As someone who grew up spending summers down at the Jersey Shore, I sure do miss the glory days of the arcade. There was something for everyone, be it classics such as Pac-Man or the harsh metal mats of Dance Dance Revolution. For me, though, it was all about the light-gun games. Titles such as Time Crisis and The House of the Dead tested skills while devouring quarters.
As time has progressed, though, both arcades and the light-gun genre have fallen by the wayside. Sure, there have been attempts to revive the genre, like The House of the Dead: Overkill – a delightful release – but nothing has really stuck. A new challenger has arisen, though, as French developer HE-SAW steps up to the plate with their debut title, Blue Estate.
Based on the Viktor Kalvachev comic of the same name, Blue Estate is the story of Tony Luciano, the son of L.A.’s most powerful mob boss, and Clarence, the ex-Navy Seal called in to help clean up Tony’s mess. You see, Tony’s favorite stripper, Cherry, has been abducted by the Sik clan, one of the many other powerful families in Los Angeles. So, Tony sets out to recover his girl the only way he knows how: by killing everyone in his way. Naturally, this upsets not only his father, who would prefer not to start a gang war, but also the Siks, who kidnap the family’s prized horse, the titular Blue Estate. Clarence is brought in to help prevent things from spiralling too far out of control, but the damage has already been done.
Blue Estate‘s plot could have easily been a simple and enjoyable tale of gang warfare and stolen horses, but it’s constantly undermined by a special brand of “humor.” Simply put, the type of humor on display here is crass, obnoxious, offensive and lowbrow. It starts right from the first mission, as Tony bursts into the Siks’ den shouting any racial epithet he can think of, with approximately none of it being humorous. It’s not like I have a problem with offensive humor either, as I enjoy the jokes of comedians such as Anthony Jeselnik, but this type of humor has to be done intelligently in order to be funny, or else it just comes across as mean-spirited and cruel. That’s not the case here, though, as the game is as low-brow and moronic as they come.
It’s a shame that the terrible jokes and poor sense of humor will become so divisive, because the on-rails gameplay is surprisingly competent.
Although Blue Estate is extremely reminiscent of classic light-gun games, you’ll find zero peripherals here, as all of the action is controlled via the DualShock 4. Since movement is taken care of automatically, the only thing you’ll have to worry about is aiming, which is handled by the controller’s SixAxis motion sensors. Although it’s not as intuitive as using a GunCon was, it works well for the most part, outside of the fact that the aiming reticle frequently falls off the screen. Luckily, HE-SAW allows for the reticle to be refreshed at the press of a button.
Both Clarence and Tony are only equipped with pistols at the beginning of each mission, but there are other weapons scattered about each level. Acquired weapons, such as machine guns and shotguns, provide more firepower, which you’ll need with the amount of enemies that are out to kill you. You’ll mow down hundreds of thugs, criminals and other low-lifes over the course of the game, which besides being absurdly violent, can get a little repetitive at times. This more or less comes with the territory, though, and if you have ever played a light-gun game before, you should know what you’re getting yourself into.
Although most of the gameplay centers around murdering the Los Angeles gang scene, Blue Estate also makes use of the DualShock 4’s touchpad. Actions handled via the touchpad can include everything from opening doors and smacking enemies to moving Tony’s hair out of his face and kicking a humping dog off of Clarence’s leg. While they can certainly be annoying when they pop up during the heat of battle, such prompts do add some additional challenge to the game.
Even though Blue Estate is a PlayStation 4 title, you would be forgiven if you took one look at the game and thought it was from the last generation of consoles. Although it is heavily stylized and presents main characters who have unique looks, the rest of the game is rather bland to look at. Going further, it also doesn’t help that certain levels feel like the same sections repeated over and over again, albeit from different angles.
Things aren’t all bland on the aesthetic front, though, as Blue Estate does feature some solid voice work. Narrator Roy Devine sounds exactly like you would expect a scummy, back-alley private detective to sound, and Clarence sounds very much like a man annoyed at where his life has taken him. Tony Luciano is more of a mixed-bag, though, as he talks as sleazily as he looks but also refuses to shut up, which can become quite grating as the game progresses.
In the end, Blue Estate is a solid throwback to the glory days of the genre, and, if nothing else, proves that we don’t need unnecessary peripherals in order to get the full arcade experience at home. However, the game manages to shoot itself in the foot with its odious attempts at humor, which are surely going to offend more than they delight. Plus, with the experience priced relatively high at $19.99, perhaps prospective owners would be more interested in trying out the demo, just to make sure that they can handle the tale of Tony Luciano.
This review was based off the PlayStation 4 version of the game, which we were provided with.
Blue Estate is a welcome throwback to the glory days of the light-gun genre, provided you can get past its offensive and obnoxious sense of humor.