Bulletstorm VR review: Gritty, gory, guns & glory

People Can Fly and Incuvo assembled a VR port of one of the fastest-paced, foul-mouthed shooters around, but does VR elevate the 2011 classic?

Image via Incuvo

Bulletstorm VR has finally arrived, and it brought something a little unexpected to this year's early VR offerings. Simply put, this is a VR port of a very fast 2011 shooter. It’s bathed in bullets and blood, ridiculously cocky attitudes, and very crude humor and language throughout. However, there’s also something interesting and fun here. Where Bulletstorm VR shines brightest is in making you feel like an absolute badass, and if you go in with just that expectation, you might just have a good time.

Ten fathoms deep on the road to Hell

For the uninitiated, Bulletstorm is the story of Grayson Hunt, a former special ops soldier of a unit known as Dead Echo that acted on behalf of the vicious and surly General Victor Serrano. He and his squad were doing quite well at their jobs until they realized that Serrano was ordering them not to kill terrorists, but innocent civilians that posed a threat to Serrano. Hunt and his squad escaped death to become pirates and swore revenge on Serrano. Ten years later, they got their chance.

When they take on Serrano’s ship and bring both their own and the General’s vessel crash landing down on an inhospitable wasteland planet, Grayson takes up the campaign to chase after Serrano with the help of his tech-grafted crewmate Ishi Sato. Along the way, they discover maniacal raiders that are using Confederation of Planets weapons, gear, and facilities, making this backwoods planet a little more than meets the eye. Bulletstorm’s plot hasn’t aged well. It’s of an era of gaming where “make it more rad” was a mission statement for a lot of games. It’s foul-mouthed, gratuitously violent, and full of ridiculous conveniences in the plot to keep things moving.

Dual-wielding a shotgun and revolver in Bulletstorm VR
Source: Incuvo

Where it does sometimes excel is in its presentation. This game is an Xbox 360 era title. It’s not a looker here in VR, but it does look reasonable enough to be fun. Running through desert crags, fighting your way through rusted factories and warehouses, and battling throughout derelict cities is pretty neat. Plus, there are set pieces that just look fantastic when you’ve got a headset on, immersing you in a train chase with a giant, spinning wheel of death known as a Grinder as you use a Gatling gun to fight off small fry. The weaponry is also a delight in VR, giving you more tactile feel over Grayson’s trusty rifle, energy leash, and other gear.

The world of Stygia through new eyes

Using the tether to yank an enemy in Bulletstorm VR
Source: Incuvo

As one of the fastest-paced first-person shooters of all time, one of my biggest concerns about Bulletstorm VR was that I was in for an absolute gut-wrenching VR rollercoaster. Thankfully, it’s not as nauseating as I expected. The game contains a solid suite of VR options, including sitting and standing mode, smooth movement and teleportation, snap turning and smooth turning, and even immersive reload where you can put the bullets in and cock the gun or press a single button to make all that happen. It meets most of the criteria for what I would expect to find in a VR game’s comfort settings and you can access and fine-tune those settings at any time.

Playing as Grayson was an interesting experience. At first, I handled his rifle like in the original game, with two hands. However, I quickly realized you don’t need to do that. You shoot with all the same accuracy regardless of if you single or double-fist the weapon. And so I started handling Grayson like he was a superhero whose power was guns. I handled his rifle and shotgun with one hand, used the energy leash with the other, and utilized his kick and slide in addition to other armaments to do the nastiest things I could to enemies. Sidenote: the slide works genuinely well for being in VR. It felt like a power fantasy, and I very much enjoyed the level of gratuitous offense I could put out against my unfortunate foes.

Fighting the Grinder with a gatling gun in Bulletstorm VR
Source: Incuvo

The Skillshot system still rewards you for being creative. You can be vanilla and just yank most enemies in for a slow-motion killshot to the head, or you can get silly. We’re talking sliding into foes to pop them up or using the energy tether to yank them towards you, then kicking them into things like sharp cacti or electrified wires to pincushion or deep fry them, respectively. You can also hit environmental explosives to blow enemies to bits, power up your guns with special charges to annihilate foes with grandiose shots of doom, and so much more. Bulletstorm VR gives you a creative playground to work with and it’s fun to discover just what kind of terrible things you can do to your enemies, especially with the four-barreled shotgun, which earns my seal of approval for being able to tear a raider in half in one shot.

It's not perfect by any stretch, though. Bulletstorm VR retains some monkey bars-style climbing in certain segments of the game, which seems antithetical to Bulletstorm’s style beyond offering another VR interaction. I doubt many people play Bulletstorm to feel like they’re on a jungle gym, especially when it doesn’t work. I got glitched when climbing a cable and it left me unable to disengage or move. I had to reload the save. Also, when you die, the screen shifts to an eye-burning bright red before shooting you back to the checkpoint. I was not a fan and wished I could have turned down the intensity. Even so, put those few qualms aside and Bulletstorm VR came out feeling like a surprisingly guilty pleasure.

Very much a storm of bullets

Using the energy leash and sniper rifle in Bulletstorm against helicopter enemies and a giant monster

Source: Incuvo

I was surprised by how much I ended up enjoying Bulletstorm VR. With how fast the original moved, I thought I was in for a VR version of a town fair teacup ride. Instead, it was a rip-roaring gauntlet, and a refreshing twist on the terrible things I could do to my enemies with whatever weapons and environmental hazards I had at my disposal. The plot is still stuck at 2011, which might be grating for some, as are much of the visuals. However, if your goal is to kick a man into the air and then blow him to bits and pieces like a skeet shoot, Bulletstorm VR just might keep you entertained as an early VR offering in 2024.

This review is based on a PlayStation 5 copy played on the PS VR2. Bulletstorm VR is available now on PS5, PC via SteamVR, and Meta Quest headsets.

Senior News Editor

TJ Denzer is a player and writer with a passion for games that has dominated a lifetime. He found his way to the Shacknews roster in late 2019 and has worked his way to Senior News Editor since. Between news coverage, he also aides notably in livestream projects like the indie game-focused Indie-licious, the Shacknews Stimulus Games, and the Shacknews Dump. You can reach him at tj.denzer@shacknews.com and also find him on Twitter @JohnnyChugs.

Review for
Bulletstorm VR
  • Weapons and gear feel fantastic
  • A lot of great set-piece moments
  • Mobile attacks like sliding work surprisingly well
  • Setting up ridiculous skillshots is still pretty fun
  • Climbing segments slow the whole thing down
  • A few nasty glitches here and there
  • Red screen of death is way too intense
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