Blue Estate is a rail shooter brought to us by the minds over at HeSaw. From what I can tell, it's their first venture into game design, so don't feel bad if you haven't heard of the company before now. It was released June 25, 2014 on PS4 and on Xbox One seemingly in the future. Also, it's a game adaptation of a graphic novel by the same name, written by Viktor Kalvachev and Kosta Yanev.
The first thing I notice about the game is a tongue-in-cheek disclaimer that pops up before the game begins, which basically sets the tone for the game - spoiler: it's not all that serious of a game. After a quick gyroscope orientation, you're treated to a screen with a - very well animated, admittedly - scantily-clad lady on a stripper pole. Again, sets the tone for the rest of the game.
The story doesn't appear to be much of a priority. Once you get past a second tongue-in-cheek disclaimer, it introduces us to our narrator, Roy Devine, Jr. who is a private investigator in Los Angeles. The storytelling feels like an attempt at an old Dick Tracy movie, if Dick Tracy was a nerdy fat kid. After some wandering narration which sets up the story, it's time to begin.
We are introduced to Tony Luciano, one of our actual protagonists. Being the son of the West Coast Cosa Nostra mob boss Don Luciano, Tony was somewhat of a loose cannon. We are told that he was the manager of a strip joint, and his best stripper goes missing (the same stripper from the opening screen), so he goes to the competing club nearby, owned by another pair of mob bosses, and the shooting begins.
If you've ever played a rail shooter before, you've played them all. Like House of the Dead and Time Crisis before it, Blue Estate plays much the same way. You move through well-crafted set pieces, blowing off faces (and nuts, as this game includes 'Nutshots' in addition to the standard headshot) as you aim to finish the level. The game doesn't appear to add anything exceedingly new to the genre, though the touchbar on the Dual Shock 4 gives another form of interaction, and is used to melee in small quick time events.
One of the things that stand out is the art. The art direction is crisp, exciting and the backdrops that you are blowing through look real and have depth. Also, from what I've seen, it's mostly destructible. Bullets do real damage to your surroundings, so the cover you were standing behind can suddenly disappear, but you can do the same to the enemy's cover as well. Shooting people in the face with a shotgun will send them flying, which is quite satisfying indeed.
The other thing that stands out is the writing. While the story doesn't seem very good, the banter during missions seems to work. As you're blowing away enemies, the protagonist spouts tacky one liners, some of which actually made me giggle a few times. If they took away any semblance of true story, the one liners could carry the game almost entirely, I feel.
That is where my praise ends, unfortunately. The controls and handling feel very spotty. You're only really using 4 buttons, but they give you no way to reassign the controls so the normal shooter controller layout (The right trigger shoot, and the left trigger recenters your gyroscope instead of zooming) feels awkward. Further, you're constantly moving your controller around since the aiming is controlled by the controller's gyroscope. In theory this sounds fantastic, but I found it wasn't quite as sensitive as I would've liked it to be. One of the first things I like to do with FPS games is to adjust the joystick sensitivity to make it more responsive. Not having that capability felt quite frustrating, considering you're trying to make precise shots at times. Having to go from one corner of the screen to the exact opposite side in fractions of seconds frustrated me immensely. If we had a way to turn up the sensitivity of the gyroscope - or turn it off entirely - I would be alright with that, but unfortunately they didn't give us that option. I have also been informed that it does not have Playstation Move capability, so you're stuck with the controller gyroscope. As it stands, it feels like an easy way to get carpel tunnel even faster than otherwise.
My verdict: the spotty controls coupled with the bland story make this almost painful to play through. I played on the easiest difficulty, so I'm sure my gripes would be much worse if I had tried it at a higher difficulty. I'd rather then go to the arcade and play a true rail shooter. No amount of witty banter or beautiful backdrops can save this game in my eyes.