The Kinect sensor is often criticized as being useless, and given Microsoft’s backtracking and unbundling it from the Xbox One it has received an unfair shake. While there are games that make use of the Kinect technology, it is often limited to voice commands. The ones that do utilize more of the motion portion of the technology are hit and miss when it comes to responsiveness and accuracy of the motion capture.
A Kinect game has been released which reminds me a lot of the arcade games with plastic guns, only you use your hands to control the gun instead of a gun with a light sensor in it. We spent a few nights playing it, and bring you our Blue Estate review.
The game, which is based on the Eisner Award-nominated Blue Estate comic books from Viktor Kalvachev, starts off with a monologue by a gumshoe detective who looks strangely like Jonah Hill. He starts to recount the day a client walked into his office, and the narration continues from there.
This gumshoe serves as nothing more than a narrator as the story takes you into the world of gangsters and allow you to play as two characters – Tony Luciano, the son of an LA crime boss, and Clarence, an ex-Navy SEAL hired to clean up after Tony. Tony is on a mission to save his Cherry Popz, his best dancer, from the Sik Brothers gang.
The story and narration is presented pulp fiction novel style with tons of pop culture references sprinkled in for good measure, and it works very well. Everything from Kim Jong-un to the Death Star, cliché mobster life and John Woo (“low-budget John Woo moment!”) is present, and just when the narrator starts to get annoying, the Federal Bureau of Procrastination (FPS Authority) pauses the game and throws up a slide with some witty and humorous text on it.
I definitely found myself groaning and chuckling quite a bit at the story and dialogue present within the game, and the level of cheesiness is just about right without going overboard.
The game itself consists of seven story levels and an arcade mode. As you pass each story level, another arcade level is unlocked. The game also features three difficulty levels (Normal, Abnormal, and Crazy Train), so if it’s too easy you can ramp it up.
Now for the interesting part. While the game can be played with either the controller or through the Kinect sensor, I’d forget about even trying to play it with the controller. I dove in with the Kinect controls the first time I played, and then went back and tried it with the controller. Not only was it more difficult, it just didn’t have the same feel or even fun factor involved as when played with the Kinect.
With the Kinect controls, you use your right hand as your gun, pointing at targets to shoot (no need for trigger actions, although I frequently found myself doing the PEW PEW! trigger motions), pointing down off screen to reload or enter cover (much like those plastic gun arcade games), and pointing up to switch weapons once you’ve picked up a shotgun or submachine gun and wish to use those instead of the default pistol. Your left hand is used for all your other actions like swiping up to get your hair out of your eyes, swiping in a specified direction to pick up health and ammunition, swiping to return bottles, rocks, and other items, and swipe to jump, duck, or slide around.
This game is an absolute blast to play standing in front of your TV pointing to shoot and swiping away at the screen and really does well with the Kinect controls. At first they felt a bit sluggish but the more you play the more used to it you get and I’m confident in attributing the sluggishness to a short learning curve as opposed to sub-standard implementation.
The Unreal Engine graphics in Blue Estate aren’t going to blow you away, but given the style and pulp fiction/gumshoe detective genre the game is replicating they do work quite well. The art style during the introduction and in between scenes really conveys the comic book/pulp fiction novel cover art style as well.
The narration and voice acting in the game is well done, as mentioned before the cheesy dialogue and interjections are just enough to keep you humoured without getting old and becoming grating. The sound effects and background music match well with the story and visual style, and really add to making you feel like you are in the middle of the action.
The game does feature a 2 player co-op mode but unfortunately we weren’t able to test it out.
Blue Estate is truly a game that should only be played with your Kinect sensor. It works well with it and there’s something about standing in front of your TV in a shooting stance blasting away baddies with nothing but your hands. If you don’t take the game seriously, the story and level of cheesiness coupled with the pop culture references throughout make this a fun ride. This game is definitely a steal for the low price of $12 and offers replay value through the different difficulties and the arcade mode. If you own a Kinect sensor with your Xbox One, you should do yourself a favour and check out Blue Estate.
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