There is a distinct lack of noir and hardboiled style games, with perhaps L.A Noire being the most well known title that attempted to tackle the genre. It is somewhat surprising that such style isn’t emulated more, especially since the kinds of stories that belong to the genre seem ripe for video game adaptation. A Crowd Of Monsters appear to have seen the gap in the market, and decided to take a shot at noir with Blues & Bullets.
Blues & Bullets takes inspiration from a real life adversarial relationship, that of Al Capone and leader of lawful task force The Untouchables, Eliot Ness. This relationship is set against an alternate historical version of the 1950’s, against a plot where children are being kidnapped by an incredibly strange cult. Having two members of the early 1920’s/30’s crime scene wouldn’t be the first connection you’d make when making such a game, but in a way it is is intriguing. In this time frame neither Ness or Capone are as powerful as they used to be, and both have to deal with that while also dealing with the rise of the cult.
In games like this the plot is absolutely key to keeping a player involved, and Blues & Bullets’ first episode does set the foundation for what could be a story full of twists and turns. In the first episode things escalate quite quickly from a rather quaint diner at the outset, to investigating a brutal crime scene in a house. Along the way the various game play mechanics make themselves known.
The first are the multiple choice options that have a bearing on how the other characters react to protagonist Ness, as well as the way he deals with the problems that he must face. One part of the game that caught me off guard was the third-person on-rails shooting gallery which has you shoot through waves of gangsters. Some adjustments with the aiming sensitivity were required to make this section feel smooth, but overall it worked moderately well. There are also quick time events within the game, including some fights and this caused a bit more grief.
The QTEs didn’t always register when pushing a button which led to failing the task at hand, meaning you had to start again. Another annoying part of a particular event was when an accompanying character could have helped but decides not to because of reasons, even though failure would mean that character would have got in a lot of trouble. That logic absence was very annoying, and worse still was that Ness didn’t even question the action afterwards even though it could have got him killed.
The most interesting part of the game is searching for clues at crime scenes, and then trying to place them on a board to work out what happened. There is quite a lot of hand-holding though considering every clue is marked with a big red eye as you walk towards it, but after finding the initial clue you need to work whether that item is related to the motive or part of how the crime was committed. You can’t place the clues on the wrong part of the board because the game won’t let you.
While Blues & Bullets’ story does have an overall interesting plot it is this logic misplacement and average script that may hinder quality going forward. Most of the lines are good but a couple will come across as very clichéd. There is a lot of style within the game with the black, white, grey, and red colour palette really capturing the noir essence. The way the rain falls too with screen effects making it look like water is running down the camera is mesmerising. The original music score really fits the tone too, helping to transport you to a different era.
The End Of Peace feels like A Crowd Of Monsters has crammed too much within the two and a half hour introductory episode, with lots of characters and events occurring without much time to digest what came before. Going forward there needs to be a bit more restraint in the way events unfold. There are just what feel like jumps from one scene to another, with very little emotional investment required by the player.
Blues & Bullets has a lot of potential and The End Of Peace is a glimpse of that. There is a foundation for a very good mystery thriller, as well as a basis for well thought out characters. The first episode comes across as being too eager to show you everything all at once, instead of taking things slower and allowing you to absorb what just happened. The script is good but has moments that don’t seem that logical, but in spite of this The End Of Peace is a decent start to the series.
Version tested: PC