Sunday, July 28, 2013

Star Wars: The Force Unleased II and George Lucas' Third Chin

     I didn't play Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. I didn't like Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II. In spite of my lack of experience with the former, the latter felt a lot like an extended DLC title.

That being said, playing through the sequel didn't make me feel like exploring the original or seeing the story of Starkiller progress.

One thing is abundantly clear in this game, which is betrayed by the presence of series mainstays like Darth Vader, a visit to Dagobah with Yoda and even Princess Leia, there is no genuine connection to the Star Wars universe, nor is there much in the story to truly cultivate one.

Sure, I was using force lightning, chokes, mind tricks and saber throws like nobody's business, but it didn't bring any real satisfaction.

I remember playing Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy and being far more engaged in the story, satisfied by the gameplay, and more willing to replay just to change my approach.

Kyle Katarn was an established figure, having appeared in a handful of games and a good piece of the literature around the millennium. He's a bit polarizing, but he offers a nice blank slate for gamers to project themselves onto in the context of games.

Most importantly, Katarn had more personality traits than "RAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!" because Starkiller loves him some yelling.

In JO and JA, the gameplay is built to allow customization, more so in JA because the premise is the creation of a new student to the Jedi academy.

Beyond customization of looks, abilities and all that jazz, you can align yourself with either the dark side or the light side of the Force.

TFUII gives you a fully fleshed out character, who already possesses all the cool abilities it was once fun to have to learn and unlock in the past. The powers are almost outdated, whether it be in the application or general development.

I got tired of seeing my hand glow blue to signify that I was locked into the force grab. I don't need to see the Force at work. I get that you need to be able to see what you're grabbing, but is there no better way to do this than a pulsing blue mass around your hand and the object.

On top of that, you don't get to decide anything with Starkiller until the very end, when you're granted to option to kill Vader or spare him... Only to have him tortured for answers to help the Rebel cause.

Seems a bit like black and slightly darker black, you know?

And to simplify such a monumental decision to A or B at the very end of woefully unfulfilling game makes it utterly worthless. So now that I chose not to kill Darth Vader, what do I get to do with it? Why is there no "Six Months Later" type of deal, where I can take missions to aid the Rebel Alliance, or had I chosen the dark side, missions to pick up where Vader and the original Starkiller failed in overthrowing the Emperor?

Sure, Starkiller is vindicated by not giving into his desire to kill Vader, but he's essentially turning a blind eye to Vader getting the Guantanamo Bay treatment.

TFUII feels very limited in almost every aspect of character development, both via the story and leveling up.

Part of the problem is that the entire game has Starkiller focused on one task without straying for even a single moment, which he's more than happy to regularly shout at Rahm Kota, the general of the Rebel Alliance at the time.


Perhaps it is in this singular goal that I could have used the context that likely would have been provided in the first game.

The Starkiller we're in control of is a clone of the original secret apprentice, Subject 1138, Darth Vader's pet project, Galen Marek, whom he trained from a young age in order to ultimately overthrow the Emperor.

Starkiller has a bunch of residual memories presumably belonging to Marek, which apparently gives him a predisposition towards being an *sshole.

I don't like Starkiller. He is an angsty little b*tch who I would have gladly allowed to be drawn and quartered in whatever way they would to that in the Star Wars universe.

The only reason I didn't is because A) it isn't possible and B) I wanted to finish the game before I hated it anymore than necessary.

TFUII can be summed up fairly simply as repetitive, bland and sadly aged.

The game is just three years old, but all the assets feel 10 years old.

It is a pretty game, down to the character models and level designs, though the latter gets to be repetitive as you progress through ships and facilities with the same exact interior decorator.

I like the level of detail given to the characters, with Starkiller once again earning the likeness of Sam Witwer. You can see all the emotion the characters put off, down to the angriest of angry shouts at one another, which is most of the emotion you see.

Even so, none of it carries any weight because the game is essentially a linear killing spree with an exorbitant amount of QTEs.

F*ck do I hate QTEs when they're abused in such a way. Bigger enemies are best defeated with button mashing QTEs or just Press X at the right time, three times, to do some cool sh*t you wish you could to in natural gameplay, but will never be able to.

The final battle with Darth Vader is one long QTE with intermittent, frustrating bouts with unfinished Starkiller clones.

It culminates with an extended button mash force lightning attack to a downed Vader that conveys the power Starkiller possesses, but eliminates the threat Vader has been built up to be throughout the Star Wars series.

And to have the game end with Vader locked up (for the light side) brings about so many questions that are not okay to leave unanswered. You can't have happy f*cking endings here.

What happens in the time Vader's locked up? Are we cool just glossing over that substantial historical event that has never before been mentioned in the Star Wars universe? Seems pretty suspicious that something so huge would go unreported in the annals of history, right?

There's fun to be had in this game, if you're into sometimes frustrating battles against enemies who have next to no right being any sort of threat to you, and nonexistent character development or customization, or passing references to a much grander universe.

It is difficult to introduce a character in one game, kill him, and then craft a sequel where his clone picks up where he left off. It is difficult because it shouldn't be done. Or not in two titles.

TFUII could have very easily been an expansion of the first game, and probably would have been better suited as such, with an appropriate price.

Here's a trivial gripe: Dual-wielding lightsabers. What the f*ck is this sh*t?

There was a time when the whole double-bladed lightsaber was badass, but having two lightsabers feels intensely OP. Having two lightsabers was something you had to earn or were granted in dire or necessary circumstances.

Having two out all the time just dulls the awesomeness of being a Jedi.

If you spent the entire game with a single lightsaber, then, during the final push towards Darth Vader, Rahm Kota goes down (but doesn't die) and lends you his lightsaber to slice through hordes of stormtroopers and defeating a few Sith along the way, I'd be cool with it.

But having a pair of the most coveted weapons ever conceived from start to finish ruins it completely.

I prefer games that are either entirely satisfying or has a ton of replay value. This game has neither.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Movie Break - Man of Steel and Why Everything Christopher Nolan Does is Overrated

     Even though I do not consider myself a loyal or faithful fan of Superman, I was excited for Man of Steel. I enjoyed the Richard Donner Superman movies, and enjoyed parts of Bryan Singer's Superman Returns.

In spite of my excitement for the release of Man of Steel, I find myself woefully disappointed with the movie as a whole.

There are things I love about this movie, the casting in particular. Laurence Fishburne works as Perry White, Michael Shannon is amazing as General Zod, I love Amy Adams no matter what she does, and Henry Cavill is a good choice for Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman.

The action is great, and the decision to level a good portion of Metropolis was both bold and necessary for the chosen direction of the movie.

There are also things I don't care for in this movie. More than I can merely list.

First off, why is everything Instagrammed to a drab color? They may say only the flashbacks are done in a specifically gray tone, but everything looks on the verge of post-apocalyptic.

Now for the real problems, and maybe some nitpicks.

I'm fairly certain that Kevin Costner's version of Jonathan Kent was secretly a time-traveling Lex Luthor sleeper agent sent back to the early days of Clark Kent's life to create a sociapathic killer Kryptonian.

Clark saves a bus full of his peers from drowning and dying horrible deaths. Papa Kent says, "Maybe you shoulda let 'em die, son."

I understand the effort and measures necessary to keep Clark's extraterrestrial origins under wraps, but to put it so far above saving lives is ludicrous!!

Oh hey! There's a twister a'whippin' through town, and it's headed our way. Everyone makes it safely under the bridge except the Kent's dog, who is stuck in the backseat, scared sh*tless by the act of nature bearing down on him.

Clark could literally, LITERALLY, sprint to the car and back in the blink of an eye, save the dog and be back under the bridge before anyone can process the fact that the dog wasn't there a second ago.

Chalk it up to shock. You didn't see Clark disappear and reappear with a dog in his arms. You don't know what you saw, you just know you survived a f*cking tornado, and that's good enough for you, right?

No. Mr. Kent decides to run back to the car to get the dog, and when the twister overtakes him, he waves off Clark who is waiting, prepared to wrest his father from the clutches of certain death.

Once again, Clark's sole male role model in life to this point has told him twice, on camera, to disregard the life or lives of others in order to maintain his secret.

Are you sh*tting me?

Superman, who is supposed to be a symbol for hope. Not even a symbol, a beacon. The 'S' on his chest stands for hope, and he's being taught that it is better to keep his identity a secret than to spare even a single human life from an unnecessary death.

This character development completely ruins the dramatic ending where Superman snaps General Zod's neck in order to end his threat to humanity.

"But Superman doesn't readily kill his enemies or threats to the world" you may say. Well this Superman does.

Having been raised to be an *sshole, Superman's execution of Zod lacks the potency the writers intended. Then again, they can't have intended it to be potent at all since they A) ignore the fate of the family Zod was attempting to fry with his eye beams and B) follow it up with a scene featuring clunky one-liners and a demeaning remark from a female officer in the military.

"I just think he's kinda hot..." Really, Captain? Because thousands of people in Metropolis died in the battle between Superman and the Kryptonians. But I guess it's cool because Superman gets your motor running...

Let's talk about that destruction.

Superman vs. Zod and Co. causes immense amounts of property damage, which is apparent from the wide shots we get of the city during and after the fight.

What is lost in the exchange is the human lives that were lost. Does it suddenly not matter that there are people living in the city? Or is it implied that everyone was evacuated or escaped unscathed with almost zero notice of these aliens starting sh*t with Supes?

The whole Superman snapping Zod's neck is a big deal because Superman is forced into the act because Zod is using his heat beams to threaten a small family trapped in the train station the battle spills into.

Superman is trying to hold him back, but can't and then breaks Zod's sh*t supersonic style. Superman screams out of apparent agony of having to take a life, but the family he was so desperate to save isn't shown scurrying away or even gaping at Superman having just killed a guy, or having just brushed with agonizing death.

Nope. Nothing. That one family, the thousands of families in the newly rubbled city, none of them matter.

And how about Zod's powers? They don't really make sense of you pay attention to the story, and the science presented by Superman's real father, Jor-El.

Jor-El says that the Earth's sun will strengthen Kal-El's body, and grant him abilities he wouldn't ordinarly having growing up on Krypton. We see his x-ray vision and super-hearing manifest sometime in elementary school.

It makes sense because he had grown up under the Earth's sun, giving his powers time to develop.

What doesn't make sense is why within five minutes of being on Earth, Zod and his pals get the x-ray vision, heat vision and super everything else.

I understand the strength, speed and ability to fly, but they shouldn't instantly get the powers that took Kal-El close to a decade under the Earth's sun to develop.

And why is Zod able to not only rein the powers in when they manifest all at once, but exert complete control over them with a deep breath, forceful blink and subsequent angry, determined stare?

And if being under the Earth's sun for 33 years strengthened Kal-El beyond that of Krypton, why wasn't he more powerful than the three of them combined?

Not only does he have an entire 33 years of exposure to the Earth's sun, the roaming Kryptonians had been living in the atmosphere of Krypton, not that of Earth or under the rays of Earth's sun. So they shouldn't pose the sort of threat they ultimately do in the movie.

Here's a question: Is it just me, or is Christopher Nolan a fan of turning otherwise harmless or even helpful things into weapons?

Not that Nolan wrote Man of Steel but much like the clean energy reactor to nuclear bomb trick in The Dark Knight Rises, Kal-El's ship is made into a black hole generating bomb that conveniently disposes of the villains.

Science doesn't work that way!!!

The complicated technology of a Kryptonian spacecraft, which was magically repurposed and reprogrammed with Jor-El's somehow sentient consciousness, is almost immediately figured out by the scientist who sets the bomb off.

How did he know the device needed to be turned vertically before it would accept the crystal? Did Jor-El walk him through that one, but he just forgot until that moment?

Also, why when this black hole making bomb goes off does Lois Lane fall? Everything from the ship, the people on the ship down the piles of rubble on the ground is being violently sucked into whatever oblivion has been created with this device.

But apparently Lois Lane doesn't give a f*ck about physics.

She'll just lose her grip on the cargo bay doors and fall downward at a varying speeds until Superman spots her, grabs her and sets her back down on solid ground. Disregard the fact that she was close enough to the singularity to be wrested from the world we know and into the unknown abyss of space...

And once Superman grabs Lois, he is visibly strained against the pull of the black hole, and only through sheer force of will and F*CKING SUPER POWERS is he able to escape its clutches.

But Lois Lane? Nope. She's largely unaffected by the pull of the black hole, save for her fall being minimally slowed before being saved.

Oh, and let me talk about Lois Lane. Here role in Man of Steel is an utter waste of time.

We all know who Lois Lane is. She's determined, strong-willed, too busy digging for stories to notice Superman in glasses working right next to her.

The MoS version of Lois Lane expects her credibility to be beyond reproach when she all but stamps her foot like a child while whining to Perry White that she's a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, which is apparently the quickest and only way to convey to the audience that THIS Lois Lane is important, and has a necessary role in the movie.

Which she doesn't.

Even though Superman is the focus of the story, his impact on the world around him is embodied in his relationship with Lois Lane, which is lost in this iteration of the origin story.

Lois Lane stumbles upon Clark when she's doing a story on some huge Arctic anomaly that turns out to be a Kryptonian ship. Then she spends an indiscriminate amount of time tracking down any and all leads she can find to put together a story about aliens that Perry White won't touch with a 10-foot pole.

So she puts it on a tabloid site and it spreads like wildfire.

Lois Lane is a crack journalist, but she's childish and annoying in Man of Steel.

What basis is there for the kiss she has with Superman at the end? She has known him for maybe a week and she goes from wanting to dissect him to "ZOMG!!! Do me Superman!!!"

With no character development in between, mind you.

Lois Lane is supposed to be enamored with Superman, which she is in the end of MoS, but the impact is deadened by the fact that she knows Superman and Clark Kent are one and the same.

The amazing thing about the relationship is that she works with Clark Kent, who is an awkward, clumsy fixture at The Daily Planet, and she develops a love for Superman, but can't put it together that they are the same person despite being this amazing journalist.

When you don't have that perpetual tension of Clark's disguise being almost entirely reliant on a pair of glasses, there's no reason to care about Lois with Superman, making all the Superman-centric stories she writes, where she tries to discover who he really is, impossible.

So she's going to have to quit being a journalist...

And when you reveal Clark getting his job at The Daily Planet, there's no doubt that it is just Superman in sh*tty glasses, that are not suited for Henry Cavill's face.

And did you like the heavy-handed Jesus references, with Kal-El being a savior and sh*t?

Jesus was 33 when he was crucified. Kal-El is 33 when Zod tells the people of Earth to give him up, calling Kal-El out or face the consequences.

He just happens to tell us all he is 33 when he is talking to a priest, in a church, where he sits in such a way so the camera can shoot him against the stained glass windows where he appears side by side with Jesus.

There's also the Jesus beard Clark wears during his fishboating days.

I get that when you think of saviors in this day and age that Jesus is the figure that comes to mind, but why can't we just establish Superman as a savior rather than simply tell us, every 47 seconds, that he is a savior, a beacon and a symbol of hope?

It would probably have more traction with the audience if his surrogate father didn't spend his formative years teaching him to give no f*cks about humanity.

And let's flash back to scene at the end, where we see Clark as a kid, playing with his dog, and wearing something resembling a cape, striking a very Superman-like pose. Might I ask where he got the reference from? Were there Superman comics to be read?

That might have been a fun little foreshadow if it hadn't come in the last two minutes of the movie.

It doesn't help that it comes after a scene where Clark and Martha visit Jonathan's grave, and Martha takes to praising Clark's strength and reinforcing the idea that he was raised to bear the weight of the world, because he trained, ate his vitamins and said his prayers, brother...

Did we forget that a city was just reduced to rubble, with thousands of people dead, dying, and trapped under buildings and debris, or that the planet just endured several minutes of a forced terraforming process that probably doesn't just go back to being the way it was, thus permanently altering human existence forever?

I still don't know why Russell Crowe was in this movie...

Reviews for Man of Steel note that it doesn't stray from the formula (false), but is entertaining (false) and leaves the door open for sequels (debatable), while possibly starting a DC Comics version of the Marvel universe with a sustainable and successful run of movies for their top heroes and characters (false beyond words mere mortals can fathom).

But hey, we're apparently going to get a Batman/Superman team-up in Man of Steel 2, which has people excited, I guess. 

I just don't see how Nolan, who created a Batman that exists in a very grounded, real world, can bring such a character into a world where Superman exists. You can't have it both ways. It cannot be gritty and real but also spacey and grandiose. It just doesn't f*cking work.

Tell me again why Superman couldn't have flown around the Earth to turn back time in order to save the world and spare Metropolis a hefty death toll?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Sniper Elite V2 and More Drab-Colored Shootery Things

     Maybe I'm expecting too much from developers, but would it kill them to make a shooter with actual tension? I understand that shooters require a certain amount of balancing to allow players to recover from firefights, because it is understood that they'll absorb damage or get into tight situations.

For a game that puts emphasis on stealth, masking your sniper shots by syncing up with explosions, sneaking through ruined buildings to silently eliminate patrols, why is there still an abundance of health granted to the player?

SNIPER Elite V2. The word sniper is in the title. If you find yourself in firefights, you're doing something wrong.

As such, the player should be punished for failing to remain unnoticed. Alerting enemies does tend to lead to quick death, but there's still room to recover, which removes the tension of being a sniper.

The biggest issue is that enemy snipers don't present a much greater threat than standard grunts in the game. I could almost understand making standard enemies more forgiving, just to have them pose less of a threat.

But snipers are designed to take out an enemy in one shot, but in this game, they need half a dozen shots to get a job done.

I wanted to have to hunt down enemy snipers, or evade them. I wanted them to be one-hit kill enemies, not run-of-the-mill enemies with sniper rifles and better hiding places. Maybe I got caught up in the expectation.

Pardon me for wanting something closer to Enemy at the Gates in video game form as opposed to an unimpressive, drab, cookie-cutter shooter with a briefly entertaining feature of x-ray shots.

The x-ray shots would have been better if they carried some significance rather than seemingly arbitrary, albeit gruesome, moments.

Is it cool to see someone's skull shattered by my well-placed bullet? Yes. It is especially cool to shoot an enemies testicle and see it in full, gruesome, slow motion? Abso-f*cking-lutely!

Does it need to happen all the time, or on an otherwise standard enemy? Probably not.

Again, it is my expectations getting in the way of the game, I guess, but I expected more of a cat and mouse approach to gameplay. Avoiding enemies to find high perches to pick off important dignitaries, high-ranking military officials and such.

Sniper Elite V2 felt like a basic shooter with sniping elements and too much emphasis on weak story.

I guess what's important, at least for me, is that it is out of the way. It started out enjoyable enough, and the x-ray views of bullets shredding enemies was satisfying, but the lack of any real threat from enemy snipers, thin story and complete lack of significant characters just ruined the appeal over the long haul.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Everything Adam Jensen Didn't Ask For

     I remember when Deus Ex: Human Revolution came out in 2011. Correction, I remember hearing about the game in passing and then getting it at Gamestop. I didn't have any expectations for the game, nor did I have any experience with its lauded predecessor, simply titled Deus Ex.

Two years later, I finally finished it.

Much like Assassin's Creed, Deus Ex is a game that sparked my interest initially, but between long layoffs spent playing better games or spending too much time watching my friends play through, fell into the 'To Be Continued..." pile of games.

I had to change how I played the game to find my groove and truly enjoy it. I focused on building my character the way I was playing the game, fine-tuning the interactions with characters to make the most of the social enhancer (which I acquired far too late in the game to fully enjoy), and giving my Adam Jensen full energy to be able to cloak, take down, slice, dice, chop and lop through heavier populated areas.

Like previous endeavors in stealth games, I played with more force and violence than cloak and dagger. It wasn't a matter of frustration with the stealth system, it was just too tempting to see a lone sentry and not want to cut him down with those fancy arm blades.

I didn't get into the fun of picking up fridges and throwing them at people in this playthrough, but I may have to in the future.

Deus Ex is an interesting game, especially if you treat it as a standalone rather than a spiritual successor or prequel to the original. The premise is interesting, and the story raises some great ideas regarding augmenting human genetics to adapt to cybernetic enhancements.

However, those great questions lead to heavy-handed choices, particularly at the end where you are presented with choices as to how you handle the information you've uncovered.

Your choice can end augmentation, allow it to continue unregulated, allow it to continue under the guidance of the Illuminati, or destroy the information you've uncovered and the world is none the wiser.

In the end, however, this choice seems largely separate from the rest of the game. The story builds to it well enough, but in the presence of the big questions and legitimate moral conundrums, the choices are very black and white.

After the choices, you're treated to a cutscene of stock footage with a voiceover further explaining the choice, and not the actual effect it had.

While it's nice to give the player a choice, it also removes the personal impact of that choice because the result is static. You play the game a very specific way, taking care not to kill people, or killing everyone, only to have your efforts nullified by the narrow-minded, predetermined endings.

Why not have a hashed out aftermath portion of the game, not DLC mind you, but a six-months later scenario where Jensen is once again walking through Sarif Industries or the city streets, talking about the way the world has changed since his decision

Or have each choice could bring up a tree of paths following the release or destruction of the information, allowing the player to truly guide the choice rather than allowing the information to dictate what it is the world does or reacts to.

Long before then, however the prospect of choosing to play through in stealth or use force is eliminated by the boss battles which Eidos farmed out, which forced players to use force to complete.

It is clear from the start that boss battles didn't fit in the game. It made sense to encounter each of the people responsible for the assault on Sarif industries, and the events that led to Jensen's augmentation. It didn't make sense to remove choice for such necessary encounters.

Gameplay is smooth, augmentations are interesting to upgrade since almost all of them serve an actual purpose rather than being gimmicky or one-off abilities, except for that Icarus-slow fall ability. That just seems to be giving lazy players an ability to leap from tall buildings rather than navigate down them the way the got up.

The gunplay is satisfying, though combat as a whole feels lopsided.

The game preaches choice, yet seems to punish you for engaging even street thugs. I understand the heavily armored guards doing substantial damage, and being more ruthless and brazen in their attacks.

But street thugs seem almost MORE likely to rush me while I'm in cover rather than seeking cover themselves. Humans should care more about their well being, you know?

And maybe it is just my own feeling, but for a relatively short game, Deus Ex felt like it took forever.

And why the f*ck is everything yellow?!?

If the future is yellow, count me out. Deus Ex just feels a little hollow because at its core it is several game types and elements and ideas loosely stitched together. There is no weight to any of it because it all feels disjointed.

But whatever... It's over.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Bulletstorm and Other Unnecessary Political Incorrectness

     There are some games that spark debate about artistic merit. Games that push the boundaries of interactivity, gameplay and immersion. Then there are games like Bulletstorm that are excessively crass, thin on story and intentionally gimmicky, almost to a fault.

Is Bulletstorm fun? Yes. Is it an amazing feat of game development? Not even close.

You play as Grayson Hunt, voiced by Steven Blum, better known as Wolverine from Wolverine and the X-Men if you're into that kind of thing. Blum provides an appropriately aggressive and raspy voice for the swear-laden dialogue running throughout the game.

Hunt is an angry man, possibly bi-polar, definitely a little psychotic and obsessive. Beyond being overly eager to rip every living thing on the planet of Stygia a new one en route to his former general with which he holds an intense grudge with, Hunt is also a man who takes every opportunity to sprinkle colorful language into everything he says.

Except when he sprinkles, it's sort of like going to put a dash of salt on something, but some d*ck unscrewed the top, so literally all of the salt ends up on your food.

You either love him or hate him, or play with the volume down on the dialogue, or the game in its entirety because everything is loud on purpose.

It is a fairly simple game with a game mechanic tailor-made for showing off and being creative. The gadget is referred to as a leash, which not only assigns points to the different ways you kill enemies, but allows you to grab enemies at a distance, and pull them towards you, or toss them up into the air once upgraded.

The goal of the game, beyond exacting revenge on General Sarrano, is to rack up points by using the environment, different weapons and basically thinking of the most f*cked up ways to dispose of the local populous and enjoying it.

That endearing crassness extends to this mechanic, with skill shots named "Gang Bang", "Rear Entry", "Assplosion" and "Boned."

Points from skillshots can be used to upgrade weapons, and upgrades range from increased ammo capacity, unlocking charged shots, as well as unlocking more weapons. The assault rifle-like weapon is standard, but you can acquire a pistol/flare gun, sniper rifle, shotgun, and my personal favorites, the flailgun and penetrator.

The former shoots two grenades linked together by a chain which can be fired round the necks of enemies, and around the feet to trip enemies, while the latter fires a rocket propelled drill that impales enemies, possibly sticking them to walls, floors, other enemies, or just launching them skyward.

I can't help but laugh whenever I pin an enemy to the ground with one of those drills and watching him spin around, getting the "Breakdance" skillshot. It shouldn't be so satisfying to maim a person in that fashion, but it is.

However, tucked underneath the swearing, blood and guts, and explosions (did I mention there are explosions?), is a story just begging to be ignored.

In a nutshell, Hunt and Co. were once assassins doing the dirty work of General Sarrano, and it wasn't until one particular job that they decided to have a heart and question their General as to who they were killing, and if they were really just taking out innocents.

From there, the group known as Dead Echo went rogue, became pirates, amassed a substantial bounty on their heads, and ultimately took it upon themselves to take out Sarrano and his ship above Stygia.

Fittingly, upon crashing to the planet's surface, all but two of the Dead Echo contingent are dead.

Stygia is the setting, and offers plenty of lush scenery as well as a crumbling metropolis that houses everything from mutated freaks to man-eating plants big a small.

The story follows a linear path through the world, which is largely forgettable. Sure, there are unique areas, but there is nothing that stands out, no awe-inspiring landmarks or sights to behold, which is a bit of an oversight for a game that gives players points for pressing a button to zoom in on things it wants you to see.

The majority of said zooming is done when mini-bosses arrive, or there is a particularly large thing to gawk at.

So on this trek from point A to point B, from the crash site to Sarrano, all sorts of things happen, but it all sort of jumbles together. The action and focus on scoring points with kills overshadows what it is that's going on.

I was keenly aware of the tension built between Ishi and Hunt with Ishi's AI component threatening to take over at any moment, as well as the reveal that the foul-mouthed female Trischka's father was the target Dead Echo was ordered to eliminate, which was the exact time Hunt decided to think for a second about the mindless murdering he and his compatriots had been carrying out.

But being aware of the story did not make me care about it or anyone involved. It's difficult to focus on a passingly emotional revelation or plot point with Hunt screaming things like, "You scared the dick off me" or shouting, to a woman mind you, that he's going to "Kill your dick."

For a game that I didn't think warranted such deep discussion, I sure spent a lot of time discussing...

I can't help but laugh at the sequel baiting at the end of the game, where Sarrano is supposedly revived with machine parts like Ishi, as well as having taken control of Ishi. There doesn't seem to be any need, or demand, for a sequel.

Bulletstorm came out during a time when Gears of War was a big deal, and Epic Games wanted to create more games with comically manly character designs, gritty environments and satisfying action, sans satisfying story.

Thanks, Cliffy B. Stick to making game engines...

So if you want swearing, shooting and 'splosions, play Bulletstorm. Better yet, just play Halo online and you'll spout many of the same choice phrases that were carefully written for this game.