Off the rails

When I first think of rail shooters, arcade experiences usually pop to mind, but every now and again, these games provide a refreshing change of shooter pace on home consoles as well. In fact, some of my favorite experiences on the last generation of consoles included The House of the Dead: Overkill and Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles for that very reason. Now that we’ve got a new generation of consoles, I wondered if there was anything they’d provide that could help freshen up the genre.

Enter Blue Estate, a prequel to a 12-issue comic book of the same name from a few years back that tries to insert players into that world’s tongue-in-cheek noir crime drama. Instead of playing as the comic’s bumbling detective protagonist, however, players are inserted into the shoes of Tony Luciano, the incompetent son of a Mafia Don, and Clarence, the handsomely paid ex-Navy SEAL who’s often following after Tony to clean up his messes.

The best thing Blue Estate does is circumvent the need for a PS Move by instead using the gyroscope built directly into the DualShock 4. While this does make aiming a tad less accurate, the game compensates with an aim-assist feature and the ability to recenter your cursor at any time, no matter the controller position, with just a tap of the L1 button. Surprisingly, the controls are rather intuitive because of this, and I saw myself mowing down rival mobsters with no issues whatsoever. The game even finds a way to make the touchpad useful with touch-sensitive prompts for melee and opening doors.

Once you get past the controls, though, there’s really very little to be excited about with Blue Estate. The premise is straightforward, but at no point do you get enough from the story to make you care about the characters or the ridiculous situations they’re in. And beyond the occasional chuckle, there’s really nothing funny about this self-described “dark comedy,” either. Throw in some of the most canned, stereotypical dialogue you’d expect, and the entire script should’ve never seen the light of day.

Besides its miserable excuse for a story, the game is also tremendously short, especially for its $19.99 price tag. It has seven levels, the first six of which should take you only three hours to complete. To lengthen the experience, the last level then sees a ridiculous difficulty spike that may cost you another hour or two. To help illustrate this: In the first six levels of the game, I died four times. In the last level alone, I failed 18 times.

Because of the boring story, the gameplay monotony becomes startlingly evident, even for a rail shooter. All seven levels are full of the same carbon-copy thugs who all go down with a simple headshot or nutshot (heh, the game says “nuts” a lot…so funny, right?). There’s no enemy variety whatsoever, except for the game’s three bosses. They don’t offer much of a challenge either, though, except as an exercise in trying to keep awake. They’ve got lifebars that are ridiculously long, yet their AI is so simple that you’ll repeat the same pattern a dozen times without taking a hit before they finally drop.

Even Blue Estate’s guns–a make-or-break element of these types of shooters–leave something to be desired. You have a simple pistol with infinite ammo, and come across another weapon in each level. Some, like the assault rifle, make the game too simple, as you’ll find yourself racking up 200- and 300-kill combos in no time. Others, like the shotgun and the Magnum, have too short a range, making distant enemies impossible to hit. That means you’ll likely spend most of your time sticking with your default pistol, which only adds to the frustration.

Blue Estate also includes a couple of other features that you’d expect from any rail shooter to help try to salvage this trainwreck. Local co-op is available if you want to play with a friend, and two DualShock 4-controlled crosshairs work just as well as one. Global leaderboards are also present if you feel like replaying the game over and over to try and get a high score.

The only issue with that? I can’t imagine people wanting to play this game once, never mind multiple times. Blue Estate should’ve been satisfied staying a mediocre comic book, because it only makes a crappy video game.

Developer: HeSaw • Publisher: Focus Home Interactive • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 06.24.14
Utilizing the DualShock 4’s gyroscope and light sensor is a great gimmick, and it’s a concept I hope other rail shooters implement. Beyond that, though, Blue Estate is a boring shell full of cheap, unfunny stereotypes that isn’t worth a single playthrough.
The Good Uses the DualShock 4’s gyroscope for targeting.
The Bad Sad attempts at humor, dialogue, and character development.
The Ugly Just another example in my war against prequels of any kind.
Blue Estate is currently a PS4 exclusive. Review code was provided by Focus Home Interactive for the benefit of this review.