Economy of the Kill


About a year ago, a well-known game developer offered me one piece of oft-repeated E3 advice, “Dude, be a professional.” Since then, I’ve tried to maintain a certain decorum while looking at games on the show floor. With games like Bulletstorm on display, it’s really, really hard…

The core concept behind Bulletstorm is the “Economy of the Kill”. There’s no way to really describe a play-through since there are hundreds of ways to work your way through a group of enemies. The only limitations are your imagination and whatever weapons you happen to have on you at the moment. Kills are based around “Skill Shots.” These range from simple Headshots to trickier shots like a throat shot, the “Gag Reflex,” to the ever-so-descriptive “Fire in the Hole” shot (one guess where THAT shot hits…).

Every Skill Shot rewards you with points, which you can then spend to improve your weapons, ammo and abilities. In effect, every kill means more points, which means more ways to kill. Simple headshots are soon replaced with incredible symphonies of destruction resulting in mass kills and even more points. Though the game might sound like a blood-soaked massacre, gameplay feels closer to Kick Ass thanks to the over-the-top nature of Skill Shots. There’s blood and a few lost limbs, but there’s a special cartoon appeal to everything.

Weapon shots are only one aspect of Bulletstorm’s elaborate kill system. Another major ingredient is an energy whip that you can use to grab enemies and environmental objects. This adds an entirely new level of destruction to situations. Take, for example, a group of enemies supported by a helicopter. You can take a “normal” approach, use cover and take both the enemies and helicopter out with your weapons. Or, you could use the energy whip to snag enemies and flick them into the air, headfirst into the helicopter’s rotating blades. Alternately, you can latch on to something in the environment – hopefully something explosive – and toss it into the air. Once airborne, you can shoot the object, causing it to detonate, taking out the helicopter and enemies in one spectacular display. To steal a line from Walt Disney, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”

I left the Bulletstorm demo with big smile on my face. A couple of hours later, I still had that smile. Even as I’m writing this, I can’t stop thinking about how much fun I had with the demo.

Look for Bulletstorm next February.

EA Games