Let me tell you a story before we talk about Bulletstorm VR. Back in late 2011, I was a mere 11 year old boy looking for some new games to play at my local CEX. In the corner of my eye, I stumbled upon a copy of Bulletstorm deluxe edition on PS3, with the underneath of a boot as the cover art. It was fairly cheap, and I got my grandparents to buy it for me. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, and I didn’t know I’d love it so much.
Bulletstorm’s absurd characterisations and almost satirical dialogue masked a classic story of revenge, and how taking part in it can cause unforeseeable consequences, all wrapped in some extremely satisfying gunplay that rewards you for being creative with your kills. Each level features incredible amounts of ways to kill your opponents, from spiky cacti that can impale your foes to the classic explosive red barrels planted around arenas. It was brutal, chaotic, and fun. And it stuck in my mind for years after it came out, as my hopes for a sequel dwindled.
Fast forward almost 13 years later, and Bulletstorm VR is here. My love for VR combined with my nostalgia for the flatscreen original had me intrigued for their combination. Unfortunately, Bulletstorm VR is not only a disappointing experience, but a broken one at that too.
For those unaware, Bulletstorm follows the story of Grayson Hunt and his cohort of misfits. Before the events of the game start, Grayson and his team were a black ops squad ordered to kill a civilian reporter on the command of Victor Sarrano. Sarrano orders them to be executed for questioning him, and they escape. At the start of Bulletstorm’s story, Grayson is attacked by Sarrano’s flagship, the Ulysses, and in a suicidal move, Grayson sends his own ship into Sarrano’s.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t go exactly to plan, with both ships crash landing on a nearby hostile planet owned by numerous gangs of enemies. You play as Grayson as he navigates the planet in search of an escape, and revenge, with hordes of crazy foes between you and survival.
Bulletstorm’s story has always taken a backseat to the gameplay, which offers you a bunch of crazy weaponry that you pick up along the adventure, as well as Grayson finding a leash that can grapple enemies and items towards him, and the ability to forcefully kick. Combining these three ways of dealing with threats with the requirement of earning skill points to upgrade your gear and weapons kept the gameplay loop satisfying throughout the roughly eight hour story, and Bulletstorm VR keeps this remarkably solid.
Being able to not only physically “throw” your leash out to grab unsuspecting enemies and drag them to you, as well as dual-wield your arsenal, always remained fun throughout my experience of the game. Unfortunately, there’s no real physics to the game - it feels like a ported flat game into a VR headset with motion controls, but the story remains notably unchanged in VR. The satisfaction of pulling off a trickshot or killing an enemy in a fun way feels great, especially in virtual reality. However, what’s not fun is the onslaught of bugs and issues I’ve experienced.
Bulletstorm VR crashed three times before Grayson crash landed on the planet (ironic, I know), and it crashed a bunch of times following that. I’d say that the Meta Quest 3 version of the game saw a crash every hour or so, which saw me go straight from shooting at enemies to being back in my living room in a snap of my fingers. It was disappointing, but that was just the start of my troubles.
There were numerous cases of items or enemies flying through objects, which I somewhat expected in order for the game to not freak out everytime I leashed an enemy, but what’s annoying was the sheer amount of other bugs. Boss music would play, but rather than a larger-than-me enemy arriving into the arena, he would be standing to the side, almost waiting for his signal to enter. It was funny, to be honest, but this happened a few more times, and made the game way too easy.
There were also issues with Trishka’s new levels. This exclusive addition to the VR version of the game sees you play as Trishka in various moments during the story, which I think is a great inclusion. However, there were plenty of times where I’d kill people as her and she’d speak as Grayson, not Trishka. It’s hilarious and something I hope people experience for the fun of it, but it definitely takes away from the immersion, and almost shows that the VR version was a little rushed.
We reached out to the PR team handling Bulletstorm VR, and were told that a day 0 patch and future patches were coming for stabilising the game experience, which might be good for some Bulletstorm fans waiting to play the game in VR. That being said, what can’t be fixed is the terrible visuals that the VR version offers. The game was originally released on PS3 and Xbox 360, alongside PC, and yet the VR version looks worse than the game that was released two generations ago.
All-in-all, I can’t recommend this game to anyone, Bulletstorm fans or not, in its current state. The solid gameplay of Bulletstorm still exists in virtual reality, but it's not as good as native VR games, and on one of the best VR headsets, it has plenty of game-breaking bugs, way too many crashes, and a downgrade in visuals from the almost 13-year old original. I’m so disappointed that Bulletstorm has, once again, not been given the justice it deserves. And at this point, I’d rather let my nostalgia stay, and not see another port of this game.