Tag Archives: Bulletstorm

Vanquishing the Order of the Russian Star in Vanquish

vanquish early impressions ps3

Over-the-top style, mediocre plot, and corny dialogue are three ways to describe Vanquish. You could also call it surprisingly fun. Because it truly is both, and just when you can’t stand to swallow another ultra macho catchphrase or Steven Blum grunt-infused one-liner, the game drops you into a frenetic and enemy-filled scenario, the kind where you have to keep moving to survive, and it’s a total blast, especially when you take down the final enemy scrub just as your life bar is depleting, tossing you into slow motion “bullet time” for one last chance at hitting a checkpoint. Those moments feel genuinely exhilarating, as do the rare quiet moments, like riding a monorail and sniping spotlights to avoid being detected, where the goal is to be quiet, a stark contrast to the majority of the game.

I do have some problems with Vanquish, but before I get to those, let’s start with the good. Mainly, the really good. This game is free. Well, at least for me. I was given a year’s worth of PlayStation Plus with the “classic white” bundle, and so I’ve been downloading games like a fiend. Not necessarily playing many of them, mind you, but now they are on my Ps3, ready for whenever I’m ready. And this one went up a week or two ago; despite my claim that I want to only focus on fewer games in hopes of then completing these games, most nights I don’t have the correct amount of time to devote to Ni no Kuni, and reviews for Vanquish prided themselves on that it is a short, but satisfying experience. I can handle short and sweet currently.

Anyways, Vanquish. In it, you play as Sam Gideon, soldier warrior for DARPA. He and a bunch of U.S. marines are out to stop Victor Zaitsev of the Order of the Russian Star. Why? Well, Zaitsev promptly declares war on the United States by capturing Providence, a self-sustaining space station that harnesses solar energy, and turning its solar generators into a giant death ray. Like a true villain, he destroys San Francisco before demanding that the female President of the United States surrenders. And so you team up with Robert Burns, voiced by everyone’s favorite grumbler Blum, to stop the Russian antagonist before more damage can be done.

You do this by shooting alien-like robots with guns. You shoot them with guns, I mean. Wait, they also have guns. Sorry, that got confusing. Words, people. Basically, the gameplay involves shooting, taking cover, sliding to new cover, and shooting some more. There’s a healthy range of weaponry at Sam’s disposal, though I’ve stuck mostly with traditional weapons like the assault rifle and anti-armor pistol. Before Bulletstorm came around and had you sliding into enemies, there was Vanquish and its power sliding ability, which allows you to move swiftly across the ground at the cost of shield energy. It’s a really fun and useful mechanic, especially when you can time it perfectly to get behind an enemy and deliver a succinct melee attack to the noggin.

Now for the faults: instant kills and the treatment of Elena Ivanova. Several larger enemies have attacks that will instantly kill Sam in one hit, regardless of how full his shield bar is. This is pretty frustrating, even though these attacks are highly televised via bright beams of light and audio cues. Sometimes you just can’t get out of the way fast enough, and then you’re dead, back at the last checkpoint. As for Ivanova, she’s a wasted opportunity and a fine example of how videogames present women poorly. And this is coming from a game that casts a female POTUS in its future, to all their credit. Basically, any time they cut to Elena, who is Sam’s combat support intelligence, they use camera angles that emphasize only her legs and butt, like so:

elena ivanova sample shot

And that’s ultimately disappointing to see each and every time the narration cuts to her, especially since she’s never doing anything dynamic, just visually conveying data, like incoming enemy ships and doorlock passcodes. To Vanquish, at least so far, she’s nothing more than an up-skirt. I know standing desks are all the rage these days, but you could’ve put her in a chair and behind a desk and have her function all the same. Or even just leave her as a voice in Sam’s head, telling him (and the player) what to do next.

Right now, I’m near the end of Act 3, and I think I saw on the Trophies list that there are five or six acts in total. Halfway through it then. And that’s great. I suspect by the end of Vanquish I will have had my fill of the game’s mechanics, but like I mentioned before, short and sweet is sometimes exactly what one needs. Even if it is short and sweet and overly macho to the point that I can’t help but roll my eyes as I pop out from cover, trigger AR Mode, and clear out a line of enemies in one swift, action hero-like manner. I guess it really is all connected.

Achievements of the Week – The Beyond the Wall of Violent Sword Melody Edition

And that’s been…yet another week. If one isn’t paying close attention, these things really blur by. Seven days, one after the other, rapid fire. For instance, I didn’t even remember that I played a ton of Bulletstorm last Sunday, completing the game fully, until I began to put this list together. My mind has been most things Fez-related, with a pinch of Trials Evolution to boot last night, with little room to spare as the wife and I creep closer to MoCCA Festival next week.

All right, here are Achievements I unlocked that I liked the most from the week that was.

From Fez…

Mightier than the sword (10G): A cube for writing.

I couldn’t tell you how I got this. Not because it’s really spoilery, but because after going through so many levels within levels within levels and finding numerous secrets and cube bits and getting lost in the music and cryptic hieroglyphics…I just don’t remember. But there’s a strange artifact in my inventory, and so I must have gotten it at some point. Yeah.

From Bulletstorm…

Armed and dangerous (15G): Grow as a person, experience betrayal. Again.

Amusing Achievement art.

Space Pirate (10G): Drink at least 20 bottles of Nom Juice in the Single Player Campaign

I used to get drunk a lot. It was a coping thing, a way to pass the time, a way to fall asleep. I don’t really drink anymore, and if I do, I nurse the heck out of the drink until it is lukewarm and feeling uncomfortable. But getting drunk in videogames can be fun, and in Bulletstorm, it also earns you extra points to your skillshots. Gulp another bottle down and unleash that leash.

Violent Melody (30G): Complete the Campaign on Normal Difficulty

From Trails Evolution…

No Problemo (10G): Pass the D License Test and get your first bike.

Beyond the Wall of Pain (10G): Smash your bike and break every bone in one spectacular crash.

I missed a ramp and fell on a…landmine. Ka-blooie!

Community Spirit (20G): Post a time on another player’s custom created track.

I’m almost positive I’ll be playing more Fez and Trials Evolution this weekend–and almost no more Bulletstorm–so that’s where you can expect Achievements to pop for next week. Only, uh, there won’t be an Achievements of the Week next Friday because I’ll be heading into New York City for the MoCCA weekend. So we’ll play major catch-up in fourteen days.

Until then, tell me about your favorite Achievement from the last week of gaming. Do it.

2012 Game Review Haiku, #11 – Bulletstorm

Buffoonish skillshots
Anti-climatic ending
No Bulletstorm 2

For all the games I complete in 2012, instead of wasting time writing a review made up of points and thoughts I’ve probably already expressed here in various posts at Grinding Down, I’m instead just going to write a haiku about it. So there.

Turning over a new leash with Bulletstorm

Let me just get this out there, so y’all understand that when you see me crawling out of an alley, begging for money and smelling worse than the rotten remains of a Stygia mutant previously eviscerated by the “Rear Entry” skillshot, it’s because of this: Steam sales. They will be my undoing, as just about anything heavily discounted suddenly becomes interesting in front of my eyes. And I do mean anything.

Take, for instance, the crude and callous first-person shooter Bulletstorm. I absolutely disliked the demo, ultimately saying this:

Bulletstorm is irrefutably juvenile, and the demo is all I probably needed to experience…ever. And for fun’s sake, here’s some phrases used affectionately during the demo to hit home their target audience: pasty, bean bag, butt hole, and, the new cult favorite, dick tits.

Right. So, why then did I buy a copy of the game over the weekend for the PC? Why have I been unlocking a lot of Achievements in rapid succession? Why am I–and this is almost troubling to admit–having fun kicking mutants into slow motion and then shooting them in half? Well, because Steam was selling it for $5.00. And at that kind of price, Bulletstorm is a blast.

At its boyish heart, Bulletstorm‘s story is about revenge gone wrong. Grayson Hunt is looking to kick his former commanding officer General Sarrano of the Confederation of Planets in his nuts and then shoot him in the head. This is because Sarrano used Hunt and his fellow friends to assassinate innocent people by telling them they were corrupt evildoers. Unfortunately, trying to ram Sarrano’s spaceship with Hunt’s spaceship brought both vessels down on the planet Stygia, which is infested with mutants and monsters. But Hunt’s no quitter, and so he’s crawling across the planet’s dangerous grounds in search of the man that made him mad. He is helped by Ishi, who is now part android, and Trishka, a former member of the elite squad Final Echo.

Gameplay involves moving forward through a level and racking up points by using creative kills against the many, many mutants that want to ruin your very existence. Headshots are boring, and so one must look for other ways to create mayhem: tossing an enemy of a cliff, dropping them on some spikes, shooting them in half, setting them on fire, and so on. Points let you buy ammo and upgrade weapons, so the more creative you are, the stronger your guns will be, which in turn let you get even crazier. It’s a system that works and reminds me of the way weapons upgraded in Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal. You also use a hi-tech leash that can grab objects and throw them around though I prefer sliding into enemies and then kicking them off ledges the most–really helps conserve precious ammo. Occasionally, gameplay gets mixed up, with Hunt controlling a huge, Godzilla-like monster or trying to just escape a section of the level under a time limit; otherwise, it’s still just a lot of shooting.

Also, what’s kind of nice is that, unknowingly, Bulletstorm on Steam counts as a Game for Windows Live thing, meaning I can play it logged in as PaulyAulyWog and earn Achievements for my actual Gamerscore. Think this is my first GFWL experience, and it’s all good in the skillshotty neighborhood. Here’s a few that I unlocked that are not tied to completing story chapters:

Master of Disaster (40G): Earn 2000 points or more at once

Disco Inferno (10G): Kill all enemies without leaving the dance floor in the city outskirts

No Man Left Behind (20G): Kill all enemies while escaping from the collapsed building

Currently, I’m somewhere in Act 4. Second chapter? Third? Don’t really know what that means in comparison to the overall game, but it feels like midway through. Maybe even more than that. I’m sure it won’t take long to finish up, as we’re definitely getting closer to wherever Sarrano is hiding. Again, for $5.00, this is a good time; however, if I had bought Bulletstorm at full price on Day One…I would definitely feel otherwise. And there you go.


Wex Major is out for revenge. Makes sense. His team of ragtag teenage freedom-fighters, known as the Wild 9, was attacked by Lord Karn’s Elite Shock-troopers. Some heavy damage was done, and six members of the crew were captured to be experimented on. Now it’s up to Wex (and his cohorts B’Angus and Pilfer) to save them, as well as kill as many of Lord Karn’s goons as cruelly as possible. Thank goodness he has the RIG, a high-tech weapon that shoots out an energy beam, which Wex can use in multiple ways: grabbing enemies and throwing them into deathtraps, picking up objects, using it as a grapple-swing-thing, and so on.

Wild 9 was an impulse buy. That much I remember. I was looking for something to play, and here was something to play. And from the makers of Earthworm Jim, too. Platformers don’t get kookier than that one. I assumed that their latest offering would be much of the same. I don’t recall getting very far in Wild 9 though. I think the torture aspect lost me, much like it put me off in Bulletstorm. When the RIG hits enemies, they moan and scream loudly, clearly in pain. Not my thing. I don’t want “bonus points” for dangling an enemy over spikes before finally dropping him to his death. I want to save Wex’s friends, and that means killing efficiently, progressing left to right, our destination always ahead. I might’ve stopped playing after the first boss chase sequence.

But Wild 9 has personality, and that’s the main reason it has remained lodged in my brain all these years. Loading screens contained some original artwork of the Wild 9 crew in amusing moments, and the art style and animation is clearly taken from the very same pages of Earthworm Jim. That’s not a bad thing, as they nailed something there and knew it. There’s some decent animation work too, in that Wex reacts to what you’re doing. Use the RIG to grab a crate, but accidentally drop it on your foot? Yup, he’ll hop about in pain. Really evokes that sensation of the Sega Genesis and SNES days where game characters were that–characters. However, his walking animation is trollish and clunky, but don’t tell him I said that.

Like Klonoa and Viewtiful Joe, Wild 9 helped usher us into a new form of platforming, that which is known as 2.5D. Yup. 3D graphics (as in polygonal), but still a side-scrolling action title. The camera angles could get a little jarring at times yet it was still a neat effect, especially when some levels have Wex is way up high with a gorgeous backdrop that seems miles away in the distance. Games like Shadow Complex will use this look to great success many years later.

The above text might seem contradictory–I love the style and personality of the game, but actually did not enjoy playing it. So, why would I regret trading in Wild 9? for some measly space credits that I don’t even remember spending? Well, I’d like to try again. As a youth, I did not have the attention span or devotion that I do now, and if a game didn’t interest me, it was off the list and over to the next. I feel like I gave Wild 9 a small amount of time and moved on to something else, eventually forgetting about it until the day came where I needed to trade in some games, and there it went. I’d just like to give it one more shot, to see if it will always be more unique than fun.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH is a regular feature here at Grinding Down where I reminisce about videogames I either sold or traded in when I was young and dumb. To read up on other games I parted with, follow the tag.

The Bulletstorm demo is for dick tits and dick tits only

I’ve talked about my prowess before when it comes to run-and-gun first-person shooters; in short, I’m usually no good. Can’t target quick enough, can’t figure out how to snipe and stay on the move; can’t really work with a team. I like to play much slower than that, planning everything all out, meticulous inch after inch. Still, I had heard some interesting things about Bulletstorm, a new FPS from the makers of the Gears of War series, which I’ve never touched, and a demo recently hit Xbox Live for GOLD members. Gave it a download, and then I gave it a play. Here’s an account of pretty much how it went.

You’re given access to only one Echo. Not sure what an Echo is, but there’s more than one of ’em. Anyways, before you can kill with skill, you’re treated to a cutscene of sorts that plays as a tutorial and introduction to Bulletstorm. It’s self-aware, voiced by space pirate Grayson Hunt, who I can only describe as a generic meathead, and totally full of itself. Tara’s response the minute it was over? “Laaaaaaame.” You heard it here first, dear readers. Lame-a-rama. Actually, it’s also offensive and crass, as well as perfect for serial killers in training.

Your character is partnered with two computer-controlled players, and you basically explore different sections of a collapsed building, shooting brainless enemies and racking up points. Points are the point. The whole “kill with skill” is a strong concept except you’re not really rewarded for being clever. Rather, so long as you have a high cruel streak, you’ll begin earning points for kicking an enemy and then blowing his head off or throwing them into a spiky ceiling or even sending a train right through an entire line of ’em. These are called skillshots, and each has its own point value. Evidently, you can also shoot right up their asshole, but I was unable to achieve this. The guns are very ho-hum, but Grayson does have a neat electric leash that can toss enemies your way, prime for the kicking or shooting. That leash kind of made the demo worth it. Kind of.

There are 45 skillshots available in the demo, and over 130 in the final build of the game. Some that I earned include Voodoo Doll, Boned, and Flyswatter. Fun names for devasting actions.

And that’s the demo. Ten minutes or so of shooting, moving forward, shooting some more. I think I got like around 3,000 points or so. Yup, total n00b fail! But I really worry for the game because I can see the demo being the entire game with a hapdash of a “story” tossed in for no one’s sake. I can only imagine that Bulletstorm goes like so: cutscene, shoot up a section of dudes, cutscene, shoot up a section of dudes, cutscene, and so on. The variety is in how you kill enemies, but that’s probably all you will do. Kill enemies with weapons. For hours on end. Maybe to some that’s enjoyable, but repetitive gameplay, by nature, gets stale fast.

Bulletstorm is irrefutably juvenile, and the demo is all I probably needed to experience…ever. And for fun’s sake, here’s some phrases used affectionately during the demo to hit home their target audience: pasty, bean bag, butt hole, and, the new cult favorite, dick tits.