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Blues and Bullets Episode 2: Shaking the Hive review

June 29th, 2016 by

cover_origIt’s been a while.

No, not me doing a review for this hallowed establishment, although that is also the truth. No, I’m referring to the length of time between the initial episode of Blues and Bullets and the release of the second episode we review here. We enjoyed the first episode, The End Of Peace, going as far as to award it a 7/10, but can A Crowd Of Monsters keep it up, and does it still hold our attention after such a significant break between releases?

Shaking The Hive starts off with a recap, handy if your actions from the previous episode have slipped from memory in the last 8 months, before moving into one of a few flashback scenes present in this episode. These shine some light on the history of Eliot Ness, showing him involved in a somewhat sticky situation involving the wife of his police force partner. After this we’re moved forwards in time and in the submarine introduced at the tail end of The End Of Peace, with a heavily disguised Ness attempting to extract information regarding Al Capone’s kidnapped daughter from the Russian mobster, Ivankov. Ultimately Eliot’s ruse is uncovered and the submarine turns into a warzone as Ivankov’s goons attempt to gun you down.

Once past the shooting segment, we move into a detective themed section, which I found to be one of the highlights of the episode. Eliot collects clues from the storage area of the submarine slowly uncovering the horror of a child smuggling ring lurking down there, such as a hatch full of dismembered bodies with a bloodstained chainsaw laying alongside.

This section in particular highlights the art style of Blues And Bullets, unchanged from the previous episode, but no less effective. Shown almost entirely in moody shades of black, white, and grey, the only other colour featured is vivid red, providing a dramatic contrast. In the bloodstained submarine this visual effect is particularly effective.

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As in the previous episode, conversations with NPCs have multiple options, some of which have branching effects of the on going story. Whilst this is a feature that I very much enjoy seeing used, it does feel occasionally like the brief synopsis of your options don’t exactly translate as expected when selected. Still, it’s a minor bug bear.

To switch up from the sleuthing and conversation, Blues and Bullets employs third person shooting sections. Whilst it’s commendable that A Crowd Of Monsters are trying to mix up the gameplay, these segments fall flat. Essentially amounting to little more than a shooting gallery, a few enemies will appear on the screen, your character will move into cover, from which you pop in and out taking shots at your opponents. After two or three have been downed you move forwards a few steps and repeat the process. The AI at these points is incredibly poor, the majority of the time standing perfectly still, allowing you all the time in the world to line up your shot. This is quite handy though because, for some reason, the aiming is a touch wonky. You can line up a shot while in cover, but I found that every time I came out to finish off my shot my aim had shifted quite significantly off my previous target. The main issue with these segments is that they take up quite a significant portion of Shaking The Hive. When such a large section is taken up by sub-standard gameplay it’s impossible not to feel that it detracts from the entire episode.

One other issue is that the frame rate seems to creak along on the Unity engine, never really feeling smooth and suffering from occasional micro-stutters. Whilst it doesn’t overly affect the gameplay, it does feel unpolished, which is a real shame when put against the rather lovely art work.

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Blues and Bullets Episode 2 does a good job of moving the increasingly sinister story along, but starts to fall down in other places. The lengthy shooting gallery sections are entirely uninspired and considerably outstay their welcome. That being said, the plot is intriguing, the beautiful art noir style graphics continue to be a joy to look at, and the excellent detection sequences remind me of LA Noire.

Shaking The Hive may suffer from issues but there’s enough to keep me interested for Episode 3. I just hope we’re not waiting 8 months again.

Midlife Gamer Rating: 6/10              Format:  PlayStation 4 / PC / Xbox One      Release Date: Out Now

Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a copy of Blues & Bullets Episode 2 : Shaking the Hive by the publisher for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of a week. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.

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