Thursday, June 26, 2014

Blue Estate (PS4)

Video game comic book adaptations usually don't capture the core material like they should. Whether it be poor game design, or bad graphic representation of the characters involved something usually does not jive with these types of games. Often times such games fail significantly, and never gain the attention that the developer, or comic book artist had hoped for as a result of the lackluster craftsmanship. In the case of "Blue Estate" however I feel we have been gifted one of the PS4's finest console gaming experiences to date, and one that will likely draw attention to Viktor Kalvachev's comic book series. The game itself takes in account the wacky misadventures of the Luciano mob family, an off kilter private eye named Roy, and some sticky situations that two of the game's main characters wind up getting into. Both Tony Luciano, and Clarence (a hitman for hire) blast their way through gangs, rival mobs, and mob bosses who would each like to rid the Luciano family of it's most prized possessions. Blood feuds, kidnappings, horse hijackings, and even pot plant stealing are some of the strange things that you'll encounter as one of the Luciano family's contributing members.

In "Blue Estate" there are a total of seven long !@#$%^ chapters filled to the brim with rail shooting FPS action that is akin to Hollywood action flicks of the past, and present. The graphics are stunning, and stereotypical characters come to life in an over-the-top fashion that takes in full account their comic book origins, and Viktor's unique brand of humor. There are tons of puns, lots of lovely ladies, and various shootout scenarios in place as you play the role of either Tony Luciano, or Clarence. As with any rail shooter you will find that the onscreen action plays out on it's own only requiring that you aim, and shoot the enemy targets when they make themselves known. Headshots, and nutshots count in this particular series of gunfights. Added to the core rail shooter gameplay you'll also find in place combo based scoring, and leaderboard rankings that take in account everything from your hit accuracy to the way you take out each enemy. Other key features that are tallied up at the end of each chapter playthrough in a four star manner also include shot bonus items (Eggs, Golden Chihuahua Statues, and Tribal Masks) which you can find hidden with the game's theme oriented levels. Things like the time it took to complete a stage playthrough, and how many lives you spent during said playthrough are also accounted for.

The aim of each stage playthrough, as it were is to basically use the rail shooter, and duck & cover mechanics to make your way from beginning to end while completing story driven objectives. These objectives range from taking out mob targets to fighting off boss characters, and even stealing goods. At the beginning of the game, during an artistic introduction cutscene an ace private eye by the name of 'Roy Devine Jr.' begins narrating the tale as the first case is introduced in a faux noire style fashion. As Luciano, and Clarence do their thing in their respective chapters with the aid of your help Roy will tell the tale in a haphazard way with comedic tidbits thrown in for good measure. While you'll initially want to make sense of everything in the story you'll find that most of it's plot material was put into place just for fun. You'll find that each character in the game, besides the gang/mob baddies come complete with their own voice actors, and actresses making them seem more than just a mere rendering. There's tons of laughs to be had, and enjoyed as you encounter each character within the Blue Estate world, and look upon all the hidden Easter eggs used within the game's environments.

When it comes down to mode offerings there are two basic modes of play available within "Blue Estate". You can play the game "Solo", or go with a local "2 Player" option in which you, and a buddy can take on the bad guys with mob justice. Aside from the two mode options you'll also find in place three difficulty settings including 'Normal', 'Abnormal', and 'Crazy Train'. While the normal difficulty setting is hard in it's own right due to the control setup the other difficulty settings will offer an even steeper challenge in which enemies are more plentiful, and more difficult to kill off. In 'Blue Estate' it's the killing off of enemies, and controller based actions that will gain you that respectable high score on the global leadeboards. Killing off as many of them as possible, and doing so with different styles of gun shots will score you points in a variety of different values. If you manage to kill a string of enemies without missing too much a combo multiplier will be applied which greatly enhance your score earnings. The only thing that would keep you from any of the main objectives in the game would be a death, or a game over (Yes, the characters can die). Luckily 'HeSaw (The Developer) has made it so that each time you encounter a game over, and exhaust your life supply another life will be added to your collection for your follow-up playthrough.

About the controls ...

As far as the controls go you will find that the core aiming mechanics rely heavily upon the Dualshock4's  sensor based movement. When you tilt the controller in a certain way/direction the onscreen aiming reticule will move in relation to where the controller's sensor bar is facing. To shoot you simply have to press (R2) when the onscreen aiming reticule is lined up with it's target. In order to reload your primary, or secondary weapons you can either press (L2), or (SQUARE) while they are equipped. Another important control function to note is the weapon swap which uses the (TRIANGLE) button press. In 'Blue Estate" you will be able to swap between your main weapon which has an infinite supply of bullets, or your secondary weapon which requires collected ammo to work. Speaking of collecting things. In the game you will be able to collect health refills, and ammo supplies by using the front touch pad on the Dualshock4 controller. This usually requires a swipe of the touchpad in one of the four cardinal directions. This touchpad control function is called the "Gesture Button", and will also be used as a means to open/close doors, and access different areas of the levels. Most gesture swipes will have to be performed quickly within a given window of opportunity, meaning that once the onscreen arrow fades you can no longer collect an item, or perform an action that could have taken you down a safer route.

Aside from these basic controls you'll find that the most important control of all lies with the (UP) button on the controllers DPad. You will need to use this button often to reset the crosshair's position, so that you can use the controller tilt function in an efficient way. The best time to use the DPad function is before the mob members, or gangsters line up within your line of sight. This will help the gameplay go along more smoothly, and help out your aiming efforts tremendously.

About the graphics & soundtrack ...

The graphics, and the applied soundtrack that make up the 'Blue Estate' experience are honestly worlds better than a lot of other triple "A" titles out there today. It outshines 'Call of Duty', and does so at a fraction of the cost of a CoD game. There are no hiccups in gameplay, and there are no framerate issues that I'm aware of. The game runs smoothly on the PS4, and the characters look gorgeous as they do what they are intended to do onscreen. There are a plethora of special effects included in the gameplay experience which make the offerings of other retail releases pale in comparison. The fog effects for example were so brilliantly done that it looks as fog would actually look. The blend of comic book style art, and 3D renderings are the epitome of gaming perfection. I'm honestly not sure why this game sold as cheap as it did. Even the soundtrack which is filled with comical character dialogue, and environmental sound bytes really makes the game seem worth the cost of a triple 'A' title.

Conclusion ...

This game seemed almost perfect to me. At first I will admit the new control setup was hard to get used to though, but once I got the hang of it I was able to breeze through most of the "Normal" levels without a full 'Game Over'. With that being said there are a few points during a full playthrough where the control scheme was a little questionable, but not severely so. The graphics, which are hyper-realistic in nature are beyond stunning, and the mature visual themes that were used will make for a good laugh. I definitely loved the blend of comic book art, and HeSaw's 3D translation of the 'Blue Estate' comic book series. It all came together quite nicely in a complimentary package that has immense replay value due to it's score based gameplay. With everything considered I highly recommend that you get this game, but only if you are of age to do so. There's some cussing, bloody violence, and sexual themes involved that are not fitting for children. It is rated "Mature" for a very good reason. If you are mature enough to handle 'Blue Estate' though then don't miss out!!!

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