The long thin over-the-top hallway of early Bulletstorm

, | Games

[Ed. note: Ben Sones’ comments appear here and here, in this thread on Bulletstorm.]

So far (I’m several acts into Chapter Two), [Bulletstorm] has been one long relentlessly linear hallway, about 20 to 60 feet wide. It doesn’t matter what the environment is. Underground cavern, desert landscape, sprawling alien city–it’s all just 20 to 60 foot hallways, peppered with things to hide behind. And sometimes, just to mix it up, things that explode.

Sometimes the game decides that you are getting a little too crazy with that 20 to 60 feet of wiggle room, and the freedom to traverse it at the pace of your choosing. It will then make you play a rail shooter level. I’ve done three of them so far. They are about as much fun as rail shooters tend to be, which is to say: not even a little. One of them was visually spectacular. Imagine a QTE directed by Roland Emmerich. So over the top that they’ll have to invent a new word for “over the top,” so that everyone can understand how much more over the top it is compared to other things that are over the top. But here on my side of the screen, it was still just a boring QTE.

Sometimes the game presents you with QTE “shoot the target” events that are so important, so vital that you not miss, that the game even aims for you. I swear I am not making that up.

Like the environments, the game itself is unwaveringly linear and scripted. It underscores this by wrenching control of the game away from you constantly, to show you something important, or to show you something unimportant, or sometimes just to play a line of dialog. Sometimes, as though to offer reassurance that it really does trust you not to screw up the carefully scripted bits with your dirty mouselooking hands, the game gives you the opportunity to give up control of the camera willingly. An on-screen prompt will appear, and if you quickly press and hold RMB, the camera will slowly pan away to look at whatever the game wants you to see, and then it rewards you with some points.

When you do have control of the camera, it’s often very obvious what the game wants you to do. Oh, I’m supposed to kick that guy into those electrical wires. I guess that guy is camped behind those cacti because I’m supposed to grab him with the Leash and pull him onto them. Ah, a courtyard filled with exploding barrels. I’ll bet a whole bunch of guys are about to run out and try to hide behind them. Yep, here they come. None of it feels spontaneous or creative. It’s less like playing a game, and more like acting out a part in a play. On the rare occasions when you die (rare because the game is quite easy so far) and have to replay an area, the heavy-handed railroading becomes even more painfully obvious. I question the game’s replayability, because it somehow manages to not feel fresh the first time.