Blue Estate Review: Drunken Tranquility

June 26th, 2014 -

I grew up playing Duck Hunt on the NES with a light gun, and have been intrigued by light gun games since. Some of my favorite games to play at the arcade would be anything involving them – something about shooting and reloading with a physical gun was just thrilling. It felt more real than holding a rectangular controller with an A and B button. Various iterations of Time Crisis stole many a quarter from me, though in recent years the novelty has worn off a bit. The last arcade light gun title I played was Gunslinger Stratos, which is quite a bit different from what I’m accustomed to – it has analog sticks, melee attacks, special attacks depending on the character you choose when you combine your guns, and you get to do crazy anime jumping… That game is what light gun titles should be turning into – though games like Dead Space: Extraction aren’t bad for consoles. So naturally, when I saw Blue Estate was an on-rails shooter, I thought I’d give it a go.

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As you may or may not know, Blue Estate is an adaptation of a comic that had a fairly short run. I’ve never read it, so excuse me for not being able to say if it’s a decent adaptation or not – but what I gather from the game is that it’s very self-aware and likes to break the fourth wall a lot, while being over-the-top in both violence and sexual tones. I’d also say it’s probably pretty accurate as Victor Kalvachev, the creator of the series, is also the creative director of HeSaw. Sadly, I’m not sure I’d say the game feels like a comic – the art style is nice enough, but nothing that leaves my mouth agape; the cutscenes in-between the gameplay is where it feels most like a comic in aesthetics. There are certainly elements of ridiculousness that show this is nothing you’d see on a walk around the neighborhood, but I feel like it isn’t ridiculous enough at times. It almost feels like a tamer on-rails Shadow Warrior.

So gameplay… It utilizes the motion sensor in the PS4 controller which is fairly sensitive. Admittedly, when I first started playing I didn’t realize I could center the crosshairs reticule on the fly. This would’ve saved me the trouble of holding the controller upside down while playing, as it gets messed up really quickly. I would pause and look for a way to recalibrate, not see it, then continue on holding the controller backwards while playing. After getting a game over and debating whether to even try again (considering I couldn’t even aim the reticule at the Play selection, it was hard to say yes). Eventually I started mashing everything on the controller to see if there was a reset, and if I had just paid attention to the help menu, I would’ve known that up on the D-pad or L1 would reset it. This makes the game actually playable, so I got back into it.

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Each level starts you out with a pistol with infinite ammo (there is one where you start with a machine gun), and later down the level you get something else that requires you to pick up ammo using the touchpad. The touch mechanic is used throughout for picking up health, getting the hair out of your face, dodging objects, melee attacks, etc. It works well for the most part, though near the end of the game it didn’t register swipes that needed to be done in a flash which was annoying. As for that gun, depending on what you get, it makes the rest of the level a breeze. If you’ve got a machine gun of some sort, you’re set. Just aim at the heads and you’re home free. Got a single shot weapon? Hope you have good aim. Running out of bullets is only possible (at least on the normal difficulty) if you really suck at killing enemies (or if you’re on the last level). At times you’ll come to a portion of the level that lets you use cover, which is indicated by an icon at the bottom of the screen. This makes reloading safe up until they destroy your cover, but by then you should be good to go. Another thing the game does is notify you of who is going to shoot you. A marker shows up and fills out telling you who is going to do damage next so you know who your threats are, as well as when to take cover if you are overwhelmed. It’s a nice mechanic, though I’d imagine the hardest difficulty gets rid of it as it makes the game a bit too easy.

The humor used in the game is definitely not going to please everyone – if you like a raunchy laugh now and then, the first part of the game is for you. If you like the agent that gets pissed at the stupid navigators, you’ll like the middle to late portions of the game. The game overall feels like it’s aimed at a more immature audience. I’m not a huge fan of South Park, but playing that game I laughed quite a bit. I feel like the humor here is going in a similar direction at times, but doesn’t quite commit. The fourth wall bits are about what you’d expect: John Woo tribute, Michael Bay low budget tribute – amusing, but predictable. Boss characters feel like they’re supposed to be shown off in a similar fashion to Borderlands, and their fights involve you going in circles, avoiding the objects being thrown, killing regular dudes, and shooting the boss or hitting the objects to damage the boss. It’s about what you’d expect from a boss fight in an on-rails shooter in a single room, but considering it’s scripted, it would’ve been nice to see it be a bit more grand. The last boss is in an open area, so that’s the most exciting boss battle, but that was just frustrating with the constant movement (read: reticule centering required) and the guns provided.

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I didn’t know much about Blue Estate going in, so I can’t say my hopes were too high, but I did hope I’d enjoy the game more than I did. It’s not bad in spurts, and I wanted to play the multiplayer, but my wife wouldn’t like the way all the women are portrayed in the game (I don’t think there was a single one that wasn’t overly sexualized) – the femme fatale (Cherry Popz) more or less fits that archetype when you meet her, and she gets what she wants throughout the game’s story the couple times you see her, but during the actual gameplay she is no more than a damsel in distress. Not really what I picture when I think femme fatale (I think more along the lines of Nikita from Luc Besson’s mind). Maybe I just don’t get the game’s humor, or I missed something while playing.

HeSaw’s Blue Estate is a game that’s playable if you are jonesing to play an on-rails shooter involving scantily clad women and Eastern European enemies (as the game notes so often). The controls are a bit wonky and never too problematic until the last mission. The game isn’t really standout good or bad. It was fun while it lasted, but I can’t see myself going back to get the rest of the trophies. Also, the price point for the game is pretty steep. Perhaps not to some, but for the experience itself, I’d say wait on a price drop.

RENT

Pros

  • Danger Warning
  • Reticule Centering (on the fly calibration)
  • Machine Guns

Cons

  • One Dimensional Characters
  • Reticule Centering (needing to do it every time the character moves)
  • Single Shot Guns

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