We've covered Bulletstorm, the upcoming shooter by Epic Games and Polish developer People Can Fly extensively, but up until now, hadn't had a chance to get hands on with the game's innovative round-based co-operative multiplayer. Dubbed “Anarchy Mode,” it collects four players in a closed arena where they must face waves of increasingly harder enemies and achieve a pre-set score to move on to the next level. It's like good old Horde Mode from Gears of War on steroids, acid and meth at the same time.
Your team's collective score is what advances you, and achieving higher scores is all about pulling off bigger and better skill shots, sometimes in conjunction with your teammates. Specific skill shots are pulled off by using combinations of your weapons and kicking maneuvers, as well as your leash and specific elements of your environment such as spiked walls and electrified objects.
There are tons of different skill shots to pull off, but the really big points come from the team skill shots, where multiple teammates gang up on an enemy. It takes an unprecedented level of cooperation and communication between teammates to pull off these moves accurately, not to mention a good command of the controls. Players can also jack up the score by reaching the level's points plateau before all the enemies have come out and also by unlocking the score-multiplying Blood Symphony.
In between rounds you'll be visited by the drop shops where you can buy and upgrade new weapons like your trusty Peace Maker carbine or special weapons like the Flail gun. Upgrades include larger ammo capacities, faster reload times and increased power for your fantasy firearms. Even though your scores are compiled collectively to pass levels, you'll use your individual points earned to buy new and better stuff.
The level we played at EA's Redwood Shores facility last week was a smallish arena set around a large pit with a swirling vortex of purple smoke in the middle of it. Flinging enemies into it made for good comic fun. Since the other video game journalists I was playing with had limited playing time like myself, matching up our team skill shots was a bit difficult. We were learning as we went. But what was really clear is how this game takes some of the best concepts of Epic's previous titles and mashes them up in a satisfying way.
Another mode called Echo Mode allows gamers to run through each level solo or with a friend without all the connective narrative issue, simplifying the level down to one, sprawling map and telling players to rack up as many points as they can as quickly as possible. Finishing the level brings the game to a close and tallies up your kills. It was here where we were most especially proud to fire some machine gun rounds into an enemy’s stomach, kick him back, pull him toward us with our leash mid-air, blast him in the face with a shotgun, kick him again, entangle him with our bolo-grenade gun, switch to our machine gun, aim, shoot the grenades and watch as the already-dead corpse was blown clean in half before he could ever touch the ground.
The speed and frenetic pace of Unreal Tournament, mixed with the beefy brutality of Gears of War is the best way I would describe it. Epic and developer People Can Fly seem to be onto something really unique here, and gamers should take note. This could be the next great franchise from that esteemed game engine maker.