Originally released in 2011 on the Xbox 360, Bulletstorm has made its way onto the Nintendo Switch in the form of the Duke of Switch update; offering a fresh take on Stygia’s locale and the option to play as Duke Nukem. Has time been kind to People Can Fly’s skillshot centric shooter on the handheld or is “The Duke” merely cashing in with a long forgotten re-release?
An ill fated revenge bid after figuring out the General you work for is using you as a bought in wetwork team kicks the game off and sets the scene for the remainder of it. The original Bulletstorm is still as good as it was on release and given its quirky but crude “Skillshot” system it still stands out as fairly unique in a sea of shooters. Skillshots are the method in which you upgrade your weapons and ammo throughout your mass murder survival tour of Stygia, but repeated use of the same type of shot degrades the points awarded for it, so variety in your deployment of these is vital to get the most out of the weapons you unlock
To assist in your free-form variety of destruction and mayhem, the game offers you both a kick function (think 300’s Sparta Kick) and an electric-whip-like-leash. Clever use of both offer some slow down in game time to allow you to most creatively dispatch your adversaries. Coupled with some great environmental hazards from oversized cacti and metal wreckages to exposed electrical wiring and flammable barrels, Bulletstorm presents an inventive playground of death which always keeps things interesting.
Each area is littered with drop pods allowing you to upgrade your weapons or buy more ammo with the points you rack up. You can also utilise these pods to check the conditions for certain skillshots and see new ones as you unlock weapons or upgrades increasing your options to earn the most points in a given level. You are also advised of secret skillshots, some are contextual based on the levels whereas other involve a complex combinations of boot, leash, gun and hazard usage.
The Duke of Switch specific DLC packaged within this release offers what the game refers to as a tour of Bulletstorm with the king himself, Duke Nukem. In reality it takes the form of a replacement main character with some new lines recorded specifically for Bulletstorm by Duke’s original voice actor. Only really worth it for comedic effect it feels pretty rushed and most players will avoid it after the initial shine wears off, with the original voice acting and cutscenes more in tune with the game, dynamics, story and universe its portraying.
Looking to be locked at 30FPS with very few instances of dropping below that, thanks to intelligent usage of dynamic resolutions scaling, Bulletstorm Duke of Switch utilised the same remastered resources and textures from last years PS4 & Xbox One release. At the top end resolutions hit 1080p but seems to drop to 720p in extremely busy situations.
Unlike recent Switch shooters, Bulletstorm opts not to offer players gyro-based controls and — weirdly — offers no capability for either sensitivity changes or custom mapping of controls. Given how much People Can Fly invested in the original’s controls for a smoother experience it’s surprisingly lazy, that and Nintendo’s penchant for reversing buttons (X button I’m talking to you) it can be somewhat confusing. Hard to understand on a game that thrives on concisely connecting its multiple mechanics at pace. Also slightly awkward with the joycon connected to the switch, the game feels much more natural on the pro controller due to standard spacing and the size of the thumb sticks.
Docked the game still runs great but the strain starts to show and its age becomes somewhat more apparent. Tabletop mode with a pro controller offers probably the best compromise between fluid speed, graphical performance and controller functionality
There are very few negatives with this release other than the obligatory “if you already played it on Xbox 360 and Xbox One then you probably won’t get lots of value from it”. Given that it can also be picked up in the second-hand market or on a digital sale for almost a quarter of this retail release on those consoles it could look expensive. The reality however is Bulletstorm is one of only a handful of A-List shooters on the Nintendo Switch and the portability advantage added to that statement creates real value. Coupled with its obvious replay value it’s hard to turn it down.
Weighing in at just over 10GB you won’t need to delete too much from your storage to accommodate Bulletstorm and, with its arcade score-like approach to FPS, it’s small enough to retain a place in your catalogue as you keep coming back for its visceral-yet-rewarding gameplay. At release it’s already a good £10/$15 cheaper than the remaster was on Xbox One and is available as a digital download (only).
You can find Bulletstorm: Duke of Switch Edition on the Nintendo Switch store.