A Unique VR Adaptation Keeps Bulletstorm Alive
Over a decade later, the enduring legacy of Bulletstorm surprises many.
Despite being seen as a guilty pleasure, much like Duke Nukem, and falling short of its sales expectations, Bulletstorm continues to thrive. Known for its gratuitous violence and foul language, the game’s groundbreaking gameplay mechanics and innovative ammunition system received praise from reviewers.
Radomir Kucharski of Incuvo, the Polish virtual reality port shop, believes that Bulletstorm was ahead of its time. After being acquired by People Can Fly, the makers of Bulletstorm, in late 2021, Incuvo saw the potential of adapting the game for virtual reality.
Kucharski stated, “When we were searching for a next project, we looked at Bulletstorm and thought this game, with its mechanics, was actually, like, designed for VR. Bulletstorm is so action-packed, so close to the action, and with such physical interaction, it just looked like it was designed for VR.”
At the time, Incuvo had gained success adapting popular games for VR, including Layers of Fear and Blair Witch. The studio was seeking another hit project, and the fact that People Can Fly, like Incuvo, is based in Poland made the collaboration even more appealing.
The cult following of Bulletstorm played a significant role in the decision to adapt the game for VR. Although Electronic Arts and Epic Games largely abandoned the property due to its underperformance, People Can Fly, which retained ownership of the franchise, still recognized the game’s loyal fan base. This led to remastered releases for consoles in 2017 and 2019.
Kucharski, who had previously worked on military shooters such as Medal of Honor, personally appreciated the unique gameplay of Bulletstorm. He described it as fresh and groundbreaking.
The gameplay loop of Bulletstorm, known as “skillshot,” creatively incorporates the environment to eliminate enemies. Additionally, the “energy leash,” a feature used by the game’s protagonist, Grayson Hunt, to manipulate foes, stood out as a VR-ready mechanic. Kucharski believed that the leash could be more effectively utilized with dedicated controllers in each hand, providing a more immersive experience.
Contrary to assumptions, the VR adaptation of Bulletstorm is not a rail-shooter. Players can freely explore levels, just as they could in the original game. While the adaptation remains faithful to the original story, Kucharski clarified that it is not a “one-to-one copy” and includes new content. Half of the levels remain unchanged, but assets from the original game were used and adapted for the new VR experience.
Kucharski explained, “We used a lot of assets from the original game. We had to redo some of the stuff, obviously, we had to change the engine from the old Unreal 3 to, I believe, 4.27 is what we’re using right now. We had to recreate a lot of stuff, but the assets are based on the originals.”
Announced in early June, Bulletstorm VR is set to launch later in 2023 for Meta Quest and PlayStation VR 2. Despite the advanced gameplay, Kucharski assured fans that the VR adaptation maintains the same quirky and over-the-top tone as its predecessor.
Kucharski expressed with a chuckle, “Yeah, the game is still pretty violent. It’s very over-the-top with the violence. It’s not serious; it’s fun.”