Before Adrian Chmielarz, creative director and co-owner of Polish developer People Can Fly, takes to the stage at EA's Spring Showcase event in London, Epic's Cliff Bleszinski pops up on a giant screen. He does that pre-recorded video thing celebrities do when they haven't got the time - or just can't be arsed - to pick up some meaningless award they've won for doing not very much at all. The difference here, however, is that Cliff's not accepting any awards. And his work is hardly meaningless. Instead, Cliff's face is here on a giant screen to introduce Epic's brand new science fiction FPS franchise Bulletstorm.
"It puts the fun back in first-person shooters," Cliff says. "That's not to say that other shooters aren't fun, but Bulletstorm doesn't take itself fully seriously. It delivers this over the top crazy action with a little bit of a wink and a smile."
That, in a short, sharp soundbite, hits the nail on the head. Watching Adrian's live gameplay demo, it's impossible not to smile, then, at certain points, burst into laughter. I mean, what are you supposed to do after witnessing a demented sci-fi gang member being launched into the air by a kick, whiplashed back into melee range, then shot so violently that the blast propels the about to be impaled bag guy onto the spikes of a mutated cactus thing?
Bulletstorm is gory, but not in a serious, gritty, Gears of War way. Yes, Bulletstorm bears all the earmarks of a shooter powered by Unreal Engine 3, and yes, it kind of looks like Gears of War in first-person, but it instead takes its cues from Tarantino's Kill Bill and the original Epic blockbuster: Unreal.
You see, Bulletstorm doesn't want you to feel sorry for its bad guys. It wants you to toy with them, like a cat would with a mouse. You, the player, have an arsenal of insane weaponry, a "leash" used to pull enemies up close, a slide so extreme it drifts like a Subaru, and a kick move so powerful it sends enemies flying into the air. In Bulletstorm you are the king of the castle, and your servants are just gagging to be torn to ribbons.
Bulletstorm's hook is that instead of allowing you to mess about with these various special moves just for juvenile kicks, it rewards you for killing as creatively as possible. It challenges you to cause mayhem, like so many shooters, but creatively. And it does so with what could well be one of the best game features of next year: the Skill Shot system.