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'Blue Estate' reaches new levels of crude mediocrity

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Blue Estate (PS4)

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Video games have come a long way in provoking an emotional response from players. Both Grand Theft Auto and South Park: The Stick of Truth used crude humor to make us laugh, while giving us memorable casts of characters and a touch of social commentary. Blue Estate, based on the series of comics by Victor Kalvachev, desperately tries to make players laugh as well, but results in a mixed bag of forgettable mediocrity.

Blue Estate's gameplay is pretty standard fare as far as on-rails shooters are concerned, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. There are plenty of goons lurking around every corner, combos for successful shots and conceptually neat mini-games like “shoot a mole,” and another one that has players targeting enemies in a specific order. The game makes great use of the DualShock 4's motion controls, though players will have to recenter their targeting reticle (which can be done quickly with L1), after nearly every small wave of enemies. This can lead to some pretty annoying moments and there are times where the reticle seems to disappear completely. Even so, the aiming itself still works well and feels natural. Blue Estate also makes use of the controller's touchpad, and will have players swiping in different directions in order to open doors, slap enemies around and pick up additional health and ammo. If nothing else, Blue Estate can be seen as a proof of concept for the controller's unique features.

The game offers a pretty decent challenge, even for those who may be familiar with the genre. There are a few cheap moments where the game's camera can be a bit counterintuitive (which is also standard for this genre), though the game rarely feels unfair. We did notice that certain guns seem to have a bit of aim assist, which seems odd for a title where aiming is ninety percent of the gameplay. There are a few sections that offer an interesting change of pace, such as being forced to shoot upside down, but these are few and far between. Players will also encounter a few boss battles throughout their trek, though they do little to change up the pace with their unimaginative and tedious patterns.

Gameplay aside, many potential players may be intrigued by the game's over-the-top humor, which seems to be its main selling point. Unfortunately, the game's writing is even more average and lazy than its gameplay. As we mentioned above, games like Grand Theft Auto V have made us laugh, but because they offered a bit of depth under the surface, something that this game lacks. Blue Estate has several clever moments scattered throughout, but too often is it satisfied with making the same jokes over and over again while offering up a few tired gags (Tony's hair falls in front of the screen a few dozen times and Roy Devine's narration gets cut off by the in-game censors a few times per level). We would have loved to see Blue Estate do a little more with its characters, but it feels as if the writers had quickly devised a way to include scantily clad women and vague Vietnamese/Jamaican stereotypes, and then called it a day.

To the game's credit, the writing gets quite a bit better once the player takes control of Clarence. His levels feature some great banter between him and a couple of Luciano cronies who are acting as his mission control, though the game's lazy repetition soon rears its ugly head (Clarence gets humped by Chihuahuas several times per level, which gets incredibly old, regardless of its amusing payoff). To our surprise, the game's level design also seemed to improve during the character switch, making us wonder if these sections were handled by someone else.

Visually, we loved the art style featured in the comic sections and there's some real creativity in the way a few of the game's shots are framed. The same can't be said about the graphics, which are serviceable at best. For what it's worth, there isn't much to look at in the first place.

All in all, to say that Blue Estate is an awful game feels a bit too harsh. The gameplay is decent enough to satiate the appetite of those longing for another on-rails shooter, while the writing, as baseline as it may be, had enough witty moments to make Clarence's missions seem almost charming. Blue Estate is now available for the PlayStation 4.

Pros:

- Classic gameplay for fans of on-rail shooters

- Shows what the DualShock 4 can do

- Is only $19.99 and is even cheaper for PS+ members

Cons:

- Lazy writing with plenty of repetition

- Level design and gameplay are equally lazy

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