Blue Estate Review

Blue Estate was released on June 25th, 2014 for the PS4. The game was developed by He-Saw. A download code was provided for review purposes.

Blue Estate is an arcade on-rail shooter, akin to House of the Dead, Area 51, or anything you see with a plastic gun sticking off of it at Chuck E Cheese. It uses the gyro sensor in the dualshock 4 controller to aim a reticle across the screen for you to shoot down waves of bad guys. The game is based off the comic book by the same name. The art and character influence are very noticeable even if you have only just seen the cover of the comic. The whole game is not took long, only about seven chapters each taking about 20 minutes to complete. The game looks pretty good running on the PS4. Sometimes the explosions can look a little weak, but you can tell they put some time into the character models and environments. At the end of the day though none of that can make of for the games played out game mechanics and awful handling of story.

Blue Estate aims to ooze character and panache, but it falls flat by telling a very dilapidated and fragmented story. The game is played through two different characters eyes who have seemingly no relation. They would have been better off being separate campaigns rather than mashed together. The first character, Tony Luciano the bratty son of a mob boss, has a loose lip and bad hair style. The second character, Clairence, is a more professional hitman, backed up with dumb as rock side kicks for entertainment. Tony is entertaining at first, but his one liners get old fast. You quickly realize that he really only cares about sex and his gun. I guess his dad’s admiration is thrown in there too, but only for cut scenes. Each level plays out a new scene for Tony or Clairence, but there is not really any connecting story. The whole thing is told through the eyes of a nerdy P.I. who even the fourth wall can’t tolerate and silences most of the time for you.

The story could be forgiven if the game play was a blast, but sadly there is no hope there either. Blue Estate does nothing to spark the on-rail genre. It plays just like Area 51 did in 1995. There are some duck and cover mechanics when you are playing single player and you have to manually reload your gun when it’s out of ammo. Your pistol has unlimited ammo, and in each level you find a power weapon you can switch to on the fly which does have consumable ammo. I actually really liked using the power weapons in this game. I’m usually so much of an ammo hoarder that I’m too reluctant to use it, but in this game they throw so much ammo your way it’s just wasteful when you’re sitting on a full clip and not knocking out baddies with it.

The overall design just falls flat though. The entire game is just hallway after hallway of men with guns. Occasionally they take a break and ask you to shoot guys in the head in a certain order to score bonus points, but really you are still just shooting more guys. They levels also continually repeat themselves. To run through the same main square room in the first level a good five times before Tony figures out he has to go up stairs to get to where he is going. Blue Estate needs more than a change in scenery to keep the overall experience fresh. Stages vary from a Chinese casino to a graveyard to a country club, but you are still shooting the same dudes in the face in each level. This stale gameplay gives the game no replay value. When I went back to play a level over again I just noticed all the flaws in the design even more, and the punchlines to all the jokes had already been played out. Needless to say repeated playthroughs are tedious and nothing more.

When I heard that Blue Estate was going to be a rail shooter I was a little shocked. It didn’t use the PS Move or come sold with a gun controller. He-Saw used the gyroscope in the controller to move the targeting reticule on screen. At times it was hard to use a fluid motion to hit the corners of the screen but they thankfully kept most of the combat focused in the middle section of the screen. I also kept feeling out of sync with the middle of the screen. Not sure if that had to do with the calibration or my hand placement, but you can readjust the crosshair with a simple press of a button. I had to constantly readjust but it didn’t bother me.

One thing I felt that was lacking from Blue Estate was any sense of progression. Nothing you did from a previous stage carried over into the next. You didn’t even get to keep your power weapons or ammo. I would have loved some sort of unlock, or experience level system, something that keeps me engaged from level to level. Even the high scores did nothing to entice me. Out pacing yourself for a second time felt like little more than luck or knowledge of the level so I could keep my score multiplier up.

Overall this game is just lacking polish and modernization. I really think with a little more thought this game could have been pretty cool. The game obviously has a theme it’s trying to represent, based on the character from the comics. But where Telltale matched the story and dialog of say Walking Dead, He-Saw doesn’t quite meet the quality expectations we all have from a project like this. The game design needed to have a little more thought put into it than just “Go here and shoot guys.” It was a feat to get a rail shooter to work with just the gyro sensor of the controller, and I hope other devs can think of interesting ways to use all the tech inside these sweet controllers to make great gameplay, but I just think Blue Estate overall misses the mark and feels like it belongs in the 90’s.