If you don’t know what Blue Estate is (and I didn’t), it’s a comic book by Viktor Kalvachev. This is a digital only game, based on the comic, by developers HeSaw (from what I can gather, the first game from the Paris based developing studio). It’s unlike anything currently available on PS4. That’s a good thing for this game, because it has a certain market all to its self.
That market is the on-rails shooter market. Popular in arcades, the on-rails “light gun” shooter genre saw a bit of a rebirth a few years ago thanks to the Wii and its unique motion controller and also on PS3 with Move and Xbox with Kinect. But there hasn’t been a good one recently, and there hasn’t been any available for the current gen systems of PS4 and Xbox One until now (Xbox One version is coming sometime, soon I guess).
Blue Estate isn’t a long game, you can beat the game’s seven levels in a few hours, but I think it’s the right length for the type of game it is (and about what genre fans would expect). As with any on-rails shooter, it’s not about a campaign… it’s about the high score leaderboards. That’s where Blue Estate packs its high replay value.
The game features three difficulty levels: Normal, Abnormal, and CrazyTrain (which is unlocked after completing the game once on either of the other two difficulties). In addition, there’s a local cooperative mode that allows for you and a buddy to sit on a couch and play the game together. I only have one DS4, so I couldn’t test the two-player mode.
The only online component to Blue Estate is the leaderboard, where you can see how you stack up against the other players on a per level basis (and difficulty). Of the 668 people who have completed the game’s first level (as of this writing), The Twin Dragon Part 1, I’m sitting at 58 on the leaderboard. Not too shabby since it was my first (and so far only) time playing the level and I was not used to the controls during that run.
For the high score enthusiast, Blue Estate will provide many hours of replay value as you work out strategy for getting the highest score you can get. As usual with these types of games, the key to getting a high score is keeping your kill combo high, being fast with swipes, hitting collectibles, and getting the right kind of kill.
As this is an on-rails shooter, aka a “light gun” game we’ve got to spend some time talking about the controls. The genre is, and always has been, heavily dependent upon motion controls. In the arcades, these games involved picking up a light gun and aiming it at the screen. Home consoles of course did the same thing (even as far back as the NES with Duck Hunt and the SNES with Super Scope). The Wii remotes and PS Move helped revive the genre.
Blue Estate doesn’t support the Move controller (at least I don’t believe it does, and I don’t have one to test it). The game also doesn’t include any option to use the thumb-sticks to aim, as some on-rail shooters on PS3 have done. So if you want to play Blue Estate on PS4, you have to use the Dualshock 4’s built in gyroscope… which means your aiming by physically moving the DS4 around.
The good news here is that the DS4’s gyro is very responsive and you can move it all over with just subtle movements; you’re not having to wave the controller around to aim. The only problem is that the game, at least for me, constantly needed to be recalibrated because the crosshair would get off center from the way you’re holding the controller. Thankfully, getting it centered is as simple as pressing L1. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it never takes you out of the game. Odds are, you’ll be hitting L1 so frequently that you’ll quickly forget you’re even doing it.
Besides using the DS4 itself to aim, the rest of the controls are pretty simple. You shoot with R2 and reload/take cover with L2. You can change your weapon by pressing Triangle. If you don’t enjoy swiping the DS4’s touchpad, you’ll probably become annoyed by this game. You’re swiping left, right, up, or down (whatever direction is indicated on the screen at the time) to pick up health, armor, new weapons, melee enemies, open doors, kick dogs off of you, throw bombs and bottles back at enemies, and more. In the levels where you’re playing as Tony, you’ll be swiping up to flick your hair back out of your eyes. There’s even QTE swipes where you’ll rack up the points if you swipe at the right time).
Each level in Blue Estate has about eight collectibles to shoot that change depending on the level. They could be a rabbit, a gold statue, a balloon, or even a blue mask. There’s a trophy/achievement for shooting all of them, and no I have not gotten it yet. In addition, throughout the levels you’ll get little mini games of a sort that can help increase your score. These involve getting headshots on the targeted enemies, shooting enemies that pop up from one of several spots (whack-a-mole style), and shooting a series of enemies in the numerical order shown on screen. These always serve to keep you on your toes and can be rather challenging.
Over the course of the seven levels, you’ll encounter three boss battles. Yes, these are annoying as boss battles tend to be. These all involve a pattern of dodging and throwing back objects at the boss, shooting them at the appropriate time, and of course dealing with the other enemies that show up throughout to make things more difficult for you. The bosses have a lot of health and take a while to take down, especially if you mess up a sequence. Of course the longest and hardest boss is the final boss, Bloodshot. Now he was annoying.
Blue Estate is usually generous with health and armor, although sometimes if you get caught in a sticky situation trying to reload with no cover you could find yourself desperately hoping that either pops up soon only to be gunned down before it happens. Thankfully, Blue Estate starts you out with four continues (and you can earn at least one more, as I did by using up all of my continues and dying during the battle with Bloodshot). If you’re “killed,” you can continue from exactly where you were. This is convenient of course, but also can be trouble because the enemies will still be in their spot and could be close to firing, so you could get hit a few times before you even get started good. If you run out of continues, it’s game over and you’ll have to start back from the beginning of the level you were on.
Graphically, Blue Estate looks really good (it’s powered by Unreal Engine) and probably better than you would expect. It’s sharp and well detailed and the environments themselves are quite well done (they range from indoors to outdoors, including a jungle where you go sliding down a stream dodging rocks and shooting bad guys). Likewise, the sound is good as well.
The game has a heavy reliance on voice acting, and it’s actually pretty good (and I admit, I didn’t expect it to be). It seems like the game would be perfect for those who have read the comic and enjoyed it. I haven’t (and won’t, as I’m not a fan of comics), so I honestly didn’t care for the story each level told and had no clue who the characters were and why they were talking.
It is completely over the top and comedic in nature, and sure to offend some folks. But it doesn’t push it to the extreme to the point of becoming annoying or getting in its own way.
I was a wee bit skeptical of the game when I found out that it was using the DS4 gyro. It just didn’t seem like it would work well enough to be fun. I was wrong about that. It works pretty darn well, even if you do have to constantly recenter it by pressing L1 (again, that’s annoying for a little while but becomes basically second nature to the point where you don’t even realize you’re doing it).
If you’re a fan of on-rail shooters, Blue Estate is definitely worth checking out. There is a demo available now on the PlayStation Store, so there really is no reason to not at least try it out (it’s a little over 2GB, so maybe those with slow connections and caps might be a little more hesitant).
It’s fun, it’s humorous at times, and well there’s simply nothing else like it on PS4 at the moment (and I imagine there won’t be for awhile). If you enjoy the demo, then you’ll most likely be satisfied with the full game and will probably replay it enough (gotta get that high score) to make it worth the $20.
Blue Estate: The Game gets a three out of five: GOOD.
* A PSN code for this game was provided by the publisher for review.