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I feel very conflicted about Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition, a.k.a. Bulletstorm: Remastered. Not so much about the game itself—People Can Fly’s shooter is unabashedly dumb, but in a fun “We did this on purpose” way that mostly works. And the Skill Shot system (more on that later) is still great.
But before we delve into the game itself, it’s worth talking up front about the existence of this remaster. I don’t know what bizarre series of backroom decisions led to Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition, nor why the publishing rights transferred from EA to Gearbox, nor why Gearbox was interested in the first place.
The fact remains though: This game just released in 2011. Not only that, but it’s been completely broken on the PC for years now, thanks to the death of Games for Windows Live. You needed to install a workaround just to get the game to run at all, then usually install another workaround to get the game to run correctly in widescreen, change the field of view, et cetera. Even with all that, certain modern graphics cards would still get visual glitching like this:
Want to disable mouse smoothing? You have to dig through an .ini file. Same if you wanted to run higher than 60 frames per second. Oh, and for a long time now it’s been impossible to buy the DLC unless you already had it. Because Games for Windows Live.
With all that in mind, the existence of an official, fixed version on the PC should be cause for celebration—way more than the same remaster hitting consoles. This game has been basically inaccessible despite it still residing in many people’s Steam libraries. Finally, you’ll be able to play the game you bought.
Wait, what’s that? Gearbox is charging $50 for the remaster, even if you own the original, hopelessly broken game?
Listen, I understand some work went into this project. Developers deserve to be compensated.
But it’s hard for me to feel good about people paying for a game they already bought, when the reasons for doing so are completely out of their hands. Consumers didn’t break this game. The publisher did. Bulletstorm is only six years old, so it’s not like you’re digging out a CD-ROM from 1994 or something. It was built for modern operating systems, but sandbagged with a poor port and a garbage DRM system that ended up rendering the game inoperable a few short years later. Ridiculously short, by PC standards.
It’s galling. To be fair, Gearbox isn’t technically responsible for EA’s business decisions in this matter. Gearbox didn’t put Games for Windows Live into Bulletstorm (though it did include Denuvo this time around). But when it acquired the game's license, it acquired the baggage. You’ve got however many frustrated Bulletstorm owners, and the answer is to charge them for a second copy of the game?
And full price, too! Bethesda gave away its Skyrim remaster to current PC owners for free, and it didn’t even have to. Skyrim ran fine on PC, remaster or no. BioShock: The Collection and Darksiders Warmastered were also given to owners of the originals for free. The original Bulletstorm is the equivalent of a digital paperweight, and Gearbox won’t even give previous owners a nominal 10 percent discount or something for their trouble. It’s $50 or nothing.
Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition
It sucks that Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition has been saddled with this baggage too because the game itself is still unique and exhilarating.
The game definitely feels like a 2011 relic at times—it’s littered with quick-time events, which I didn’t even realize had mostly disappeared from the shooter landscape until I was playing through this and noticed they pop up at least once per minute. The whole final boss sequence is...one big QTE. Blah. And despite featuring some impressive vistas and over-the-top boss fights, most of your shooting is done in tight, wholly linear corridors—another Xbox 360/Unreal 3-era design conceit.
But Bulletstorm’s Skill Shot system was way ahead of its time, and even now it hasn’t really been duplicated. You earn points for killing enemies in creative ways—pinning their corpse to a cactus, for instance. It’s a silly arcade-style system slapped into a silly arcade-style shooter, but gives the combat a surprising amount of depth.
You can almost draw a line between Bulletstorm and last year’s Doom reboot. Doom’s combat seemed like a revelation for 2016, all up-in-your-face and with a focus on movement. Bulletstorm is an obvious-but-overlooked forebear though, with the same rapid pacing and close-up combat, and deserves just as much praise in this regard as the Shadow Warrior reboot. Your best option in pretty much any situation is running straight towards a group of enemies, slide-kicking them into the air, and then shooting their legs off. Or their testicles, as the case may be.
It’s not as smooth and polished as Doom but if you enjoyed that reboot and haven’t played Bulletstorm in a while? Maybe it's worth checking out.
Bulletstorm's a very fun, very stupid game—I’m just not sure about paying $50 for it a second time. Especially because it’s not the most extensive remaster I’ve seen. Lighting effects seem improved, at least in parts. The unofficial fixes have been folded into the game itself, so you can tweak resolution and FOV without needing a workaround. Great! But the visual options screen is still barren, with only “Postprocess Quality” and “Texture Quality” being of note, alongside a framerate cap. Hell, it has even fewer graphics options than the already sparse original.
I guess I expected more than this for a $50 remaster, especially with people vocally upset about buying it again. I don’t know how much more—the game did release in 2011, so it was never going to be as drastic a difference as, say, Day of the Tentacle Remastered. But it really feels in some way like Gearbox simply got the game running on PCs—something EA should’ve done years ago—and is now charging $50 for the privilege.
As I said, galling.
Anyway, it’s an excellent shooter if you like over-the-top gore, dumb humor, and a lot of dick jokes. The remaster’s out Friday, and I highly recommend it to anyone who missed it the first time around, as the original sort of flew under the radar. For those of you who already own a forever-busted copy though? That’s going to be a tougher call.