Blue Estate

Blue Estate is an interesting little experiment.  It is a light gun shooter without the light gun.  It feels and looks, at times, like an HD Wii game that came out seven years too late and doesn’t even use the Wii controller.   Instead, it uses the motion sensing capabilities of the PS4’s dual analog controller, five years after everyone concluded that the feature was worthless.  This formula probably sounds like a loser, but the game is actually sort of entertaining.  The controls, while not ideal, are adequate.  Like any good shooting gallery game, it is fast-paced and densely packed with content.  It also gets decent mileage out of its humor, and it has a price that is fitting for its short length.  It might not have much lasting value but if you are looking for a good way to kill a Friday night with a friend, then Blue Estate is a decent choice.

The fact that Blue Estate even exists in its current form is somewhat amazing.  How somebody in 2014 could get the idea to make a shooter using the tilt sensors of the PS4 controller is beyond me.  Given the precision that is required to make a good shooter, the idea of moving your crosshair by rocking the controller back and forth seems like a terrible one.  It actually turns out OK though.  The motion sensing is good and responsive enough that it makes me want to see how it could be used in a different genre.  Lining up your shots isn’t terribly hard and the game doesn’t need to give you much aiming assistance to make it playable.  It is still not as good as using a Wii controller, however.  For some reason, I found that the crosshair would constantly, gradually shift to the left, and that I would have to re-center it on the screen once every few minutes.  Also, tilting and twisting the controller over and over again is an unergonomic and surprisingly tiring activity.  I found my wrists getting worn out about a half hour into each gaming session.

As an on-rails shooter, Blue Estate doesn’t try to break any new ground.  You build up a combo meter with each hit, which multiplies your score.  Headshots are worth extra, and there is the occasional special item to shoot for bonuses.  Some enemies attack you with swords or machetes, and you can dispatch them by swiping the controller’s touch pad.  The touch pad gestures are probably the most annoying part of the game, as they are a perfect example of how button pressing gets inefficiently replaced with something more complicated.  Far too often, the game fails to properly detect your swiping motion.  It is a shame that nobody has come up with a good use for this feature of the PS4 controller yet.

Blue Estate is based on the graphic novel series by the same name.  In the game you begin play as Tony Luciano, the greasy, stupid, underachieving son of mafia boss Don Luciano.  The game begins with you going to a club to retrieve your ex girlfriend (who, as the game tells you, is neither a friend nor a girl), where you immediately get into a shootout with everyone in sight.  Later, you play as Clarence the hit man.  As you might expect, the story doesn’t function as much more than an excuse to herd you from point A to point B while blowing everyone’s brains out.  It is actually kind of a mess.  What it lacks in substance, however, the game makes up for with its juvenile, self-aware, fourth wall-breaking humor.  Blue Estate is South Park-like in its references to body parts and bodily functions, as well as its distinct lack of political correctness (the first boss that you fight is a racially stereotyped Kim Jong Il lookalike who has to wear bras to support his fat manboobs).  There is some good satire as well – little touches like having to occasionally swipe the controller’s touch pad to keep your long, greasy hair out of your face.  The jokes work more often than not, although some of them do fall flat.  If you are going to play this game, then here is a tip – check your brain at the door.

The Unreal-powered Blue Estate, while taking advantage of the surprising fidelity of the PS4 controller, looks by-and-large like a PS3 game.  Character models are somewhat ordinary, especially when compared to the terrific looking NPCs seen in games like The Last of Us.  There is a lot of detail in the environments, although they are rather small.  They are at least colorful and contain a lot of destructible elements, which is an important feature for a game like this.  The art direction is solid, albeit unspectacular.  On the whole, Blue Estate is a decent looking game, but definitely not one that you will show off to your buddies as an example of how powerful the PS4 is.

The game, like a lot of on-rails shooters, doesn’t last very long.  It clocks in somewhere around three hours.  Even with this short length, the game comes close to overstaying its welcome.  The levels tend to drag on at least a few minutes after it feels like they should have ended and there isn’t a lot of variety in the enemies that you face or the weapons that you use.  It is still good for a once through romp, either solo or with a buddy playing co-op over a weekend.  Once you are done with it though, there is little reason to revisit it, other than to collect all of the trophies.

Blue Estate is the perfect example of a game that is worth looking into because of its timing.  There isn’t much else out on the PS4 right now, and there hasn’t been a good on-rails shooter since – Dead Space: Extraction for the Wii?  Games have gotten more complicated over the years, but this genre can still be fun when it is done right.  Blue Estate at least gets the basics right, and its humor works well enough if it is the type of entertainment that you are looking for.  If you need a good excuse to kill a weekend and you are in the mood for some mindless entertainment with a friend (or solo, if you want), then Blue Estate is worth checking out.