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Bulletstorm: The Story

One polarizing thing about Bulletstorm was its writing. Some people thought it was a playful parody of badly written shooters, while others thought it epitomized badly written shooters. So what did I think of it? Well, personally I think it’s more complicated than either side sees it. It’s not horrible, but it definitely does have a problem.

The problem isn’t with the story itself. The story actually isn’t all that bad for a video game. (Well, for a shooter anyway, I suppose.) It’s simplistic, but that’s a good way to make sure it isn’t full of holes or inconsistencies. Dudes used to work for army, army general turns out evil, dudes get betrayed, leader dude seeks revenge, ends up getting rest of dudes screwed over, dude feels guilty, seeks redemption.

The characters are fairly two-dimensional, but hey, that’s better than the one-dimensional characters we get in most games. And maybe it’s because my heart is a big ball of jelly, but I almost found some moments in the story sort of touching. Or at least I would have, if it weren’t for the fact that the characters spend every moment out of cutscenes yelling things like “Cock-fucker-rimjob-piece-of-shit!” Which is an actual quote from the game, by the way.

And that’s where the problem is. So much of the dialogue outside of cutscenes consists of overused swears, penis jokes and other attempts at “crass humor” that it ends up being hard to tell whether or not we’re supposed to take the characters seriously at all. Obviously those cutscenes are supposed to be serious, or at least I really hope they are, but there’s no way they would put a line like “Here comes Butterdick Jones and his heavenly asshole machine!” in the game for any reason other than humor.

It makes me wonder how they wanted these lines to be funny. Was it supposed to be genuinely clever, or was it supposed to be ironic? Were we supposed to say “LOL he said butterdick!” or were we supposed to say “Hah, Grayson is such an idiot!”?

Either way, it just doesn’t fit in with the story this game is trying to tell. Imagine if Monty Python and the Holy Grail tried to shoehorn in a subplot where King Arthur felt guilty for the troops that died under his command, and then the movie devoted several long, drawn-out scenes to dramatizing his quest for redemption. It just doesn’t work. Either the heroes end up sounding way out of character during their comedy sections, or the drama sections get in the way of the goofy fun.

The impression I get is that some of the writers wanted the story to be a big joke a la No More Heroes, while other writers wanted it to be a big sci-fi epic a la Gears of War. And judging from the cutscenes and set pieces, the graphic designers were probably on the latter side.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the case, because this is a common symptom of mainstream games; because games take so many people to make now, committee design ends up making them feel really inconsistent.

Sure, some developers can still churn out good games nowadays, but that’s because they treat game development as a collaborative effort. And I don’t think Epic Games is one of those studios.


3 responses

  1. I haven’t much to add here except that I agree with this assessment.

    August 7, 2011 at 3:27 PM

  2. So Grayson, and pretty much everyone else in the game are huge douchebags, as evidenced by the stupid dialogue…but even douchebags still have human emotions, like guilt over the deaths they caused. Even people who stay stupid stuff, still get thrown into serious situations sometimes.

    August 8, 2011 at 6:35 PM

    • JPH

      Regardless of whether or not it’s in character for them to be douchebags, it still takes all the drama out of the story because the characters are completely unlikeable.

      August 8, 2011 at 10:19 PM

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