Blue Estate is everything I want out of an on-rails shooter. Thank you, good night.
I suppose I should elaborate. I’ve always been a huge fan of the House of the Dead games, so stumbling upon Blue Estate was like finding the trail to King Tut’s tomb, or Kim Jong Un’s lacy underwear drawer or something of the sort. You know a game is going to be good when reviews on certain mainstream websites are falling over themselves to tell you how offended the reviewer is by the game’s content and desperately trying to peg otherwise positive attributes as negative. I mean, you shoot a guy with your gun and then what? He dies? And it’s on rails? What kind of on-rails shooter is this?
It’s pretty obvious in the jokes and presentation that the folks at He Saw don’t care one iota about the hurt feelings of the internet’s legion of failed journalists turned video game critics, and the developers push that angle at every possible moment. The story is told as an oddly delightful mashup of House of the Dead’s b-movie attitude and Deadpool’s inner monologue as the player character, the narrator, and the subtitles constantly push each other out of the way for attention. It had me laughing pretty hard at quite a few moments.
The story is told from two points of view, with Italian mobster Tony Luciano looking to rescue his girlfriend while ex-Navy Seal turned mercenary Clarence follows in his path and cleans up the messes he leaves behind. Their stories will take both characters to all sorts of goofy locations, from sewers to a wedding, a chicken factory that also serves as a battle arena, and a foggy graveyard to boot. Both characters have their personal flaws, Tony’s hair keeps getting in the way and Clarence stepped in Chihuahua pheromones and finds his leg the target for every horny Chihuahua in the tri-state area.
The whole game is narrated by the nasally voiced Roy Devine Jr., a man who is prone to go on nerdy tangents and regularly is cut off and muted by the apologetic FPS Authority text box. The actors all do a great job of sticking to their script, rarely breaking character and giving an authenticity that everyone in the game is right out of a Frank Miller drama. How seriously should you take this game? The first boss is a Kim Jong Un caricature with a not so secret fetish for wearing women’s underwear. He’s also a ninja because Korea or something and he happens to be friends with Dennis Rodman. Are you getting the satire now?
As an on-rails shooter, I enjoyed the fact that characters seem to have more versatility than your average game in the genre. You have your standard shoot, reload, etc. In House of the Dead, for instance, characters tend to stick to a rail of walking around on level ground and shooting. In Blue Estate, you’ll find yourself hanging upside down, sliding down rivers and mudslides, falling, hanging from rafters, and shooting bad (worse?) guys while your character does all sorts of slow motion acrobatics. The movement is all handled automatically, but it puts on a good show for the viewer and lets the developers do some stuff they wouldn’t normally be able to get away with in a standard shooter.
One area where Blue Estate hangs is in the gun department. Each level effectively provides the player’s pistol plus one limited-ammo weapon that is found along the way, usually an automatic machine gun or rifle. While a nice change, the pistol you are equipped with comes with unlimited ammunition and can already pop most enemies with one shot to the head, making the second gun more of a liability than a treat to be used wisely. There are a couple of guns that are actual detriments, a shotgun and a powerful hand cannon that hit more than their target and can kill a head shot streak and lower your score.
Blue Estate was a light gun game built with the Leap Motion in mind, a motion controller that you stick your hand in front of and use to control the game. From my understanding, Blue Estate works quite well with this controller, using your hand to swipe, aim, and shoot. I don’t own one of these, so I wound up substituting the control with my mouse and likely giving myself an unfair advantage. Enemies in the game operate as though you’re working on either a controller or motion controls, think first person shooters on mobile level of delay before they actually hit you, so if you’re going to play with a mouse I recommend cranking the difficulty up to give yourself a challenge.
Overall, Blue Estate is a nice return to the Grindhouse shooters that we haven’t really seen since House of the Dead: Overkill in 2009. It brings to the table ridiculous enemies, grossly over-the-top stereotypes, scantily clad women in varying degrees of undress, and a story that is very on the nose and throws all forms of subtlety out the window. Clocking in at about 3 or 4 hours for the main story, Blue Estate also includes an arcade mode to rack up points and get that much desired high score and achievements.
Fans of House of the Dead should lap this game right up. You can get it for $5 as part of the latest Bundle Stars package or for $12.99 on Steam. Alternately, console users can grab a copy on PS4 and Xbox One.
Final Score: A.