing. When you unlock the Instinct Leash, you will get access to dropkit points during levels where you see that you are graded on the creativeness of your kills. If you kick someone forward into a set of spikes or off the map, there’s a grade for it. If you launch enemies into the air and riddle them with bullets you’ll receive a score. Reusing the same tactics will decrease what you earn over time so it does encourage a sinisterly imaginative mind in what you can do to your enemies. You score is then used as currency to purchase ammo and upgrade your weapons.
This was the uniqueness of Bulletstorm at the time, and after 6 years the formula is as novel now as it was then. Unfortunately, novel isn’t a word used accidentally; once you get past the initial “gee-whiz” moments of clever kills and deaths, you kind of feel like you’re going through the motions. Again, I can’t stress enough that having a likeably unlikable character like Duke partly helps in alleviating this – not to the point where it becomes the game’s saving grace, but at least to the point where one can appreciate it for the campy schlock that it is.
The levels themselves are at least wildly creative in the areas and locales it puts you in, to the point where no act feels like another. One of the most memorable levels is going through a miniature city, complete with a giant robot dinosaur that tears through it. Being able to control said dinosaur with a remote control later on in the level was also highly satisfying to just sit back and watch it mow down enemies.
My biggest issue with Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition is the price point for it. Currently, you can go to a local games store in Canada and find used copies of Bulletstorm for under $1. The MSRP for this Full Clip Edition is a whopping $80. There have been few remasters that dare try and sell for the price of a new game, and in those instances considerably more care and time went into the remastering process than what is shown with Bulletstorm so it is a rather confusing business move. Expectedly, sales have not been favourable for this, as consumers aren’t keen on paying full price for an old game, when other companies seem to get by at rereleasing games for far less. At least remasters like Kingdom Hearts are sold at full price, but include more than just one game, for example. Even the recent rerelease of Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom is retailed at half the price of a normal game, and for all intents and purposes arguably offers far more in the sense of replay value than that of Bulletstorm’s campaign.
Overall, Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition - Duke Nukem’s Bulletstorm Tour serves as the Duke Nukem Forever we should have received at the time. The game as a whole is still very short in comparison to other shooters out now, and there’s not going to be much to keep people playing after the trek through the campaign, so recommendation comes with great difficulty. As it stands, I can’t suggest this to people at the price it’s currently at, but would rather encourage people to wait until this is highly discounted. It’s a fun game; dumb, mindless, campy fun, but there is a sense of enjoyment nonetheless. Regardless, if I were to look at this or something like Resident Evil 7 or even Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, I would undoubtedly choose those over Bulletstorm if I had the same amount of cash to spend.Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition was reviewed using a PS4 digital code provided by Gearbox Software. You can find additional information about Gaming Union's ethics policy here.
|The Duke is back, with Jon St. John lending his classic voice and one-liners.|
|Performance issues a-plenty.|
|Unreasonably pricey for a remaster that still pales in comparison to other remasters.|
|Very, very short campaign with little replay value.|
|As much as I get a kick out of Duke Nukem in Bulletstorm, it's still clearly done with minimal effort outside of redoing fragments of the script to insert him into the story.|