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‘Bulletstorm’: Violence with ‘a wink and a smile’

The executive producer of "Bulletstorm" says the new, violent first-person shooter game employs an "it’s the journey, not the destination" philosophy.

Burning skeletons, monstrous plants, mutants, and cannibals — these are the accoutrements of “Bulletstorm.” And with a title like that you know you are in for some action … and some bullets.

There is no shortage of shooters out there, but “Bulletstorm” takes a different approach than most. It employs an “it’s the journey, not the destination” view of a first-person shooter where you earn points based on how you kill, not just how many you kill.

“Bulletstorm” — due out early next year — is the latest venture from People Can Fly and Epic. Of course, where there is Epic there is Cliff Bleszinski, executive producer who has been making games since he was 11 years old. I spoke to him about shooters, art, and the role of violence in entertainment.

What is the experience that People Can Fly and Epic is trying to achieve with “Bulletstorm”?

It puts the fun back into the first-person shooter. And that doesn’t mean “Halo” or “Call of Duty” aren’t fun, because they are amazingly fun; I was playing the “Halo Reach” beta last night. But at the same time they are very serious, right?

This game is like “you know what, let’s give the people what they want, let’s give them something fun.” For a man’s boot to … actually be able to kick a 180-pound gang member into the air and across the room really isn’t that logical, and probably wouldn’t happen, but you know what? It’s fun.

Do I get bonus points for shooting certain areas of the anatomy? How many? Why?

There are multiple ways you can shoot an enemy, multiple ways to get a kill ... There is a weapon that will be revealed at a later date that really lets you get surgical with that kind of thing. But in the short term, you can shoot someone in the groin region, at which point they drop to their knees screaming, and then you can kick them in the face to finish them off — which is known as “Mercy.”

Aptly titled.

I know the violence issue is going to come up, but I challenge your average person to watch the trailer for this game and not giggle. Because the comparison I love to use is ... when you see this type of cartoon-y, over-the-top violence it is far more “Itchy and Scratchy,” it is far more “Tom and Jerry,” far more “Gallagher” smashing a watermelon than it is horrible snuff video.

One of my favorite moments is the extended slide, and the fact there are certain surfaces in the game, like staircases, or sloped surfaces, or wet surfaces, or oily surfaces that you can just do this really super-long slide.

And there is one moment in the game — I don’t know if it will make the final cut — where one of the gang members happens to be facing away from you, and he is urinating on a wall that is covered by spiky rebar. And you go all the way down this slide and you kick him, and he flies up into the rebar and winds up impaled on it. And that is the embodiment of what this game is, it is this tiny little micro moment of that kind of quirky sense of humor.

Describe your favorite weapon.

You have this energy leash that you can use to pull guys around. You can upgrade that so you can stomp on the ground and it sends them all in the air. And then it is essentially like trap shooting, and you are like “pull, pull” taking the bad guys out. That’s always really fun.

I can’t talk about my absolute favorite weapon in the game because we haven’t revealed it yet. But I will say the creative uses of the leash and the boot combined with weapons is really establishing new verbiage in the first-person shooter genre.

What’s the biggest challenge in telling a new story, creating a new universe that will bring in an audience?

I think finding the tone. “Gears” (“Gears of War”) surely had its over-the-top moments, but it also had a tone of sadness, whereas this game has a tone of a wink and smile to it.

How do you feel about violence as entertainment? Not only in video games, but television, theater and novels?

It’s a tricky question; it is the million-dollar subject everyone debates. I have always believed that once you get over a certain age … there is a point where there is entertainment for children and entertainment for adults. And I would hate that if my mature entertainment, such as the movie “Kick Ass,” which was wonderful and had hilarious over-the-top violence, was reduced to the lowest common denominator so everybody could be OK with it.

I’ve always felt that when you are older and emotionally mature enough, a lot of this entertainment can have a cathartic effect.

Are games an art form?

Let me phrase it this way: Just because something is interactive doesn’t necessarily dismiss it as art … If you interact with something and it makes you feel something, is that not art?