A Crowd of Monsters (studio)
10 March 2016 (released)
24 March 2016
To recap, Eliot Ness is a retired detective who runs a diner in 1950’s Chicago. He is the famous man who put Al Capone behind bars and now, after 20 years, Al Capone needs his help to find his missing granddaughter. Through some fine detective work, Ness becomes entangled in a complex and gruesome murder mystery. After following a successful lead, Ness and his aid find an old friend of Capone’s with his personal submarine, where things turn nasty and all hell breaks loose.
As ever, A Crowd of Monsters have continued to present a gripping and interesting narrative filled with complex twists and engaging themes. We have themes that explore dark, unpleasant and disturbing subject matters but also manage to absolutely captivate. This will have you hooked until the last scene, even as the horrific events unfold. The plot becomes vastly more interesting, while opening new questions and never to complicate matters.
Blues and Bullets still remains visually pleasing with its heavy stylised noir art theme, where the game is laced in black and white with hints of red to symbolise danger and gore. We see more of a surreal edge to the game and a rather bizarre set piece sees all manner of twists experienced in first person. Some of the effects and the character models, however, don’t pack the same punch. Many of the character models look a little too rugged and while some visual effects are edited well, character animations are awfully stiff and laughable to watch. When you see Eliot throw a couple of punches at one of the antagonists, it’ll make you cringe and roll your eyes in shame.
Not to mention that some of the voice acting and written dialogue is terribly naff at certain moments, feeling out of place or needless. This is especially shocking as many of the vocal talents are some of gaming’s most renowned voice actors. Another thing which didn’t help was the un-skippable cut scenes. There were a couple of moments that felt as though they needlessly dragged on, like a travelling shot through a submarine and even the end credits become a needless bore. I didn’t understand why the option to skip a cut scene wasn't added.
What Episode 1 did so well was to introduce a selection of different gameplay styles and pace them out evenly for players to engage with. Episode Two is structured again in a similar way, where players will explore, investigate and, from time to time, dive into some action packed segments offering cover-based shooting. It’s paced fluently and the game is broken up to give a large variation of gameplay styles.
Yet, the more action focused sections seem very easy and the duration becomes tiresome. The crowning moment of these rather dull shooting sections was when Ness uses a mounted turret, which just feels completely out of place, and what makes it worse is that no effort has to be used to successfully pass this moment. It’s insultingly easy. There are no dynamic events such as boss encounters to break up these sections, with the only interesting aspects being when you can play as Capone for a moment or two.
The main issue I had overall, with the focus on action, was that it overpowered the investigational aspects of gameplay. We have many moments where Ness is discussing or talking to other NPCs or a great deal of the total game time will be spent shooting. There is only one segment where Ness must deduce his surroundings to discover what happened to Capone’s granddaughter. There were some interesting aspects and some gruesome discoveries to find. This just furthered my interest in the story and I wished more was brought in to look around or investigate a crime. Another blow was that this segment of the investigation was too simple and felt more like a long jigsaw puzzle. Having to find some clues, put them together to develop an idea of what happened. It’s a little flat and more effort could have been spent into making it a little more difficult, like the first episode did.
Episode Two has lost some of the magic I admired in the first one. Becoming more of an action-orientated affair with bland cover-based shooting, tacky QTEs and daft animations. But, it’s still interesting due to its highly engrossing narrative, visual style and even though simple, the investigation was powerful in heightening the tension and impact of the story. The gameplay mechanics aren’t the strongest here, as the game has clearly expanded, and by making things bigger the faults have become more apparent. I hope that the next episode would focus a little more on the investigation with more depth and a little less action. Introduce some dynamic elements for the action, such as bosses, to increase the tension to make the investigation a little bit more challenging.
+ Gripping narrative
+ Beautiful visuals
+ Some great investigation aspects
- Dull cover based shooting segments
- Clunky animations and bad voice acting
A review copy of Blues and Bullets was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review