Blue Estate is a rail shooter for the PlayStation4 and Xbox One, and in short, it’s pretty awful.
The very first thing you’ll notice playing the game is that this is not suitable for children. The start menu features a barely clothed pole dancer, and the opening of the game immediately hits you with the low-brow humor which perforates the entire game. While this sort of approach can work in an ironic way – step forward, House of the Dead: Overkill – there’s no sign here that the developer intended their game to be satire, and the result is a game that makes Duke Nukem Forever look highbrow.
At least it’s a good-looking game, which feels like a callback to arcade shooters of old with comic-like aesthetics. The framerate is smooth, character models are at least well-rendered and there’s a decent amount of detail in the environments. Unfortunately, the game looks drastically better than it sounds; the music is bland, and the voice acting really isn’t great.
Blue Estate revolves primarily around Tony Luciano, the son of Don Luciano and a particularly stupid and ruthless gangster. His girlfriend and favorite stripper, Cherry, gets abducted by a rival gang ‘cos she’s the best in the biz’ness and you have to get her back because goddamnit, she belongs to you. While the premise of Blue Estate is far from being original, Blue Estate is based on the comic by Viktor Kalvachev of the same name.
What He-Saw Games does differently from other rail shooters is that they made the main playable protagonist in Blue Estate sound like Peter Griffin from Family Guy. The Narrator, as you can gather from the trailer, is irritating as hell – to the point where the game often cuts him off for comic effect – but listening to Tony speak is like licking a cheese grater; sure his one-liners will get the occasional smirk out of you, but by and large it’s still a grating experience overall.
Our second playable protagonist is an ex-marine-turned-mercenary whose name isn’t important, and who really doesn’t enjoy working with the low-IQ gangsters he is partnered with. When Tony decided to shoot up the Chinese gang who stole his girlfriend from him – killing a high-ranking gangster in the process – that gangster’s family stole the Don’s prize horse, the titular Blue Estate. Tony is forced to pay the million dollar ransom from his own accounts, but obviously gets into a firefight instead. Our friendly mercenary is the guy sent in to clean up the mess, and winds up kicking chihuahuas across the room along the way.
The story is just a mess. At least the mercenary isn’t too bad to play as, and is by no means anywhere near as irritating as Tony, but Blue Estate commits one of the cardinal sins of game design: The mercenary is pictured at the beginning of each mission he plays in, and never with a helmet. As one of the many QTEs in Blue Estate, you will often find yourself wiping water off of his invisible helmet as he gets it in his eyes.
It’s an annoying trend that can be seen in more and more videogames, and it really, really needs to stop. Eyeballs aren’t visors.
Mechanically, Blue Estate adds nothing to the rail shooter genre except QTEs. As Tony, you will be running around, spouting racist remarks when suddenly your fair falls in your face. Tony stands there like a schmuck saying how much he loves his hair, even if it’s impractical, while you glare at the TV aghast as you try to shoot without being able to see about 85% of the screen. In order to see who’s shooting you, you have to swipe the DualShock 4’s touchpad up, which is nothing but frustrating; this is the same mechanic which sees you frantically wiping water from the mercenary’s imaginary visor.
Other QTEs come in the form of melee attacks which are massively telegraphed in the form of an ethnic minority running at you with a melee weapon raised overhead, screaming bloody murder. You swipe the touchpad to the side and whack them in the face with whichever gun you have to hand. You can shoot them, but you won’t get as many points for it, and you’ll be graded more harshly at the end of the level.
Rail shooters have been around for decades. as such you would expect the mechanics to be fairly tight. Virtua Cop, Time Crisis, and the aforementioned House of the Dead: Overkill have all shown that even without the gaudy plastic lightguns found in arcades, a rail shooter can still be perfectly enjoyable on home platforms.Sadly, Blue Estate feels like a relic, the premise and design something a 12-year-old might come up with in his bedroom during school holidays.
There is a point mechanic to the game, where headshots, melee kills and shooting collectibles net you bonus points, and a set of very self-referential boss fights, but these are all fairly standard for the genre. The problem with Blue Estate is that the shooting mechanics – the single most important aspect in a game of this description – are awful. You hold your controller in a central position and press L1 – from here on out, you aim by tilting the controller, and shoot everyone and everything you can. Unfortunately, if you find yourself shifting your weight, leaning to the side, twisting your body, or if the sun is at a particular angle in the sky, your reticule falls out of calibration.
In your average rail shooter, you would persevere and recalibrate after the skirmish in that 5-10 second window where your enemies aren’t on-screen, and where the clever writers give you a chance to let the tension drop. In Blue Estate this is not the case. Enemies will rush you for minutes at a time, and you will find yourself mashing the shoulder buttons trying to reload and re-center the target reticule multiple times per firefight. The reload mechanic is awful, having to hold the reload button if you want more than one shell in your shotgun; we’ve done this before, Blue Estate. We know how to do this. Tap the button to reload all of your shells, if you need to shoot, shoot and you will cancel the reload. It’s not a hard concept and it already works. Don’t break shit that doesn’t need breaking.
There is also a cover mechanic, but it barely works; it only works when the game wants it to, but never when you need it to. Tony will often leap through the air, 80’s style, and lie on the floor while 10 people shoot at him from a mezzanine, instead of running for cover. On the one hand it admittedly looks pretty cool, and if you managed to shoot the slow-mo token, you can rack up some easy points; on the other hand, if you miss, you’re likely to lose one of your 5 lives.
Yes, Blue Estate uses that redundant life system that we all loathe. While there are health pickups intermittently scattered throughout levels, you’ll find yourself having to restart a 30-minute long level 20 minutes in because you ran out lives after killing 400 people due to the shoddy mechanics, constant QTEs and a never-ending supply of ethnic minorities to shoot. Even the most hardcore fan will have a hard time enjoying Blue Estate, which falls hideously short of the source material.
At this point there isn’t a lot to say. He-Saw aimed for dark humor, and came out with low-brow, borderline racist and entirely sexist humor that make even Duke Nukem look like a paragon of socially progressive attitudes. If this is all you look for in a game, Blue Estate is the game for you. If however, you like your games to be fun and functional, Blue Estate should be given a wide berth. Offensive both in its portrayal of women and people of different races, Blue Estate would possibly have done better if it were released 15 years ago when crude juvenile humor was almost expected from games, but there is no excuse for releasing such a poorly designed game in today’s day and age, and even fans of the source material will come away from this shaking their heads after the scant three hours it takes to complete.
Many games manage to skirt the line between parody and genuine offense through some deft scripting and tight design. Sadly, Blue Estate shows none of the consideration or design know-how to recommend as even a curio. The result is a game that is not only insulting to women and ethnic minorities, but is insulting to gamers.