Blues and Bullets Episode 1 Review – Flawed but ambitious

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I had no idea what to expect going into Blues and Bullets, an interactive 5-episode story game by developer A Crowd of Monsters, known for Sugar Kid on iOS and Funk of Titans on Xbox One. All I knew was that this was going to surprise me, for better or for worse.

Episode 1 of Blues and Bullets, titled “The End of Peace”, sets up the story that’s based around true events and people, but is still ultimately fictitious. Our protagonist is Eliot Ness, the leader of The Untouchables, known for putting infamous gangster Al Capone behind bars in 1931. 20 years later, Capone has served his 11-year sentence and Ness has retired from police work to open a diner called Blues and Bullets in the fictional city of Santa Esperanza. Capone reaches out to Ness, through his right-hand-man Milton, to ironically request his detective services. Capone’s granddaughter Sofia has been kidnapped and Ness has begrudgingly agreed to find her. What ensues is a gruesome investigation that hints at elements of the supernatural.

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How this game tackles the interactive story element is not as simple as choosing from dialogue options, but rather a set of ways to handle a conversation (suave, friendly, aggressive, etc.), so in a way it is more simple than the former. You are notified of the key, story-changing decisions right after you make them; one of the earliest choices is when you decide what kind of reward Capone gives Ness after he finds Sofia. How drastically these choices affect the course of the game remains to be seen considering this is only Episode 1.

Blues and Bullets is a game about a detective, therefore it is only appropriate that detective work must be done. There is one crime scene in this episode, and the way you solve how the crime took place is straightforward but entertaining nonetheless. You walk around the crime scene looking for clues highlighted in a red eye; any clue found is placed in the archives to use on an investigation board. You use these clues to figure out how a certain portion of this crime happened. For example, the suspect broke into the house and the only clue able to support how they got in is the broken window and the glass on the ground, so you choose that piece leading to another question of how they attacked the victims. This will use even more clues and so on. It isn’t complicated by any means considering if you choose the wrong clue, it will just notify you that you’re wrong with no penalty. These investigations will hopefully get more challenging in later episodes, but it’s amusing to watch the scene play out in silhouettes once you solve it.

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If you’re looking for action, this game has it, just in the form of quick-time events and on-rail shooting segments. Quick-time events are a given in almost every interactive story game, but Blues and Bullets doesn’t do anything to make them any more exciting or unique. Not that I was a huge fan of quick-time events in the first place, unless they result in your character dying forever like in Heavy Rain (which this game doesn’t). The on-rail shooter segments are entertaining, but you’re more or less shooting fish in a barrel and they occasionally bite. Not to say these are meaningless choices, they are meant to aid the story aspect of the game for the most part and they are designed pretty well (excluding the quick-time events).

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Blues and Bullets runs on the Unity engine with an art-style that is black, white, and red (and yellow if you count the subtitles). I played this game on my PC utilizing a 2GB Nvidia GTX 770, able to run most new games at high settings and let me tell you, this game’s engine is poorly optimized. In open areas with other NPCs, the framerate takes a gigantic hit which can cause conversation segments to continuously stutter. I also have to criticize how dead each and every character’s face looks. The eyes are virtually inexpressive and the most the character models can do is use their hands to emphasize what they’re saying.

The voice acting, however, is perfectly stylized to the tone of the game and makes up for what the faces lack. Eliot Ness is voiced by Doug Cockle, known for his role in The Witcher games as Geralt of Rivia, and he uses the same type of raspy and laid back tone for Ness. All other voice actors are relatively unknown, but still bring lots to the table.

Final Reaction

While Episode 1 of Blues and Bullets has some ambitiously good ideas, it’s still rather shaky. The story so far is engaging and has me looking forward to Episode 2, but the technical issues along with some unnecessary action segments prevent this game from being perfect. I would say wait this one out until Episode 2 or 3. Much like a TV show, some of these episodic games take some time to heat up. So far, only Episode 1 is out now on PC and Xbox One for $4.99 and the full season can be purchased for $19.99.

Rating: 3/5 Atoms

NR 3 Atoms - C

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Joey Ferris
Joey Ferris 260 posts

l love to play games and write stuff about them. I can't play something and not tell anyone how I feel about it. Call it a sickness, because it is.