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As a first-person shooter, Bulletstorm focuses on combat. There are a variety of fictional firearms available, each with distinct behavior, from a pistol to a cannon that shoots a bolas weighted by grenades. Each weapon has an "alternate fire" mode which uses "charges"; for example, the assault rifle's "charge shot" is a single volley of bullets that destroy almost everything in its path.
Much of the story and gameplay puts focus on the "energy leash", a rope of energy projected from a device on Grayson's left hand. The leash allows him to pull enemies towards him, activate certain devices and traps, and slam down a ball of energy that launches all nearby enemies into the air. The player can also kick enemies or run and slide into them. If an enemy is launched into the air from the whip or by being kicked/slid into, he goes into slow motion, allowing players to perform skillshots.
"Skillshot" is one of the game's unique features. It which rewards the player for killing opponents in the most creative and destructive ways possible. Points are rewarded by various actions, such as killing enemies in midair, making use of environmental hazards or utilizing a weapon's distinct feature. The more complicated or unusual the skillshot, the more points players acquire. Points are used as currency at "dropkits" scattered across the planet to purchase firearms, ammunition and upgrades. The dropkits include a shop, a skillshot checklist, and gameplay statistics.
The player can carry up to three firearms, the assault rifle is the default one and is always carried. Bulletstorm uses a recharging health system, in which damage to the player is reflected by the screen turning red, and the player quickly returns to full health when not taking damage.