Blessed with a classy black and white noir style aesthetic, Blues And Bullets oozes drama and sets out to grab your attention from the get go. The opening moments of Blues And Bullets, while leaving me with a somewhat unsettling feeling, nicely help to execute the overall tone and feel for the episode. Imprisoned in a dark and dank cell, a small female child searches for a means of escape from her evil captors, the reason she is being held against her will is unknown, calmly she begins to inspect the small inhumane cell for a means of escape, actively encouraged by a small boy in the adjacent cell, who eerily beckons her to look for a way out.
Set during 1955 in the fictional city of Santa Esperanza, Blues and Bullets provides a thoroughly enthralling storyline that grips you tightly in the greasy palm of its hand and refuses to let go throughout. The story follows Eliot Ness, a former American Prohibition Agent, who along with fellow law enforcement agents were tasked with taking down the notorious gangster Al Capone, in the late nineteen twenties. Years have passed and we find Ness, considerably older and wiser, his gun and badge switched out for a warm slice of Blueberry Pie, a cheque and a smile, all served at his iconic style American Diner in the city.
A beautiful mixture of light and dark tones make up the Sin City like atmosphere within every aspect of the game, from characters to locations, the addition of an almost neon red, making certain points of interest stand out above the colourless shades. While drained of almost all colour, Blues and Bullets is abundantly high on emotion. The script, which is perfectly written, really helps to drive home the, at times despair of Ness and his overwhelming hatred for Capone, echoes of memories arrive in the form of flashbacks, which are provided at frequent times during the story, these short glimpses into the main characters bitter history is also the location of the games first real piece of bullet piercing action.
While the combat system throughout Blues and Bullets may be simple in its technique, it is very well delivered, allowing for third person perspective shoot out’s between Ness and a seemingly army of Capone’s henchmen. There is an ability to switch between cover at will, to look for a better vantage point while pushing further forward with the action as the shoot-out progresses, explosions add to the dramatics as Ness battles against the masses in a desperate alcohol fuelled rampage. The other form of combat found in the game appears in the form of fast paced hand to hand QuickTime events which are accompanied by great blow by blow cinematic’s, which add to the drama of the fight and give it authenticity.
As a character, Ness is, by nature, very intuitive. Always aware of his surroundings, the short interactions between Eliot and the many items of interest in the game help him to establish a level of safety. Though his agency days are long behind him, he doesn’t lack any street wit or sharpness. At times he is free to move around within the boundaries of a select radius, in order to investigate his current location. Items of interest appear flashing red, revealing an interaction is present, with the simple touch of a button, a piece of history is discovered, the game is positively brimming with nostalgia.
The spoken dialogue throughout the episode provides any would be gamer with a choice of paths to take, decisive choice has often been the key to episodic adventures and Blues and Bullets is no exception. Through conversations with some of the games other noteworthy characters, Ness can freely select from a variety of answers, though some feel a touch repetitive at times, the ability to change your mood in the blink of an eye keeps the dialogue from becoming boring and helps to change up the pace of the dialect.
Though Ness has attempted to move on with his life, he is still very much a victim of his own past, this is reflected in many scenes throughout the game and makes for, at times a very powerful, emotionally driven experience. Filled with obvious regret over the death of former agent Dockers at the hands of Capone, Ness battles with his own demons, including alcohol addiction, these demons manifest themselves through nightmarish dream like sequences which are as striking as the words that appear in front of the protagonist, fire bellows as if Ness is inside hell himself. Despite finally seeing his long term advisory behind bars Ness is clearly unsettled when he gets a visit from a hired associate of the recently released “Alphonse” who wants to meet up with him.
As a former member of the Chicago law enforcement, Ness proves that though retired he hasn’t lost a single step as he casually works his way through a rather morbid and macabre crime scene, making his way from grisly room to room, locating scattered at times blooded pieces of evidence throughout the location, helps the legendary former agent piece together the hellish jigsaw pieces, with the use of a board, the sleuth is able to place the clues in their correct order, determined by their part in the crime, to get to the bottom of the brutal act and solve the crime.
Overall, A Crowd Of Monsters have placed a unique spin on one of American history’s greatest rivalries, while also succeeding in creating an atmospheric, episodic drama that not only feels dark and intense, filled with emotion but is also immersed with a great underlining tone that fits the in game, Miller like graphics perfectly. Eliot Ness is a very likeable character and his relationship with Capone makes for a great and thrilling storyline which will surely only get deeper and more enthralling as the story unravels.
There were certain issues throughout such as slight drops in frame rate which left the game a little sluggish in patches while some of the dialogue felt a little regurgitated. As a whole though If future episodes are anything like the first one, this could easily become a classic game for an already booming genre. Bathed in blood and suspense, Blues And Bullets leads the Episodic genre down a dark and exciting path.