Platforms: PC (requires Leap Motion)
I'm slowly learning my way around the Leap Motion gesture-based controller. As with all new gizmos and platforms for games, there's a little bit of an adjustment period that one needs, both in terms of development and consumer consumption. Expecting 1:1 control out of the Wii when it first emerged was something that quickly needed adjusting, and it's the same with something like the Leap Motion too.
But I'm still not entirely sold on the device itself, and playing through the brief, on-rails shooter that adorns the scrolling headline banner of its Airspace store hasn't changed that one bit. If anything, it seems just as confused as I am.
Blue Estate, the game in question, is an hour-long, on-rails shooter that has you pointing your finger at your PC screen and rattling off bullets like you would in Time Crisis, House of the Dead, or, more pertinently, The Gunstringer. Except here's the catch: it's so much worse than all of those games.
The game's setting and characters are taken from the comic series of the same name, published by Image. I'll be honest: I've never read any of the Blue Estate comics before, and after this I don't think I ever will. I'm all for a bit of low-brow humour every now and then, or a comic series that takes an unflinching look at the darkest recesses of the human condition, I'm a big fan of Frank Miller's Sin City, but this doesn't even come close. You play the role of Tony Luciano, the son of an L.A. mob boss, and a character who, as the game explains itself, is dumb, loud, insensitive, and more than a little racist. He's also an American-Italian stereotype who shouts "Mamma mia!" every so often, and he goes and bursts into an Asian gang's club to shoot up the place and save Cherry Popz -- stripper extraordinaire and friend of the family -- who's been kidnapped.
The game's tone is set early on by a private investigator Roy Devine Jr. -- who appears to be the overweight, snivelling, masturbating basement-dweller, super geek stereotype that publications such as the Daily Mail use when they want to flagellate our industry. He regales us with the story of Ms. Popz, and describes the unfortunate stripper as having a deep aching void that only a good private dick can fill, a stinky void nonetheless. Things only really get worse from that point. Comedy in games is a subjective thing to be sure, and so there's every chance that you might find this sort of thing funny, but probably only if you identify with the hideous stereotype above. This is humour for the sexist, racist, anonymous trolls that scuttle about in the darkest recesses of long-forgotten forums.
Unlike The Gunstringer, which leveraged the power of Kinect to turn you into a couch-bound sharpshooter, Blue Estate's clunky systems are based around the desk-oriented Leap Motion, which points up off of the desk, rather than mirroring your own field of vision as something like Kinect. This means two important things, first and foremost: 1) There's no actual motion to shoot, it's all automatic, and 2) It becomes incredibly uncomfortable after mere minutes.
Basically, you have to stick your index finger out (making a gun shape with two fingers and a thumb cocked back will not work) and paint targets with a reticule. Unfortunately, the Unreal-powered game also incorporates destructible surfaces into proceedings that can also automatically trigger gunfire, and because they're not readily discernible from regular background objects and surfaces, you'll end up wasting bullets. This isn't a problem for the pistol, which comes with unlimited ammo. But when you get the shotgun and assault rifle, resource-management for your big guns can be jeopardised by a few loose shots.
The game is mechanically laughable. It's clunky, uninspired, repetitive, and deeply uncomfortable to play. Enemies glide in, stand directly in front of you, and take several shots to connect. You can get into cover by placing your hand flat, but it took two deaths for me to realise that you can only do this when the game says so, even when Tony is less than a foot away from a surface to duck behind. Even then, it's not exactly reliable. Aiming is easy and intuitive once you're used to the Leap Motion's field of vision for this particular title (the sensitivity and use of which differs from app to app) but no more so than a mouse would be, and far less comfortable.
Paint the nutsacks and foreheads of your enemies and you'll get pleasant little score multipliers, with chained kills adding to your combo ticker and gifting you points. It's a bullet-stuffed score attack title, and that particular sub-genre fits the game perfectly in terms of form and function. It's a breezy affair, one that you'll be able to rattle through in the space of an hour, though it's a little disappointing that the experience isn't broken up into smaller chapters and really bitesized score attack zones. It looks perfectly pleasant, and the sound design on the guns themselves are nicely punchy and impactful.
But there's nothing special here at all. Where are the setpieces that define on-rails titles? Where's the variety in terms of weapons? What happened to interesting, engaging enemies? I know I'm playing as the son of a mob-boss, but I actually want Tony to die much of the time. He's so utterly obnoxious -- the foul-mouthed mid-level goon without a shred of intelligence, wit, or charm -- that I found myself deliberately getting him killed. He-Saw have this really interesting little gizmo, and the most interesting thing they could think of when making this thing was to have Tony's fringe fall in front of his eyes occasionally, prompting the player to stop shooting and pull their finger upwards to flick hair up out of Tony's eyes.
But hey, folks! It's ok! Because you can get points for shooting blokes in the knackers and there's always fun to be had when laughing at fat chicks, right?
Wrong. Blue Estate is an execrable excuse for a game that would have been instantly forgettable had it not gone out of its way to be as crass and obnoxious as it possibly could be. The only way this could be any worse is if Leap Motion were advertising it as some sort of flagship experience on their Airspace store.
- It's only $4 if you already have a Leap Motion controller
- Decent production values, in terms of aesthetics at least
- It works... sort of.
- The humour
- The gameplay
- The story, setting, and characters
- The boredom
- The various insulting -isms
The Short Version: There's nothing of any value to be found in this game. In spite of Leap Motion's insistence on headlining this mercifully short episode of sub-par, on-rails action, all you will find here is a shoddy shooting gallery of uninspired, repetitive, uncomfortable finger-pointing, in a game that thinks hating on Asians and women is funny.