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Fans of shooters will fondly recall the visceral combat of Painkiller by Polish developers People Can Fly. It was a refreshing change of pace from more tactical shooters that used artificial player limitations to create challenge. Painkiller eschewed those conventions in favor of making the combat tougher. Weapon swap animations were eliminated. The arsenal was overpowered– machinegun-rocket launcher anyone? And battles with gargantuan bosses were the order of the day. People Can Fly returns to this over-the-top style of play with their newest offering Bulletstorm.

From the Press Release

Set in a futuristic utopia, an elite peacekeeping force thwarts the rumblings of civil war. But deception within the ranks has caused two members of the most feared unit, Dead Echo, to strike out on their own. Now, washed-up mercenaries, Grayson Hunt and Ishi Sato, are stranded on the abandoned paradise planet of Stygia surrounded by hordes of mutants and flesh-eating gangs. They survive on two objectives: get off the planet alive and exact revenge on the man who sent them there.

Just over half a year away from Bulletstorm’s projected launch date, Electronic Arts invited Working Author to check out the game in its current state at an exclusive E3 after-party at the swank J Lounge in downtown Los Angeles. The event was a multilevel affair with food being served on the patio via a lunch truck that offered menu items with provocative names like “gang bang burgers” that mirrored the mood of the game. Inside and upstairs was the party proper where cocktails and hors d’oeuvres were served to eager gamers.

Punctuating the walls were gaming stations running a playable demo of Bulletstorm. The demo appeared to be limited to one area, but it was enough to whet players’ appetites as they reacted to the different creative kills they could perform called “skillshots”, which have different titles depending on how an enemy is vanquished. Completely gibbing enemies earns the “Fertilizer” skillshot. Blowing up enemies with an explosive gets the “4th of July” skillshot. Kicking an enemy into a spiky plant awards the “Bad Touch” skillshot. Performing a skillshot earns the player points as well, so it pays to be as creative as possible. It also helps that the player has access to a number of moves, like slides, kicks and grapples.

Since the environment is interactive it’s easy to experiment. Objects can be kicked, plants attack nearby enemies and terrain sometimes changes. While the gameplay is exciting, it’s the scenery that really catches the eye. The level of detail and razor-sharp clarity is absolutely jaw-dropping. Even the structures in the distance feel like they exist and can be visited instead of simply being a high-resolution skybox texture. Best of all, everything ran at a silky smooth, high resolution framerate, despite all of the action and explosions. It’s worth noting, however, that the gaming stations were composed of HDTVs hooked up to mini-tower PCs. Those systems were no doubt outfitted with high end hardware and maxed out RAM so it will be interesting to see if the console counterparts will offer the same level of detail.

A few notable faces were present at the Bulletstorm after-party, like Omar Benson Miller from CSI: Miami as well as Kenan Thompson from Saturday Night Live. Thompson was called on stage to introduce the game with Epic Games producer Tanya Jessen while People Can Fly creative director Adrian Chmielarz demoed the game beside them. While his time on stage was brief, Thompson expressed the fun he had playing the game and killing enemies with the many different methods available, which was a sentiment shared by the roaring crowd.

Bulletstorm is slated for a February 2011 release. Check back at Working Author as we get closer to the launch date.

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