We reckon Bulletstorm might be the most misunderstood game around. When people first got their mitts on it at E3, they couldn't shake their FPS programming - wondering what was so special about a system that gave you a few more points if you kicked a man into a cactus. Spend a bit more time with it, though, and you realise that it allows you to create all manner of imaginative carnage that simply isn't possible in more po-faced gun 'em downs.
Not enough misunderstanding for you? How about the beard-stroking response from some quarters to hyper-crass hero Grayson Hunt? Playing the game in totality reveals that Hunt is more the butt of the joke than he is a role model for wannabe meatheads. If the game had anything less than laser-precise writing it would have been unforgivable, but Bulletstorm's script sizzles - when Trishka turns up and gives far better than she gets, the banter is among the best you'll hear in a game. The patter is almost constant as well, but never feels like an irritating running commentary. When you finally catch up with monstrously fascist antagonist General Sarrano, he boasts a selection of slurs that would make even Bernard Manning shift uncomfortably in his coffin. At times he's mouth-agape offensive, but that's because he's designed to be utterly despised. By the end of the game, you're itching to park a bullet in his flapping, baiting gob.
The final misunderstanding? That Bulletstorm would rely entirely on the Skillshot system to keep you interested throughout the campaign, a gimmick that could potentially wear thin. Epic and People Can Fly have been sitting on a secret ever since the game was announced - Bulletstorm is one of the most varied, engaging and masterfully-paced first-person shooters we've ever played. Even if you stripped out the Skillshot system, this would be an exceptional game.
Your journey across Elysium hammers along at breakneck speed, punctuated with set-pieces of staggering scale. Whether it's gunning down gyrocopters as you tumble down the side of a hydroelectric dam or dealing with Godzilla's angry auntie as it flattens entire blocks in a single footfall, it's never long before Bulletstorm shakes up what you're doing. There's only one section that overstays its welcome, lingering on controlling a giant robot when we'd rather have been getting the soles of our boots bloody. Otherwise it's a perfectly-pitched rollercoaster ride.
Look the part
It helps that the game is so pretty that we'd elbow a supermodel out of the way to hold a door open for it. For a start, it's got more colours than all of 2010's shooters combined, which is genuinely more refreshing than expected. The city itself is enormous, filled with spectacular sci-fi architecture, and every area is crammed with incidental detail. From the foreground to the background, Bulletstorm is consistently, strikingly beautiful. What's amazing is how casual it is about its stunning vistas - it rarely grabs hold of your neck and forces you to look at the shattered surface of the planet, instead leaving you to wander over of your own accord after a firefight and soak up the scale. The game knows you think it's beautiful, it doesn't have to shout about it.
Every element of the design sings. Areas are meticulously constructed playgrounds riddled with props and explosives, the perfect setting for Bulletstorm's kinetic brand of combat. Every weapon, barring the vanilla rifle, is a worthwhile twist on a classic of the genre and handles unlike any armament you'll have ever wielded before. And the leash, oh the leash. As if it wasn't ridiculous amounts of fun slo-mo yanking unfortunate mutants around the place, the Thumper addition allows you to launch them into the air, either squelching them into the ceiling or leaving them hanging in mid-air for some skeet shooting. Bulletstorm's sorties are characterised by bodies sailing through the air, and we're probably the world's biggest fans of cartwheeling ragdolls.