At the time of its original release back in 2011, Bulletstorm was tough to pin down. It played and presented itself like something ripped out of a parallel reality, where instead of striving for realism, Hollywood set pieces, and an endless infatuation with World War II, shooters simply proceeded down a lineage inspired by DOOM, Duke Nukem, and perhaps a pinch of Platinum’s gratuitously gory Mad World for good measure.
Flash forward to 2017 and Bulletstorm’s Full Clip Edition remaster releases into a world where Nukem himself is playable in-game, DOOM has been reborn to critical acclaim, and Quake Champions is approaching just beyond the horizon. It appears we've arrived in the reality Bulletstorm originally came from, but that doesn’t make its absurd brand of comedy-carnage any less fun.
Old Is New Again
If it wasn’t already clear, I’ll say so off the bat - Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition is a remaster, and its boost in fidelity is likely the main reason you’ll want to invest in this latest release instead of the 2011 original. Unlike PS2 era do-overs that scream for such treatment, Bulletstorm’s PS3 progenitor hasn’t aged all that badly, and is by no means an ugly game even today. The good news is that Full Clip seems smartly aware of this fact, and has arrived packing not just a boost to resolution but also polygon counts, texture quality, and even consistently higher frame rates. Has it fully transformed into a modern title? Not quite, but People Can Fly deserve kudos from the get-go for realizing that a simple up-res wouldn’t do here.
Though certainly a cut above run-of-the-mill remaster efforts, Full Clip isn’t quite a technical marvel, and at the end of the day what really shines are remaster enhancements working in tandem with what made the original game’s presentation so great: a vibrant color palette and eye-catching (albeit intentionally testosterone-drenched) character and world design. PS4 Pro and PC users have the benefit of trying the game in 4K, which I imagine does push Bulletstorm further toward that “came out last week” uber high def sheen that frankly its unique brand of blood-soaked amusement completely deserves.
Still, if you play in standard 1080p you won’t be disappointed, as 2011 seams show only rarely and the level of effort toward rebirthing the game with 2017 luster is, in my estimation, satisfactory and then some. Graphics show their age a bit during cutscenes even with enhancements (new texturing could have gone a step further I reckon), but during play the frenetic leash-yanking, corpse-booting, and skull shattering has never looked more fluid or flashy than it does here.
Hail to the King
Beyond its visual enhancements this is still Bulletstorm, juiced-up in Full Clip by a smattering of both substantial and less substantial additions and adjustments. Heavily touted in the game’s marketing is "Duke Nukem’s Bulletstorm Tour," and I think it’s best I iterate from the start that though worth a few giggles, Nukem is by no means a selling point for this game. What we’re essentially looking at here is something resembling a skin-swap, where Duke is substituted for protagonist Grayson Hunt and is expected to endeavor the exact same story, even the exact same animations, as his revenge-seeking counterpart. To be fair, Nukem’s appearance is free pre-order DLC that jumps to a mere $5 otherwise, so this is not entirely unreasonable, but it still needs to be said.
Luckily Gearbox and People Can Fly have gone a step further to acknowledge the absurdity and make Duke self-aware of it, resulting in genuinely hilarious in-game quips that fare much better than the cutscenes themselves. In one instance an AI teammate remarked on the nature of the enemy’s technology, to which Duke replied “that supposed to mean somethin’ to me?” The dichotomy of AI teammates and plot-important characters blissfully unaware that Duke is not Grayson, but Duke functioning as himself dropped into a completely foreign and random scenario is the DLC’s running gag, and if you’re of the mind for it you’ll likely laugh like a fool more than you’ll care to admit. Just be aware that Full Clip’s $5 DLC is just that, and you should be fine.
Same Old Slaughter
Otherwise this is still Bulletstorm, and beyond shiny graphics and Nukem you can expect new Echo Mode maps (sorely needed given that Echo maps are traditionally derived from story scenes), as well as a brand new Overkill mode that enables all of the game’s weapons and Skillshots from the beginning. This allows for maximum Skillshot assembly, not to mention destructive finesse in stringing together what essentially amount to complex combo chains of shooting, kicking, leash-yanking, and horrifically mangling enemy soon-to-be corpses in the process.
The Skillshot system is as compelling today as it was in 2011, and is still Bulletstorm’s highlight - wielding Grayson’s unique arsenal of instinct leash, boot, slow-mo, and a vast array of creative weapons still flows nicely, and I’ve yet to grow tired of weaponry like the Flail Gun, making chained-together grenades a viable form of attack and yielding results as comically appalling as they were in the original game. Full Clip has adjusted the experience such that there’s no longer a limit on the amount of weapons Grayson can carry, a modern tweak to sum up a satisfying return that, while maybe not as purely invigorating as it was six years ago, is still well worth revisiting.
If you haven’t played the original Bulletstorm, then Full Clip Edition is well worth your time if you simply want the definitive version and have always wondered what its unique brand of butchery might be like. That said, despite clear effort toward graphical enhancements, it’s simply a much harder sell for those who have already played the game. $60 MSRP isn’t exactly cheap, and while it’s true there are already opportunities at acquiring the game for less floating around online in plain view, the fact remains that the original PS3, Xbox 360, and PC editions don’t look all that bad. Call it a symptom of issuing a remaster under the 10-year mark, but it’s the reality.
Regardless, minor worries shouldn’t hold you back if you simply want the game, and if you do opt for Full Clip Edition you’ll surely have a blast with its wacky Skillshots and outrageous, funny, and somehow oddly affecting story just like before. There’s an argument to be made that the likes of DOOM and Quake Champions owe Bulletstorm for warming up the public to the unabashedly macho, gore-heavy shooter style that is clearly seeing a resurgence right now. Keep your expectations in check regarding Duke Nukem, and you should enjoy the experience just fine.