Bulletstorm is a game without a hint of subtlety in its combat. Stealth is unheard of, and in fact, creeping around in any way won't get you anywhere. However, what the game does do is present you with the tools to butcher opponents in the most gory and sadistic ways possible. While we've already seen how these tools work in the single-player game, developer People Can Fly has finally taken the wraps off two multiplayer modes: Anarchy, a Horde-like cooperative mode, and Echo, a leaderboard-based mode. The gameplay ideas behind them might seem familiar, but the integration of gruesome "skillshot" gameplay gives them a unique twist and brings a whole new meaning to teamwork.
Anarchy mode is a take on the wave-based gameplay of Gears of War 2's Horde mode. You team up with up to three friends and face off against waves of enemies, trying to get the highest score possible. Each wave gets progressively harder, with enemies becoming increasingly more intelligent and larger in number. The twist is in how you complete each wave. Instead of simply trying to kill the opposition, you have to kill them in specific ways to earn skill points. This might involve kicking them off a bridge to earn a "vertigo" kill or pushing them into electricity pylons to earn a "shocker" kill.
We got to play Anarchy on a small map, set atop a rocky mountain. A metal platform surrounded a central area, which contained a raging tornado. Surrounding the map were man-eating plants, electricity pylons, and jagged rocks. These all proved extremely useful for gathering skill points during each wave. With our team's help, we were able to pull off a number of gruesome kills. By using our electric leash we could pull enemies into the air and then kick them into the central tornado, which tore them to shreds. Similarly, we could kick enemies into the man-eating plant, where they were instantly devoured.
Most of the points we gathered came from team-based kills. By working together, we could pull off kills that wouldn't be possible on our own. For example, one kill required us to latch onto an enemy with our leashes while another team member kicked him. This caused him to split into several pieces and shower the floor with blood. Another insane move involved sending enemies into the air with the leash, while a team member hit them with a charged-up triple-barrel shotgun, instantly setting them on fire and netting us 300 points for the "acid rain" kill. The number of different kills on offer is impressive, and no matter how gruesome the combo, chances are you can pull it off.
The second new mode is Echo, which is a single-player experience with the addition of multiplayer leaderboards. You play through the single-player map of your choice--minus the dialogue and cutscenes--and try to get the highest score possible. You can see all of your friends' scores on a leaderboard, so you keep track of how much better or worse you are. Like in Anarchy, you gain points by trying to kill in the most imaginative and gruesome ways possible. We managed to pull off even more gore-filled moves in Echo, including our favourite, "flyswatter." This involved using the leash to fling enemies through a steel grating, which cut them up into several square-shaped meat pieces.
Both Anarchy and Echo modes hold true to Bulletstorm's overarching tagline, "Kill with skill." The brutal kills and amusing combo names put a different spin on the traditional multiplayer experience, harking back to the days of high-score chasing. It looks good too, with Epic's Unreal engine providing the many globules of blood and gore that spray from butchered enemies. Those with a penchant for destruction will have to wait until next year to get their hands on the game when it's released for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC on February 25 in the UK and on February 22 in the US.