Blue Estate is an Eisner award winning graphic novel series by Viktor Kalvachev. Its description of being a darkly comedic and comically violent series sounds right up my alley and the video game adaptation was designed in mind to mirror the same over-the-top nature of the graphic novel. It also serves as a prequel to Blue Estate Season 1.
Developed by HeSaw Games, Blue Estate is a first person on-rails shooter, much like arcade classics such as House of the Dead or Time Crisis. The game is developed for the PS4, making full use of the DualShock 4's gyroscopes to get that feeling of an arcade light gun without having to purchase any accessories.
The story is about both the fall of Tony Luciano (son of an LA mob boss) and rise of Clarence (an ex-Navy SEAL looking for a new beginning). Both stories are interwoven, starting off with Tony's fight to rescue his favourite dancer from a rival gang led by the Sik Bros, one of whom is Kim Jong-Un lookalike Kim Bong Sik. After shooting up the place, you realize Tony's only made matters worse, and started a war he couldn't possibly finish on his own. This is where Clarence comes in. Trying to save enough money to prevent his mother's house from foreclosing, he is hired to clean up Tony's mess. The story is silly, basic and wildly over the top. It's clear that it's not a narrative driven masterpiece, but there's still an element of charm in its absurdity. From the cross-dressing caricature of Korea's leader, to the quick quips, cheesy dialogue and brief interruptions from the FBP (Federal Bureau of Procrastination) agent that is narrating the game, Blue Estate certainly doesn't take itself seriously, and prides itself on just that.
As mentioned earlier, the gameplay is the classic arcade on-rails shooters. Using the gyroscopes on the DualShock 4, players move their motion controllers in place of a typical light gun. It is very precise and really does offer a creative way of first person shooting with a traditional controller. That being said, it does feel as though it's crying out for some sort of Light Gun accessory for the next gen consoles. Moving that as a motion controller would feel more natural to me than a controller. Regardless, HeSaw deserve their recognition for the gyroscopic shooting. They have offered a re-centering button so that you can always reposition your reticle if your angle changes as you move through the levels. You can crouch in certain areas, melee enemies in close quarters, and accurately aim for the head or testicles for bonus points. There are also silly uses of the touchpad, like flicking Tony's hair to get it out of his face. That may seem annoying to people trying to get high scores, but the comedy of actually having to do that is quite amusing.
The game is fairly short, with only 7 missions to complete on the initial run-through, but to be fair, it is trying to emulate that arcade feel of on-rails shooters that were as short in comparison. All missions look and feel different from one another, and of course you can replay them on higher difficulties and test your aiming. It also allows for offline multiplayer so you and a buddy can play couch coop. There doesn't seem to be an online mode, but in truth these types of shooters are meant to be played with someone beside you. Still, it is a missed opportunity to not include an online mode. They have at the very least included online leaderboards so you can compare final scores with other people.
Visuals do impress and by the nature of it being an on-rails game, the developers have total control of where they want you to look, so in that sense it's no surprise that they really focused on gun model details and character models as well. Still, compared to other indie shooters, it is a delight to see such considerable effort put into this aspect. In fact, despite Daylight utilizing the Unreal 4 engine, Blue Estate looks and performs much better using its predecessor, Unreal 3. There wasn't an instance of frame rate drops in any of my playthroughs, which is again expected given the nature of the genre, but appreciated nonetheless.
Despite positives, it's difficult to recommend Blue Estate for everyone. It's a niche genre and Blue Estate does a decent job of fitting itself into that niche's market, but it seems like a genre that's sadly being forgotten in place of the competitive shooting scene. You can appreciate the nod to days spent at arcades, but it doesn't have light gun support at the moment and that's a huge shame. You will get that feeling of quick, fun to play arcade action, but that's unfortunately all it will be.
|Great motion control support from the Dual Shock 4.|
|Couch co-op with a friend.|
|Some genuinely funny moments.|
|A little on the short side.|
|As good as the motion controls feel, it really needs a light gun.|