Developer / Publisher – Incuvo / People Can Fly
Price – US $39.99 / CAN $53.49 / EU €39.99 / UK £29.99
Release Date – January 18th, 2024
Input – 2 x Motion Controllers
Play Area – Seated, Standing
Store Links – Meta, Steam, PlayStation
Reviewed on – Quest 3, PSVR 2
First off, I never played Bulletstorm before this release as the original dropped at a time when some big games (like Skyrim & Arkham City) already had my full attention so I was looking forward to diving into this VR version as it felt like a way to check out a ‘classic’ game I missed while seeing just how much VR can make it better. Sadly, what’s on offer here has me questioning why this game got any praise in the 1st place.
Right off the hop you are treated to a few cut-scenes that break down the story about revenge as you, in the role of a space mercenary (not a regular one, a space one) named Grayson, who has been betrayed by your commander (not a space commander, just a regular one) and so your quest begins to blah blah blah… it doesn’t really matter as the plot is largely nonsensical. My issues with the lacking story are the least of this game’s seemingly endless problems with one of the main ones being that quite literally every character in here is an unlikable asshole. I’ll touch on this more in a bit but when you don’t care at all about your hero’s plight, it tends to make for a tedious journey.
Regardless, once you get to enemies, things should just get better as even a mindless shooter can still be fun but this…this is anything but. Before you get your incredibly over-powered tether you are stuck with just your machine gun which was my first true sign that I was in for a slog of a game. Enemies just straight up don’t react to your bullets and behave in 1 of 2 ways, running toward you for melee attacks or taking cover and shooting from a distance. There is an option to toggle gore in the settings but even with it turned out the only real gore I saw was when heads disappeared, or bodies were dismembered with nary a blood splatter in sight. Said tether should make things a bit better and, maybe for the 1st few minutes it did, as with it you can grab at foes and yank them toward you, causing them to float helplessly in the air as you shoot at them or kick them into the various environmental hazards that reward you points you can spend on upgrading your weapons. You can kick them off cliffs, into cacti, bug swarms, pits, electric cables, grinders and so on and while that sounds fun on paper, in practice it gets quite old, quite fast. The range in the tether is large and regardless of what’s in there way, once you grab someone, they fly toward you travelling through objects in the environment and making it feel incredibly cheap, but necessary as the combat is clearly designed around the tether. Most of the weapons have a charge mode that let’s you unleash intense bursts of firepower, but the game rarely requires it thanks to just how easy almost every encounter is.
2 new levels were added to this VR version where you play as Trishka who is armed with what are essentially wrist mounted light sabers that are even more overpowered than the tether as they are able to kill almost any foe in one swipe. While I played through the 1st stage with her taking my time, my second turn with the character had me sprinting through the stage waving my hands as foes ran into them. In fact, I played through the latter half of the game this way, just with guns, as I just wanted to get through this 5-hour story as fast I could.
Immersion is arguably the most important factor when making a VR game so why the developer decided to display controller prompts over almost every interactable item is kind of insane. I get in the opening stage when the game teaches you to kick or tether obstacles in your way, but when I’m 4 hours deep into a story and still seeing huge floating controller icons telling me to pull a lever I’ve seen 30 times before that point, it just feels like the devs have no faith in their game design. Sniping is a mixed bag as bringing the rifle too your face turns your entire vision into a scope, which I dislike, but as your bullet approaches a target you can steer it with your head, which I did like, for a more accurate shot which is necessary as for some reason enemies will ALWAYS see your bullet coming and try and jump out of the way. Throw in some climbing sections where the hands don’t actually grab what they are holding, some on-the-rails mini gun sections where, thanks to impact physics on the weapons, had my gun flailing in all directions but my targets, constant fade to black load screens that seem quite unnecessary and you are left with a VR game with some weak bones that aren’t made any better by the actual presentation.
I dabbled with this on the Quest 3 and it looks like gen 1 quest game with dialed back textures on nearly everything that make it look quite unappealing. I foolishly expected a substantial upgrade on the PSVR 2 version and while it is improved compared to the stand-alone headset, that bar really couldn’t be much lower. With a resolution only slightly better than the PSVR 1, nearly everything is muddy looking with enemy and environment textures looking at best serviceable and at worst…missing. I get that this is a 13-year-old game, but there’s no excuse for this to look this bad in the headset. Pop-in is rampant and not just on far away stuff but on items right next to you. Nearly everything is a shade of brown or grey making the entirety of the game look bland and unappealing. There are hints of dynamic lighting during some sections of the game but for most of it, shadows are static and blend in so well with your surroundings that even they look missing. Reprojection on the PSVR 2 makes everything look even worse making for an overall ugly experience. There are a few visually fun moments like the opening stage where you are walking down the side of the building or those rail shooter sections but for the most part, this just isn’t a good-looking game.
Where it’s visuals falter, the audio design outright fails both intentionally and not. I get the bro-homie mentality and it works in some cases but here, it just makes every character unrelatable irritating and not very heroic. Every person in this game is unlikable and feels like they were written by 10-year-old boys who just discovered the urban dictionary 1980’s edition giving this some of the poorest dialogue I have heard in all of my gaming life which is sad as it features some solid actors. The most relatable person in here is a soldier being taken over by an AI program and that’s only because he’s struggling with something, the rest are just angry for angers sake. Spatial audio is here, but not implemented well and I often heard enemies yelling (they always yell) from left or right, but it was never easy to pinpoint exactly where they were coming from. Whenever the next encounter was triggered, a generic rock track would abruptly kick in and just as quickly cut out when all the baddies were killed only to have it kick in and out again as one or 2 more savages showed making it laughable at times.
I’m trying to keep this relatively short as I could honestly rant about just how much is wrong with this for probably a good hour. Even if all the technical foibles were addressed (I forgot to mention the menu options that don’t work) that still leaves a VR game that doesn’t look good, is way to easy, incredibly monotonous, immature with an irrelevant story and unlikable characters. If this was $20 I’d still be hard pressed to recommend this to anyone but considering it’s double that has me warning all of you to stay far, far away from this broken and boring game.
People Can Fly provided The VR Grid with a press code for this title and, regardless of this review, we thank them for that!