I’ve spent many, many hours holding a plastic gun in my hand, usually after a movie or during a visit to my local shopping mall. I remember buying the PlayStation 2 version of ‘Time Crisis‘ along with two light-guns and thinking I had died and gone to arcade heaven. Sadly, there has been a lack of rail-shooters in these past few years, save for a few of those Kinect titles that made you wish you had a real gun blasting at the sensor. Luckily ‘Blue Estate‘ has arrived to re-kindle those old trigger-happy memories.
Named after the comic book series of the same name, Blue Estate is a wacky, low-brow, and offensive romp through bullets and bloodshed, and it’s fantastic. The bad humour, unlikeable characters, and overall sliminess of the game makes it feel like just that; a game. You take control of two different characters throughout the game’s story; Tony Luciano, a dimwitted mafioso with the sort of sleazy attitude you’d expect from a low-level mobster with more bullets than brains, and Clarence, a ex-Navy Seal in deep with the mob for a chance at some real money. During the course of the game they find themselves in ridiculous situation after ridiculous situation, from night clubs to sewers, facing off against everything from short-stature madmen, to crazed chihuahuas. The game keeps things very campy and over the top throughout.
The art direction of the game feels very much like a comic book itself. With its colourful enemies and bosses, mixed with vivid environments, the game pulls off the gritty ‘grind-house‘ look very well. Pushing sex and violence, the game does not hold back with half-nude women, explosions, flying dogs, and insulting jokes. Some may find these sorts of things offensive, but it’s all presented in such a tongue-in-cheek way that it’s hard to take any of it seriously. Blue Estate is a bullet-filled rail-shooter of no consequence and it knows it.
Visually the game is about what you’ve come to expect from rail-shooters. While the graphics aren’t something to be awed by, they are fairly clean and visually pleasing. While I wouldn’t call it entirely ‘next-gen’, the game keeps a steady frame-rate and looks better most last-gen rail-shooters.
When I first noticed that the game would be using the DualShock 4‘s gyroscopic sensor to allow motion controlled aiming, I was a bit concerned to say the least. The setup consisted of simply holding the controller where you feel most conformable, hitting the L1 button to calibrate it, then moving the controller around to aim. Yes, it’s really that simple. After playing for around five or so minutes it felt fantastic, better even than using a WiiMote or similar motion controls. I was genuinely amazed at how accurate the cross-hair was without any camera or visual sensor involved. As with most rail-shooters, right trigger is shoot, left trigger is reload/take cover. There is also the usual pick-up weapons and boosters such as slow motion, health, and ammo.
Another interesting addition is the named shots and bonus hits. Headshots and speed of course add to your score, but also nutshots and even short mini-game like sections that involve you shooting thugs in a ‘whack-a-mole’ style or scoring headshots in a certain order, which all add to your final score. They also incorporate the touch-pad for picking up items, melee attacking enemies and interactions with the environment, such as opening a door or throwing back hand grenades. Overall the controls work extremely well with the rail-shooting style and I honestly think it’s one of the best home console rail-shooters in years.
The game includes local-co-op as well, so you and a friend can shoot up the underbelly of crime together. When I played with a buddy we both found it to be quite fun, and again reminiscent of ‘Time Crisis’ or ‘House of The Dead‘. While I would have loved to see an online co-op option, they do offer leaderboards to compare various different stats between you, your friends, and the world.
The soundtrack is what you would come to expect from a grind-house styled presentation. Heavy guitars and thumping bass mixed in with funky 70s guitar riffs; the music just feels like someone should be shooting something. The voice acting isn’t the stuff you would be giving awards to, but then again I don’t think it’s supposed to be. The actors come across as a bit cheesy but like it or not, it fits with the game. Sound effects are also nice. Weapons sound heavy and loud as do environmental destruction, with the cracking of wood and the sound of falling glass.
Overall, Blue Estate is one the best console rail-shooters in years. Its humour and style may be crude to some, but I don’t know how anyone could take it seriously given the context. If you are looking for some good old fashion shoot ’em up arcade fun; then Blue Estate delivers. If you are a bit iffy about the DualShock controls, grab the demo and see for yourself. It’s the best use of the DS4’s gyroscopic sensor I’ve seen yet. The story may come across as weak, but more importantly; it’s fun.