One of the most overlooked developers and games of the last half-decade have gone independent. Let us count the ways we’re wishing for a new Bulletstorm from People Can Fly!
2011 was one of the most stacked years when it came to Game of the Year candidates; the likes of Portal 2, Arkham City, Skyrim, Dark Souls, Dead Space 2, and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword can stand amongst the greatest games of the last generation. Yet if you asked me (Dave) what my favorite game of that year was I’d say Bulletstorm, without hesitation. It’s what I said during my job interview at Official Xbox Magazine in mid-2011, and that opinion remained throughout the rest of the year. Unfortunately, it was a sentiment that the public at large did not seem to share, as the unique first-person shooter failed to sell well enough to warrant a sequel in the four-and-a-half years since release.
Putting Bulletstorm out at all was a bit of a risk for the publisher (EA), the developer (People Can Fly), and the developer’s owner (Epic). An unproven IP doing new things (adding Tony Hawk-like tricks to standard FPS gunplay while forgoing competitive multiplayer) needs a heck of a push to get noticed by the public, and Bulletstorm never really got much of the spotlight due to the deluge of top-tier 2011 games. More than any other underperformer this decade, Bulletstorm’s lack of success has saddened me the most; as a guy who tends to cling to one gun during FPS campaigns, Bulletstorm’s “Skillshot” list highlighting special moves unique to each weapon — like bouncing a cannonball a certain amount of times before contact or using chained bolas to attach an enemy to a part of the environment — encouraged me to change things up.
And then there’s the campaign itself. It’s plenty profane, which rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. I have a high tolerance for swearing, but it got to be a bit much even for me, but you know what? I’d rather have a shooter rub me the wrong way on occasion due to showing too much personality than slog through another bog-standard military FPS campaign where everybody spouts orders with nary a joke to be heard. Anyone who played Bulletstorm will never forget the “I’ll kill your dick” exchange; can you say the same about whatever happened in the Call of Duty single-player campaign that year?
After Bullestorm failed to connect with the gaming public, developer People Can Fly worked on Gears of War: Judgment, and that never felt right to me. A developer who made a unique shooter with an out-there story working on a shooter series that has its gameplay and narrative style set in stone? Since then, PCF has aided Epic in the development of Fortnite, again toiling on work mandated by others.
However, now that People Can Fly has announced its departure from Epic, renewed independence (info via GameSpot), and ownership of Bulletstorm, I’m hopeful that PCF can return to its forte of creating insane shooters with equally crazy dialogue. Even if another Bulletstorm isn’t in the clouds, I’m hopeful there’s something just as weird on the horizon.