The first thing you need to know about Blue Estate is that the game doesn’t take itself seriously. At all. This much becomes clear mere seconds into the comic-inspired shooter with a tongue-in-cheek disclaimer carrying the following message:
“The people you are about to encounter should not be confused with heroes. They are mostly terrible people who say and do horrendous things. No one in this game is based on anyone in the real world and they should probably all be arrested.”
This is just the first of the many comical jabs developer HeSaw throws, mixing them with the occasional dumb gag and pop culture reference for good measure. It’s a bizarre combination and though some of the jokes may fall flat, these are easily over-shadowed by genuine laugh out loud moments.
Blue Estate puts players in the shoes of aspiring thug, Tony Luciano, son to one of LA’s most notorious crime lords. Disaster-prone and with a penchant for the ladies, it isn’t long before the young grifter finds himself in the middle of gang war, fighting over his prize hooker, Cherry. With the situation spiralling out of control his father drafts in Clarence, a broke Navy Seal turned gun for hire.
The story itself is far from ground-breaking: it’s your average gangland tale with a splash of dark comedy. However, the twisted cast of characters and myriad set pieces provide ample entertainment, ranging from mermaid strippers and a chihuahua cult to villains who look suspiciously like North Korean despots.
Staged across seven chapters, Blue Estate can be played alone or with a partner via local co-op. Each campaign mission clocks in at around twenty minutes, so there’s not a huge amount of content on offer. Still, as with most on-rail shooters, score-chasing plays a key part and will no doubt have players competing for a spot on the leaderboards.
All you need to play Blue Estate is your trusty DualShock 4 with no PlayStation Move controllers required. Sony’s updated gamepad acts as an improved substitute, the console tracking motion via the DualShock’s light bar.
Tilting the controller will move the on-screen crosshair with buttons assigned to reloading, taking cover and other contextual actions. For the most part aiming is precise and fluid, making headshots easy on both stationary and slow-moving targets. The fact that players can recalibrate their controller instantly is also a godsend compared to laborious process we had to go through with Kinect and PlayStation Move.
Blue Estate will gradually work in new systems and mechanics that help to modernise an otherwise staling genre. One of these is alert feature that signposts which enemy is about to shoot you and how long until they pull the trigger. It may sound like hand-holding though it opens the door for tactical gameplay, meaning players aren’t always dodging a hail of bullets.
The DualShock 4’s touchpad also comes into play and is used for melee attacks and deflecting projectiles such as bricks and molotovs. Again, it adds another bit of flavour to the gameplay though, at times, there can be too much going on. During each mission there were a handful of occasions in which I was playing twister with my fingers although these moments were short-lived. Most of Blue Estate is made up of shooting galleries but there are break-away moments including mini-games and, of course, boss battles.
It may not be the best-looking game to the PlayStation, yet Blue Estate sports some of the best art direction seen on Sony’s new console. Though not cel-shaded, the game works in graphic novel effects including vivid brushstrokes and half-tone imprints on textures. The artwork used in cutscenes is also fantastic and, if anything, will have playing scrambling for a copy of the comic book. Sadly, the audio side of Blue Estate is a mixed bag. Though the effects and soundtrack are in good order, some of the voice acting is flat and poorly delivered.
Compared to recent attempts to try and revive the on-rails genre, Blue Estate probably comes out on top. The DualShock 4 serves as a perfect replacement for PlayStation Move and, when paired with intuitive mechanics and stylised visuals, makes for a solid downloadable title.
With that said, Blue Estate’s asking price is a little steep for a game that barely stretches past the four-hour mark. Sure, there are collectibles to find and high scores to beat, though this won’t be enough to coax some into replaying the game.