Much of the focus on Bulletstorm is for its over-the-top score-based impression of first person shooting. While most games are content on letting players shoot guys in the face, Bulletstorm takes it up a notch with insane and unreal guns, red-hot over-charged ammo, and brutally violent kills. That's just talking single player, as the multiplayer experience is even more outlandish.
Last week, EA invited a few journalists to their Redwood Shores campus to check out one of the recently announced multiplayer modes: Anarchy. Fitting within the narrative of Bulletstorm, Anarchy is about four brand new members of Echo squad competing to be primary soldiers for the group. It's basically the goriest job application you've ever seen, with four guys running around and shooting wave after wave of baddies. Character customization is included, so you'll be able to make a guy perfect to your play-style, and we've been promised visual customization as well.
As for the gameplay, Anarchy is a variation of the very familiar Horde modes so popular in shooters. What sets it apart is the focus of the mode, as instead of seeing how long a team of four can survive, it's all about racking up enough points to move on to the next round, with the game ending twenty rounds later. It's not so much about survival, yet it's all about making sure each kill counts. With only thirty enemies in each round, sometimes it can be difficult to make the target score par to move on, a problem that was more common than all four players dying.
Bulletstorm is already well known for the crazy ways you can kill enemies. Charge kicking enemy meat heads into the air before blasting them with a shotgun is one way to earn a bunch of points, but grabbing a guy with your electric leash, then sending them into an electric generator is even better. These combos have different point values, and better players will always perform a crazy kill over a boring shot in the face.
The score system is sent into overdrive with the special multiplayer bonuses. These are co-op score bonuses for kills that require more than one player. For example, when three players grab a guy with their leash, they can run in opposite directions and rip him apart in a bonus called “Drawn and Quartered,” or when someone grabs an enemy, slams him down with their leash, bounces him back in the air, and another person yanks the enemy, the resulting “Yoink!” bonus tells you you did the right job. These bonuses are perfect for making points, but they don't compare to the challenges that will pop up.
Occasionally boss characters will appear; in addition to being more powerful and harder to kill, they have a type of kill method above their head, such as killing them with electricity, or spikes, or whatever. One of them even required shooting a a boss up his backside, a campy and disgusting way to die. Performing these type of kills net hundreds of points, and a good team will work together to make sure they are performed.
Finally, extra points can be collected by entering bloodlust mode, which is a type of special mode where players will enter a frenzied state. Kills are instant, but the points are greatly multiplied. This is great especially for higher rounds in the mode, dealing extra points against the boss characters. Smart teams juggle the bloodlust mode to be used at just the right time for maximum points and carnage.
Finally, the level we were shown is a smallish arena called Dead Rock. In the center of the arena was a gigantic electrified tornado, surrounded by a circular play area. Enemies can be thrown into the tornado for points, and the play area is littered with spikes, electric generators, and even a gigantic dino head. Throw a baddie in there, and it'll crush them to death, a bonus called “Om Nom Nom Nom.” Ultimately, I'm told there will probably be more than ten arenas to battle in, each one covered with unique ways to kill enemies.
Like I said, the challenge is less about death than it is about points. The only way to outright die in a match is for all four players to die, something we only saw once during our play session, as revivals are very easy and quick to perform. However, making some of the score pars was much more difficult. About halfway through the twenty rounds, the game became considerably more difficult, as normal kills wouldn't earn enough points. Pretty quickly, we figured out that creative kills were going to be the only way to win. Those co-op score bonuses offered even more points, and the challenges, which were easily ignored early on, became a necessity. Smartly coordinated kills resulted in the most points and the most satisfaction.
Additional elements of the mode include item drops that fall onto the battlefield before every round. For thirty seconds, players have a chance to buy more ammo, upgrade their armor, leash, speed, and more, as well as buy new weapons. Having these drops offer a great incentive to earn more points, as those points are the only way to buy those upgrades, which can really help out.
Considering how much can be going on all at once, the game can get a little chuggy, with some slow down cause by too many explosions. However, this appeared to be one of the few problems with Anarchy, as it was one of the most enjoyable multiplayer shooters I have played in a long time. It's a unique take on a popular game mode, and it fits the attitude of Bulletstorm's world. Definitely keep an eye on Bulletstorm when it comes out on February 22 of next year.