Blue Estate was released February 18th 2015 on Xbox One for $12.99. The game was developed and published by HeSaw through the ID@XBOX self-publishing program.
Genre: Action/Rail Shooter
Age Rating: M (Mature)
Game Size: 4.14GB
27 Achievements – 1000G
Reviewed on Xbox One; also available on Playstation 4 and PC.
Blue Estate is the first rail shooting game that has managed to hit next generation consoles. It’s based on the Eisner Award-nominated Blue Estate comic books from Viktor Kalvachev, and it packages dark humor and frenetic action gameplay all in one. The game can be played using Kinect or the Xbox One controller.
I played the game with both Kinect and the controller. I am conscious of the amount of people who have bought a standalone Xbox One bundle (without Kinect), and that’s why my review it’s going to be particularly focused on the controller’s playing experience, but I must say that playing with Kinect is a great experience, so give it a try if you can!
No spoilers ahead, just a general idea / brief introduction of the storyline.
The main story is told under the perspective of Roy Devine Jr. , a private investigator from Sunset Boulevard (Los Angeles). He narrates the events following in the game but he’s not a playable character. The story is focused on two characters; Tony Luciano and Clarence.
Now it’s time to introduce Tony Luciano‘s; he is a member of the Luciano family (some “Cosa Nostra” going on there, if you know what I mean) , and he’s the one and only son of Don Luciano. Tony Luciano is the type of gangster (or mob, if you prefer) who likes to do everything his way, with thug manners.
Clarence is the second playable character and makes a later entrance; according to the story, he is a ex-navy SEAL immersed in some kind of financial trouble (foreclosure) and he is forced to work for the Mafia as a hired gun. He is the professional approach to solve some problems with the rival families gang members (guess who caused that trouble?).
The are two gameplay modes that can be found on the main menu;
On the one hand there is the story mode, which is the traditional campaign and, as you would have imagined by now, it focus on the story telling part. This mode can be played both single player or co-op in three difficulty levels (normal, abnormal and crazytrain). There are 8 missions, featuring each unique “collectibles” (such as lucky cats or red balloons) that you’ll need to shoot in order to successfully “collect” them.
The main objective of every mission is simple; clear enemy waves using the weapons available. You have infinite ammo and tons of enemies, I think its time to shoot! In case the frenetic action delivered by the game brings you down, you can always rely on slow motion to get the job done and perform great combos to get higher scores.
On the other hand you’ll find the arcade mode; playable as an alternative to the classic story mode and exclusive feature to the Xbox One version of the game. This mode (single player only) can be unlocked progressively by playing the story mode, and can be accessed from the main menu.
These additional gameplay sequences take places in 7 exclusive levels, where the player has to overcome new sets of challenges with new gameplay rules in the 3 difficulty levels previously mentioned.
The new rules applied in this mode are the following:
- Kill to survive.
To stay alive, the player must kill enemies at regular intervals. There is no health gauge. Instead, a timer is displayed at the bottom of the screen, indicating how much time is left to kill an enemy. This timer is reset each time an enemy is killed. If the timer reaches 0, the game is over.
- Acquiring New Weapons.
The player starts the level with a handgun. It is possible to acquire stronger weapons by getting a decent killstreak without taking damage. A counter displayed on the bottom right-hand side of the screen indicates how many enemies the player must kill to acquire the next weapon. Each time the player is shot, this counter is reset. Acquired weapons cannot be lost.
On the bottom left-hand side of the screen, a slow motion gauge fills itself up with each headshot kill. When the gauge is full, it is possible to trigger a slow motion phase at any time, very useful when facing a large number of enemies, or to avoid the timer running out.
- Fast Forward.
The player’s skill and speed are rewarded with a fast forward feature: when all on-screen enemies have been killed, the camera speeds up until the next wave of enemies is triggered. This feature is represented by an icon displayed on-screen. Each second of fast forward earns the player bonus points.
There is also a new scoring system and dedicated online leaderboards, where the global ranking is calculated based on the total score, and is displayed as a letter, the best being an “S” ranking. Take all this info into account and make your way into the top ranking on the leaderboards! :
– Bodyshot kills earn the player 1,000 points, headshot and nutshot kills 2,000 points
– In slow motion, points for each enemy killed are multiplied x3
– Each second of fast forward earns the player 5,000 points
– Each weapon acquired earns the player a 50,000 point bonus
– All points earned are multiplied x2 on Abnormal and x3 on Crazytrain
– Killing all enemies in a level earns you a 100,000 point bonus at the end of each level.
This new mode adds re-playability value to the game, specially if you are a competitive player and like to spend as much time as necessary to improve your score.
Playing Blue Estate with the Xbox One controller feels surprisingly great; at first you’ll probably struggle when trying to aim fast, but you’ll get used to it; even though it requires some skills. The default controls settings are good and that’s a relief considering there is no customization option. The left stick is used to pick ammo/health and generally to perform gestures, and the right stick takes care of aiming. You can change your weapon or reload using multiple buttons; it’s up to you, choose the one that makes you feel more comfortable.
GRAPHICS, DESIGN AND SOUND
Blue Estate is currently one of the best-looking indie games at this very moment, graphically speaking. The game graphics are great, and in between missions comic style cut scenes will appear. The game has a very unique style of design; from the character models to the environments, Blue Estate proves it has an attractive and interesting art style which leads on a grand virtual ambience.
The different levels take place in very different locations throughout the game; every mission is located at a crazy and almost random scenario but sticking to the storyline (crazy locations needed for crazy stories!)
Taking a look at the sound aspects of the game it can be said of the soundtrack that it consists of a variety of musical genres, all of which perfectly fit on shooting scenes at the diverse locations. The sounds of guns firing or reloading (which is something very common to hear in this game, otherwise you are not playing it correctly!) sound satisfying; the arcade mechanics of the game don’t prevent the sounds from convincing you.
I would like end up saying that I was surprised by the amazing and remarkable voice acting of one of the main characters, Tony Luciano.
It’s normal to expect a less talented voice acting from a humor game, but this was not the case.
It’s time to admit this game may not be for everyone, specially if you take into account that there are extremely sensitive people out there, but it’s not a big deal. This game is full of all shorts of jokes; I can’t guarantee you are going to like them all, but I certainly did enjoy most of them. I definitely wouldn’t understand if someone ever feel offended by any of them, and remember, it’s just a video game!
Part of the humor in this game is the amount of references it contains, some of them are constantly breaking the 4th wall. This game has plenty of dark humor to deliver.
Even though the game is constantly making jokes about practically everything, I can say it was an interesting story; after completing the game, I wanted to find more about the comic books that inspired the game.
Blue Estate doesn’t take boss fights too seriously (that doesn’t usually happen on a game) and I’m ok with that; the problem was it felt easy to kill them, just a matter of time. Another issue I found is that I often felt like some of the missions took forever to complete; it would have been better more and shorter missions . And talking about missions, I have to say that in certain moments, it often reminded me of Tarantino films (which is great) and other times of a John Woo/ Michael Bay film (not as good as Tarantino but… not bad! let’s just say cheaper versions!)
I still can’t believe I have enjoyed playing a rail shooting game on a console using the controller; seems crazy but that’s the truth, I have enjoyed it, and that can only be possible because it’s a fun game and it’s amazingly adapted to a console. Also, I really liked the addition of the exclusive arcade mode; it is challenging as can be and brings more hours of gameplay to the table (re-playability value is always welcomed)
Blue Estate is a nice trip down memory lane; do you remember the good old days playing some House Of The Dead or Time Crisis? Days when the pocket was full of coins and you spent the whole day (and every coin!) inside video arcades. Once you purchase this game you won’t need to insert more coins!
Blue Estate gets a 80/100 score.