Hands-on: Bulletstorm's Echo mode
We already know that Bulletstorm is shaping up to be a kinetically gruesome FPS in which the human body is a pinata for torturous dismemberment. Like a cat playing with a mouse, it rewards players for toying with opposition, batting it around and hacking away chunks of flesh with shotgun shells before the coup de grace. Of course, what fun is skillful sadism if you can't show it off to your friends?
While multiplayer hadn't been "officially" announced at the time of my preview, I was able to try my hand at Echo mode, which ranks players for clearing one-off stages with speed and creativity. So, while one player might be a crack-shot capable of beheading two foes with a single round, he won't necessarily have an advantage over the player who effectively uses all of his gear and the environment around him to create a slow-but-sure maelstrom of destruction.
The level shown was a multi-tiered, industrial wasteland built into the side of a mountain. While the winding path through the structure was linear, the enemy's onslaught came from all directions. Gunships hovered through the air, laying down deadly waves of suppressive fire as legions of footsoldiers swarmed across the metal catwalks. The level had a good degree of interactivity, so instead of waiting for an enemy to pop his head out of cover, I found it quicker, and better for the score, to deliver a supercharged kick to his barricade and crush him against the back wall.
The number of maps and types of locations have yet to be revealed, but I did get a taste of Echo's features. Players begin by choosing their weapons, including the leash for grabbing enemies from afar, the Peacemaker Carbine, and the quad-barreled Bone Duster. A personal favorite is the Flailgun, which wraps opponents in a chain before the explosive ends take care of business. Stat-junkies can keep track of scores, clear-times, combos, and their most advanced skillshots. For true bragging rights, you can bring a friend for local and online co-op.
I expressed a concern regarding level-design in my E3 impressions, and I ran into similar problems this time around. You can't proceed to the next section of a level until all enemies have been dealt with. Unfortunately, there is no radar or other indications of their locations, so I wasted two minutes trying to find an exit before I realized that an enemy had spawned a far distance behind me. I can only hope that it was an isolated incident and not a regular feature.
Regardless of that little slip-up, I had a blast with Echo. As we anxiously wait for more details regarding multiplayer, it's good to know that People Can Fly hasn't forgotten the importance of cooperative and offline experiences. Besides, I've never been the most skilled player in deathmatches, but I have a mean perfectionist streak. I can easily see myself playing Echo repeatedly in search of the ultimate run.