- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 9, 2011

 Here’s a look at a pair of video games, with intense stories far better than any recent action movies, for the very mature player in the family.

Bulletstorm: Epic Edition (Electronic Arts, reviewed for Xbox 360, $59.99)  The first-person shooter genre has evolved — as well as devolved — thanks to an adventure tapping into a gamer’s love of sophomoric profanity while celebrating the highest levels of gratuitous violence.

I have to admit, after playing the gooey Dead Space 2, I was not sure how much more depraved game developers could get.

Leave it up to the combined might of People Can Fly (Painkiller) and Epic Games (Gears of War) to deliver a virtual sci-fi B-movie with all the subtlety of a human vivisection.

Through a gutter-humor-filled story crafted by comic book creator Rick Remender (read his work in the wonderful Fear Agent series to fully understand his pop-art sense of humor), players will find themselves in control of an alcohol-guzzling misogynist named Grayson Hunt.

The mighty Grayson was once part of the Dead Echo elite assault squad for the Confederation of Colonies, and now he and some of his mates are stranded on a colorful resort planet overrun with gangs of Mad Max villain rejects.

The player must work alongside some of his old and new friends (including cyborg Ishi Sato or foul-mouthed female Trishka Novak) to survive and eventually confront his former boss, Gen. Victor Sarrano.

In this Wild West land of creative death, it is simply not enough to shoot and kill a screaming bad guy. Players can orchestrate enemies’ demise through movements as simple as a kick to the head, a slide into their legs or a laser whip to hook and yank them into the air where they can be carved up in slow motion using various weapons and environmental obstacles.

For example, a carefully aimed shot to a foe’s throat turns into a blood-gushing Monty Python skit, or a kick to an enemy’s torso might launch him into the voracious lips of a massive man-eating plant.

Sound too tame? How about using a radio-controlled, exploding bullet to sink into an enemy and move him around to other foes before triggering the explosion.

Still not impressed? Purchase a charge shot and fire away to immediately transform a lively thug into a glowing skeleton. Or pull out the Flail gun. This beauty uses two grenades tethered by a chain to wrap around and blow up an unlucky fellow.

Pulling off any of these feats is tied to a creative kill system called skillshots. There are more than 100 types to complete, with informative names such as Grenade Gag, Minced Meat and Head Slicer. Each leads to an accumulation of point rewards that can be spent to further upgrade weapons and buy ammo.

What easily could have become an exercise in bloody executions the Punisher would admire also becomes more and more clever as the game progresses.

Take an early chapter that finds Grayson in a downsized town where he battles among miniature skyscrapers to stop enemies. That’s cool, but soon he uses a radio controller to maneuver the full-size resident monster of that town, (a mechanical beast that looks like a Rancor) to further slaughter enemies using its massive girth and laser beams.

Although giggling and groaning through the single-player campaign, much like watching a “Jackass” movie, might satisfy most, players also can take part in multiplayer proceedings. The most memorable is Anarchy.

A squad of up to four online players cooperatively skillshots bad guys and meets set point totals to progress through levels. An extra gore boost here is the Blood Symphony meter, which, when filled up, allows kills to be worth more points with extra gushing of that precious red liquid.

Bulletstorm will quickly transform the average adult male into Beavis or Butthead as it revels in the absurdly violent while never passing up the chance to deliver an easy groin joke.

Killzone 3 (Sony Computer Entertainment, reviewed for PlayStation 3, $59.99).  Now let’s take a look at a more serious but still violent first-person shooter, one where gouging out eyes and sniper headshots are still encouraged but drama transcends potty humor.

This sequel to the Killzone franchise could not look more dazzling. Just check out some of the frozen climates and water effects. It finds our feisty hero Thomas “Sev” Sevchenko still hanging with bumbling squad mate Rico Velasquez (soldiers for the Interplanetary Strategic Alliance) and stuck in a perpetual tour on the hostile planet Helghan.

With big help from Rico (who is mighty handy in resuscitating his pal as long as he is within reach) a player controls Sev and takes part in a thrill-ride-a-minute solo campaign to stop a villain more ruthless than the Grand Moff Tarkin and voiced by a raspy Malcolm McDowell.

Be it in the middle of an arctic wasteland or ducking poison plants in jungle terrain mapped from Pandora, the action all highlights polished levels of intense firefights, the occasional stealth mission and the use of a very cool jetpack and new weapons, including a beefy rocket launcher and disintegration ray gun.

Anyone owning a PlayStation 3 and in love with a gritty, sci-fi-themed story will find plenty to appreciate.

As intense as the single-player campaign plays out, however, a chance to jump within a multiplayer maelstrom is equally worthwhile. A split-screen co-op for the campaign or a selection of highly competitive online challenges are available.

Within the multiplayer mode, up to 24 warriors choose from five classes (such as a marksman or field medic), forming teams to either kill each other or complete specific objectives as Helghast or ISA soldiers. It’s a robust setting complete with cut scenes capturing the stars of the online skirmishes.

Killzone 3 is an awesome sequel to the franchise that also offers a few high-tech surprises. Unfortunately, they did not impress.

First, integration with the PlayStation Move controller (and new Sharp Shooter peripheral) requires too much effort and finesse to use. And, the game can be enjoyed in 3-D — for folks who have paid the price to jump aboard the early adopter bandwagon (yes, I’m talking to all seven of you).

* Send e-mail to jszadkowskiwashingtontimes.com.

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