Way back in 2011, Bulletstorm made waves as a raucous, over-the-top first person shooter focused on skillshot kills and creative combat. While it didn’t get mainstream attention like Call of Duty, its loyal fans loved the irreverent humor and badass action. Now, over a decade later, Bulletstorm is back with a surprising virtual reality makeover that converts the entire rollercoaster campaign to VR across PC and Meta Quest headsets.
This isn’t some lazy port either – developers Incuvo have rebuilt Bulletstorm for modern VR, revamping things like weapon handling with physical reloads while keeping the vibrant colors and chaotic battles intact. It’s the same explosive package from 2011, just fitted for your VR headset with care and upgraded visuals. You’ll blast through sci-fi environments, using your Energy Leash grappling hook to yank enemies into the air, then obliterate them in slow motion with your upgradable firearms.
Those familiar environments have been retooled to support roomscale movement, with plenty of comfort options for the bullet hell chaos. The Touch controls add a layer of immersion missing from gamepads too. Sure, it may show some cracks from its last-gen roots, but Bulletstorm VR is a mostly successful experiment in bringing flatscreen action to virtual reality without compromises. Let’s leash some fools and relive the magic.
Skillshots and Upgrades Keep Combat Exciting
The core of Bulletstorm’s goofy appeal is its over-the-top skillshot system that rewards creativity in how you dispatch the endless waves of mutants and soldiers. At its heart, this is an old-school run-and-gun shooter focused on frantic action over tactical cover shooting. But the skillshots add a tasty combo seasoning to all that ultraviolence. From simply kicking an enemy onto a spike trap to blasting them into a turbine blade after grappling their body in slow motion, the game constantly tempts you to get stylish.
Rack up the skillpoints from skillshots and you can purchase ammo capacity, faster weapon switching, and charge shot abilities from drop pod shops scattered around levels. This creates a satisfying loop of big pulls from your Leash grappling hook, artful kills mid-air, and weapon unlocks that facilitate even more outrageous stunts. Some traditional FPS purists may find this system distracting, but it fits Bulletstorm’s punk rock attitude to a tee.
The transition to virtual reality enhances that core loop. With motion tracked controllers, you can actually reach out and grab enemies with your left hand before gunning them down with the right. Weapons like the flak cannon shotgun pack an extra satisfying punch in VR too thanks to the physicality of the firefights. Shotguns with scatter ammunition send flaming particles right past your face! Yet while the VR transition empowers that visceral feeling, some dated design decisions undermine the improvements. For example, basic functions like sprinting or sliding are still relegated to button presses instead of intuitive gestures. This jars you out of VR immersion every time you try to build momentum and pull off skillshots.
Beyond skillshots, Bulletstorm VR offers disappointingly little else. The 5-6 hour campaign is as linear and scripted as ever, funneling you between arena-style combat rooms with minimal exploration. And without any multiplayer or co-op modes, there is very little reason to return after a single playthrough. Considering many older VR ports like Resident Evil 4 or Doom 3 added new modes to bolster value, the lack of replayability here is an unfortunate weakness. Still, if you’re craving a quick shot of explosive action built around stylishly brutal kills, Bulletstorm scratches a very specific itch. Just don’t expect deeper FPS game design under all the gore.
A Mixed Bag of Sights and Sounds
As a game originally released in 2011, Bulletstorm shows its age in the transition to virtual reality across PC and Meta Quest hardware. The rich color palette and oversaturated lighting remain intact, matching that stylized seventh-generation aesthetic. weapons and effects like spurting blood translate well visually too. Yet when scrutinized up close in VR, Jagged edges, blurry textures, and dated character models rear their ugly heads – this won’t be your new go-to showcase title. Weapons lack some of the intricate moving parts and polish of modern shooters as well.
It’s a similar story with audio. The cheesy one-liners and exaggerated voice acting retain their humor and energy in context. Sound effects like shotgun blasts and explosions surround you fully with a sense of power too. But the limited weapon variety also means quickly tiring of the same recycled gun noises mid firefight. The heavy metal soundtrack still complements the intensity well when it kicks in though. Overall, on a visual and audio front, Bulletstorm VR passes muster without impressing.
Where the port really shines is its use of VR inputs to enhance immersion. The Xbox 360 original played fine with a standard controller. But being able to physically grab and aim weapons, manually insert magazine clips, and pump shotgun shells during frantic battles makes previously mundane actions exciting. Grabbing enemies in slow motion with your left hand Leash before unloading a Hand Cannon blast with your right simply feels incredible. These enhanced interactions breathe new life into aging combat.
Comfort options cater to most movement preferences as well. Want free locomotion using thumbsticks? Go for it. Prefer teleporting between fixed points? You can enable that alternative movement too. Between vignette options for tunnel vision reduction and generous customizable snap turning, both newcomers and VR veterans should handle Bulletstorm’s frantic pace. Just expect some occasional jankiness and collisions issues stemming from older level geometry.
The biggest sore spot comes from those relic non-interactive cutscenes plaguing early VR conversions like Resident Evil 4. Pre-rendered videos force you to sit stationary, jarring your senses when returning to gameplay. And while a stereoscopic 3D mode makes cinematics more immersive, the jerky visual artifacts ruin any appeal. As with all aging reconversions, some past sins can’t help but creep into the experience.
Quantity over Quality
When it comes to measuring content value, Bulletstorm VR first impresses with a full campaign conversion spanning across 6-8 hours of playtime. Every room of every level from the 2011 original is represented here, from industrial corridors to alien landscapes outside. Paired with the new VR interactions, your first playthrough almost matches the magic of experiencing the explosive hijinks for the first time.
Digging deeper unfortunately reveals some quantity over quality issues. Beyond the main campaign, only two short bonus missions are on offer starring new playable character Trishka Novak. Her 5 minutes of VR melee combat novelty wears off quick. And the lack of any meaningful challenge modes, time trials, or scoring benchmarks means little incentive to replay cleared levels. Without a co-op partner to share the madness with either, it’s one long walk down nostalgia lane only.
Even that walk isn’t always smooth sailing though. The VR version carries over plenty of bugs and glitches that add frustration to the ports aging quirks. We encountered distracting collision issues like body parts clipping through walls during takedowns. The checkpoint and progression systems also proved unreliable, occasionally locking us in place and forcing level restarts. Most egregious were crashes that froze both Meta Quest 2 and SteamVR mid-session, costing progress.
While none of these issues are foreign to VR veterans accustomed to janky ports, their regularity wears down patience quick. Given the simple nature of converting existing maps versus building new environments from scratch, it’s disappointing not to see more polish here. Provided you’re willing to save often and suffer an occasional crash, most can grit their teeth through the 12 hour campaign rollercoaster. Just keep expectations measured beyond that short burst.
Dumb Enemies Dilute the Danger
Bulletstorm VR’s skillshot system banks on creative kill combinations to drive combat engagement. But sloppy enemy AI unfortunately undermines the core loop’s potency. Even on standard difficulty settings, foes demonstrate oblivious pathing and awareness well below modern standards. Humanoid troops mindlessly rush your position or stand completely stationary while blasting away. Floating creatures simply hover in place waiting for slaughter. Despite overwhelming numbers, it’s rare to feel genuinely threatened by the hapless opposition.
That’s not to say you won’t die at all. Some enemies sport heavy firepower like miniguns capable of shredding your limited health quick. Others employ area attacks forcing movement or retreat. So using the environment smartly to break line of sight does prove useful from time to time. However, with practice, most standard enemies can be handled simply by strafing side to side while igniting the skillshot flair. The practically non-existent self-preservation instincts strip encounters of tension rapidly.
Occasionally, the poor balancing flips difficulty on its head with certain abilities becoming hilariously overpowered instead. The new Trishka Novak missions best demonstrate this phenomenon. Her dual energy blade weapons coupled with lightning reflexes reduce dozens of foes to lifeless ragdolls with simple flicks of motion tracked wrists. No effort or precision required. While visually satisfying initially, the lack of legitimate pushback neuters the feeling of badassery faster than expected. It’s fun feeling like an unstoppable sci-fi warrior for a little while at least!
In the end, Bulletstorm VR’s enemies seem designed around enabling skillshot creativity first, credible threats second. Their stormtrooper-like inaccuracies and slow wit keep the combo juices flowing uninterrupted. For some, plowing through waves of hapless puppets grows tiresome over a whole campaign though. If you crave dense action over cerebral strategy however, these explosive shooting galleries should provide simple-minded fun.
Bulletstorm VR Review: Final Thoughts
Revisiting the bombastic world of Bulletstorm in VR proves an enjoyable rollercoaster, yet one showing its age in many areas. For fans eager to step into its outrageous shoes, excellent weapon handling, satisfying skillshots, and outrageous set pieces should deliver plenty of laughs. Yet dated design, limited scope, unreliable performance, and absent challenges unfortunately diminish the replayability of this aging port.
On the positive front, Leashing enemies in slow motion and unleashing creative duels wielding pistols just feels phenomenal. The campaign set pieces also retain their epic scale pretty well visually. Comfort options allow both VR newcomers and movement veterans to demolish mutant hordes too. It’s easy to smile reliving fond memories of People Can Fly’s punk rock shooter in VR…at least for 6-8 hours.
Look closer though and Bulletstorm’s flaws stick out. The silly writing and basic AI haven’t aged gracefully, even as satire. Lack of extras beyond the core campaign also limit reasons to return after those credits roll. And the occasional crashes, visual artifacts, and progression blockers mean saving often to avoid marathon replay sessions. As a simple trip down memory lane, it hits the spot, but modern VR design has moved far beyond these early experiments.
Unless you’re a diehard People Can Fly fan hungry to revive this cult classic gem, cheaper avenues probably exist for your next VR shooter fix. Sale prices below $20 seem reasonable for the short rollercoaster thrill ride. Score chasers and creative combat connoisseurs can bump their rating up slightly. But most gamers have probably moved on from Bulletstorm’s brand of playful ultraviolence in 2023.
For flatscreen fans considering VR, better optimized modern ports like Doom 3 and After the Fall provide more bang for buck, along with healthier online communities. And if you just want skillshot carnage, grab the remastered 2017 cut for quicker, smoother destruction sessions. Bulletstorm VR entertains, yet advanced VR interactions alone don’t fully justify this aging conversion’s sticker price years later.
Bulletstorm VR is a rowdy, rough-around-the-edges replay that provides some nostalgic thrills without matching modern VR design standards. The skillshot formula still delights in bursts, but dated writing, fleeting content, performance quirks, and braindead opposition muffle the fun too often. Unless you're a devoted fan of the flatscreen original, cheaper, smoother, and more thoughtful shooters probably warrant your attention in 2023.
- Satisfying skillshot combat loop
- Creative ways to dispatch enemies
- Great weapon handling with motion controls
- Epic set pieces and environments
- Iconic soundtrack and sound effects
- Only 6-8 hours of content
- No multiplayer or challenges
- Dated graphics and visuals
- Braindead enemy AI
- Occasional crashes and glitches