Archives by Day

December 2021

Blue Estate

Platform(s): PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Developer: HESAW
Release Date: Feb. 18, 2015

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


As an Amazon Associate, we earn commission from qualifying purchases.

Xbox One Review - 'Blue Estate'

by Brian Dumlao on April 17, 2015 @ 2:00 a.m. PDT

Blue Estate is a darkly funny rail shooter based on the Eisner Award-nominated Blue Estate comic books from Viktor Kalvachev.

The light gun shooter has been a niche market for gaming at home, especially once you got past the NES era, when the light gun was no longer packed in with consoles. It has become even more niche with the advent of the LCD/LED/Plasma TV, as the technology was rendered obsolete, forcing light gun game developers to use devices like the PlayStation Move or Wii Remote as stand-ins for the real thing. Despite this limitation, a few developers have pressed on, and developer HeSaw is giving the Xbox One its first light gun shooter in the form of Blue Estate.

It is a bit disingenuous to call it a light gun shooter, though, as you don't need the peripheral to play the game. Instead, you're given the choice of two different control methods to emulate it. The first method is with the control pad, where the buttons function as they would in a standard first-person shooter. The triggers fire your gun and change weapons once you acquire more than the standard pistol. The right analog stick controls aiming, and since you're on rails, the left analog stick emulates the swiping method used on the touch-screen of the PS4 version to pick up health, swat away bottles and grenades, and melee enemies who get close to you. It works as well as expected in this type of game; it's fine if you can deal with stiff movements and a somewhat unintuitive control method.

Your second control option is using the Kinect, and this is where things get interesting. Your left hand replaces the left analog stick, so the swiping actions feel more natural. The right hand is your gun, and you have to pan it around to move the aiming cursor. Once it goes to enemies, the gun automatically fires. Dropping your right hand causes you to reload your weapon and take cover in certain spots, while placing it over and behind your shoulder causes you to change weapons. There are no actions that are advanced enough to take advantage of the newer Kinect, but the stability of cursor movement that was missing in the PS4 version is here, so it's a better control method for those who prefer motion over standard controls.

Though the Kinect is certainly the favored control method for this game, it comes with a few caveats. The automatic fire means you have no real control over what you want to shoot, unless there happens to be an enemy nearby. Robbing the player's ability to shoot walls and vases to see stuff shatter is one thing, but when it means you can easily miss other extra targets that give point bonuses, you quickly realize that you miss the ability to control when you pull the trigger. Also, the automatic firing tends to lessen the skill needed, since you can simply pan the area and get a good hit due to the generous collision detection. The result is that the method that offers more fluidity also has a side effect of making the game unintentionally easier.

The story is functional enough but not memorable, though it's set up as a prequel to the graphic novel series of the same name. You first play the role of Tony Luciano, the dishonored son of a mafia godfather. The best dancer from his strip club was kidnapped by a rival Asian gang, and he goes on a mission to save her and fight the gang. This also creates a large gang war that extends beyond L.A. This is where Clarence, an ex-Navy SEAL-turned-hitman, comes in to play clean-up and hope the war doesn't escalate.

At almost every opportunity, the game tries to be funny, but unfortunately, it fails spectacularly. Clarence's teammates tend to deliver terrible information over the radio. Tony's racist remarks flow freely, and the private investigator narrating the whole affair often makes pop culture references or stumbles during his monologue. Some of the enemies you face have personal issues, like a gang member wearing a bra to support his man boobs or large Eastern European gangsters wearing thongs at a pool party. The problem is that those jokes are either blatantly offensive or don't elicit a chuckle. This is further solidified by a fourth-wall-breaking "FPS committee" that chimes in too often with random commentary that breaks up the pace of the game and makes things feel longer. Humor is certainly subjective, and while some players may find this quite funny, most will find them banal and tasteless.

The gameplay is exactly what you'd expect from the genre. While the game is automatically piloting you along the level, you aim and fire at every moving object in your path. You'll find a few areas where you can take cover, but the locations will only survive a few shots before you're fully exposed. Combos are counted for as many kills as you can muster, though the countdown timer is very generous, and it takes two hits instead of one before that counter resets. Blue Estate has a generous health system, but it doesn't take long before you're taken down by too many shots.

The title sticks to the established formula for the most part, but there are some nice touches thrown in to make things go a little differently. A slow motion icon appears periodically, and when you shoot to activate it, enemy action slows down for a bit. Compared to other titles, the effect doesn't feel too profound, but it is helpful when it appears during busy scenes and boss fights. You have the ability to pick up different guns and switch them out. Although you have unlimited ammo for your pistol and you can only carry one spare firearm at a time per stage, the change makes the gunfights livelier. Also, there are several sections per level that act as minigames, where you have to perform specific tasks for bonus points, such as hitting only headshots or taking out enemies in a particular order. Even though the actions are essentially the same as other sections and there's no real penalty for messing up, they provide a nice change of pace.

Perhaps even more surprising is how the game bucks the trend as far as camera work goes, and it decides to go nuts in a few situations. Panning around levels is smooth, but both of your characters have a tendency to dive into places, so you're viewing the action from the floor while you shoot everyone. There are even a few times when you'll go upside-down and shoot enemies. It really isn't much but, like the minigames, they're good to have for a small amount of variety.

There are a few things that Blue Estate just doesn't do right. Though the seven stages make the campaign rather short, each stage feels rather long during gameplay. Part of that comes from the unfunny humor breaks, but it's also due to the fact that some of the stages have you revisit several sections multiple times to pad things out. Boss fights also feel rather drawn-out, though the presence of power-ups and ammo refills ease that feeling. Some of the extra actions, like Tony's constant hair problems and Clarence's issues with a Chihuahua, become very annoying when you just want to shoot things.

Beyond the story mode, there isn't much more to it. Arcade mode requires a playthrough of story mode to unlock everything, and the only difference between them is that the arcade versions of each level are streamlined for time attack instead of playing it straight. Co-op is also included for the seven stages and, like most light gun shooters, the action is more fun with a second firearm at the ready. Unless you want to tackle the game and the leaderboards with the higher difficulty levels or you want to hunt down all of the Achievements, that's all the title has to offer.

Graphically, the game looks fine as long as you aren't looking for showcases for the new platform. The environments and characters look good enough, but they could've been done on the older platforms, albeit at a lower resolution. This can also be said of the character count, which doesn't seem to break any thresholds. This doesn't mean that some flourish isn't present, though. Some of the environments have nice ink swirls and dots that'll remind you of old pulp comics, and Tony's pistol contains so many intricate details that you can't help but marvel at the work.

If you can deal with the humor, Blue Estate's sound is actually quite good. The voice acting doesn't submit to many racial stereotypes, and beyond Tony's typical mobster inflections, the delivery is quite good. Effects are standard action game fare, while the music hits the correct tones in matching the action and situations.

Blue Estate is surprising in both good and bad ways. On the one hand, it delivers some good action with a surprising amount of cinematic flair. It also shows that the lack of an actual light gun can work quite well. On the other hand, the rather short game can feel too long, and the humor fails at being funny. If you can live with those shortcomings, the game is worth checking out for light gun fans who are jonesing for a new experience.

Score: 6.0/10

More articles about Blue Estate
blog comments powered by Disqus