2x Combo: Bulletstorm and Vanquish
It’s time to pucker your butthole, rev-up your machine gun and, please, draw the curtains for god’s sake. Someone might see you. This week, EA farted the demo for Bulletstorm onto Xbox Live and PSN. Or Gunwank or Rocketshit or whatever it’s called. Yes, this is the same year that the gaming gods are bestowing upon us such creatively named products as Bodycount and Max Anarchy.
From the endless trailers, press sheets and painfully named “skillisodes”, People Can Fly’s Bulletstorm is evidently a game designed and marketed exclusively towards 16 year olds, or any other feckless moron who thinks “fail” is an adjective and believes a t-shirt design has the capacity to be “epic”.
The game uses phrases like “dick tits” and “poop passage” that are embarrassing enough to make you cringe yourself inside out. In fact, Bulletstorm is so astoundingly puerile and idiotic that I’m still not entirely sure if the game is a scathing satire of alarmingly stupid action games, or the new reigning monarch of them.
Then again, any interview with the game’s developer plants this sucker directly in the latter. Take the wonderful anecdote where a female team member had to talk the creative director down from giving the token chick character a pair of leviathan double-d tits. “She’s so hot, she needs to have a giant rack,” slobbered Adrian Chmielarz. “I love chicks in video games that have giant boobs,” he grunted.
It’s pretty annoying, then, that Bulletstorm is actually quite good. It certainly makes it more difficult to actively despise and boycott the game when the PlayStation Network demo is so much fun. Cut away the language, generic character design and middle school humour, and Bulletstorm is electric entertainment, combining combo-kills with a reliable control set that makes replaying levels and gunning for high scores aggressively irresistible. Flashing up a leaderboard of your buddies’ best scores directly after play just makes it all that more enticing to go again.
Still, I’d rather crinkle my sphincter for the next 12 months than play through the actual game. I’m 21, for christ’s sake, I shouldn’t be saying “I’m too old for this shit” after every line of dialogue, should I? It might get a sly rental, but I’ll maintain my stance that starting puberty instantly makes you too mature for Bulletstorm.
The fabled point-based shooter has been tried millions of times before, from The Club to 50 Cent to Rage on the iPhone, but no one has ever quite perfected it. Platinum Games’ Vanquish, a fine-tuned shooter whose default mode seems to be “speed run„ is another valiant effort, but doesn’t quite nail it in the same just-one-more-go attitude as Bulletstorm.
Vanquish, which I’ve been playing this weekend, definitely shares Storm’s heavily cliched, B-movie bullshit though, with constantly swearing characters so grizzled and raspy that you’ll swear this planet’s currency, food source and chief import are all nicotine.
The game’s dialogue never gets much better than the pithy, perfectly spoken and oh-so true “fucking robots”, and the sexual tension between the two male heroes is so thick you could cut it with a knife. A big gay knife. If they don’t go Brokeback Spaceship by the end of the game, I might just have to pen a curse-word filled fanfic to fill in the gap.
But while any game with a dedicated “slide on your knees like a kid presented with freshly waxed linoleum” button deserves to be played, the Japanese’s lagging uptake on social gaming definitely hurts the 15-minute long Vanquish. Right in its metal-plated, DARPA-developed dick.
A single, pathetic leaderboard for each level in the game? For a game so passionately entangled with points, times and grades, Vanquish barely acknowledges the fact that I might want to compare my progress with a pal, rather than myself.I want to challenge my buddies to speedruns, I want to be told at the end of each level that my buddy Phil was more accurate than me.
Social gaming is a hugely important new element of modern games, but few titles can really take care of business. If I’m having to burrow deep into a sub-menu to find a leaderboard, you’re doing it wrong. If I’m not told in a snarky pop-up menu that my best score has just been nuked by a buddy, you’re doing it wrong.
I may be an anti-social, misanthropic jackass, but even I like to feel socially connected when gaming. If developers aren’t looking closely at Geometry Wars 2, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit and, please forgive me, Farmville, then they need a check up from the neck up.
(2 years ago