Editorial: Why reviewers should say whether they enjoyed shooting men in the balls in Bulletstorm
Every Monday, PCGamer.com will be featuring editorials and opinion pieces from PC Gamer's core of magazine and online writers. To kickstart that process, here's UK mag editor Tim Edwards on the developing Bulletstorm skillshot controversy.
“I do believe this industry will only be considered mature only once it stops being ashamed of itself,” says Adrian Chmielarz, the lead designer of Bulletstorm. His comment is in response to Richard Clark, a Gamasutra contributor who questioned whether those who write about Bulletstorm should bring their personal values to the table when reviewing it.
Eh? No-one’s arguing that Bulletstorm doesn’t have a grisly charm. Its central mechanic, skillshots, in which you earn extra points for inflicting interesting and new unique types of pain on a series of ragdoll enemies, is the gaming equivalent of pulling wings off flies. It’s absolutely fine if you want to find enjoyment in OTT sadism. But it’s also fine if I want to say that I don't enjoy being rewarded for shooting a grunt in the anus. In fact, much like the recipient of the skillshot in question, it makes me a bit uncomfortable.
That’s a pretty basic form of criticism.
Reading between the lines, Adrian appears to be saying that critics and reviewers should at least accept, and maybe even eulogise Bulletstorm. The reality is more complicated. I love Bulletstorm’s kinetics, the feel of its weaponry, the sheer comic book absurdity of the men you’re fighting. I believe there’s an art to designing a good shooter, and that Bulletstorm is probably state of that art.
Even so, I can also separate out that art from the delirious stupidity of the scoring system, and the sadistic joy it aims to create in players. I’d encourage all reviewers to do the same. And then apply an appropriate score that takes into account how they feel about high-scoring extended brutal torture. If they could use a scoring system that Metacritic can properly parse, that would help, too. Out of 100, preferably.
Anyway, Adrian should be pleased. Bulletstorm’s already been rated Mature, by the ESRB. Despite the fact they don’t play the games they review, they’ve got be a good judge of character, right? Bulletstorm’s got “Blood and Gore, intense violence, partial nudity, sexual themes, strong language, and use of alcohol”. Just like the Godfather.
Turns out, opinions are like Bulletstorm. Everyone’s an asshole.