Gory Gaming: Bulletstorm Performance Analyzed

Although the game had significant performance issues when it was released, Bulletstorm now benefits from the latest graphics drivers and a patch from its developers. Now is the perfect time to see what kind of hardware this game requires for smooth play.

Bulletstorm is a title we were eager to try for a number of reasons. The viral marketing approach, with a Halo-mocking trailer and demo that pokes fun at the Call of Duty series, definitely provided a few laughs. The ultra-violent “Skillshot” system looked intriguing. We were also interested in testing the newest iteration of Epic’s Unreal 3 engine. All told, that was enough motivation for us to take an in-depth look at the game and its performance.

MSI provided a variety of graphics cards from both AMD and Nvidia for our tests in order to demonstrate what kind of frame rates you can expect to get from Bulletstorm across a wide spectrum of hardware. We're looking at both single-card and SLI/CrossFire performance, too. But before digging into the data, let’s go over the game for folks who aren’t familiar with it.

Bulletstorm might be best described as shoot 'em up-style with a furious pace and a delinquent sense of humor. Most enemies are outclassed by such a large margin that you’re more concerned with the elegance of your kills than survival. Dispatching foes in a creative fashion may be recognized as a Skillshot. The rarer and more creative the Skillshot, the more points are awarded. These points can be traded for enhancements that often improve your ability to perform increasingly impressive Skillshots, and the cycle continues.

You unlock a number of weapons as the game progresses, but shooting is often less effective than kicking or yanking (with boots or a wrist-mounted leash, respectively), both of which create a temporary anti-gravity field that immobilizes your victim in the air for a short time.

The game might sound grim, but it's fully immersed in Duke Nukem-esque tongue-in-cheek flair and gruesome (but cartoony) violence. Your avatar is a tough mercenary named Grayson Hunt, whose dialogue could easily be read by Ash from Army Of Darkness. The language is vulgar and deserves the Mature rating, but if you’re in the mood for juvenile potty humor, it’ll steal a smirk from you once in a while. Just don’t expect anything in the way of puzzles or intellectual progression. The game is on obvious rails. There is no jump button, and you can’t fall off cliffs even if you try. Your biggest hurdle will be to figure out the next thing you’re supposed to shoot at.

A game that revels in juvenile laughs and nonstop action can be a guilty pleasure, but this particular approach also leads to annoying situations. For instance, if you’re too involved with a specific enemy you might not notice the prompt telling you to move on to another vital target, and if you’re a bit slow on the uptake, the game rewards you with a quick, scripted death sequence. The Dragon’s Lair-style, do-the-right-thing-immediately-or-die mechanism doesn’t appeal to me, but some people might appreciate the way it breaks up the missions.

Other than that, I don’t have a lot to complain about. If you crave an entertaining diversion with breakneck action, crude jokes, cartoon gore, and some very nice visuals, I’m not sure you’ll find anything that fits the bill better than Bulletstorm.

Now that you’re a little more familiar with the game, let’s take a closer look at the engine behind it and check out its performance.

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