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Blues and Bullets: Episode Two Review

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It’s been an awfully long time since Blues and Bullets made its debut on the Xbox Store; I became worried we may never see a follow-up episode. But just over half a year later, A Crowd of Monsters finally returned with episode two titled ‘Shaking the Hive’. Having spent so long in production, will this be a far more balanced episode than the, fairly bereft of interesting dialogue, first one?

Despite it being ages since I last played it, episode two refreshed my memory with a welcome recap at the start. The story follows Eliot Ness, a former Untouchable who spends his retirement running a diner… until now. Al Capone, his nemesis, has reached out for help in the safe return of Capone’s missing granddaughter. We got a few glimpses at the freaky looking cult like people that may have poor Sofia and it’ll only be a matter of time before Ness gathers enough clues to figure it out.

‘Shaking the Hive’ picks up exactly where we left off, with Ness and Milton undercover and about to step onto an incredible submarine. Could this place have all the answers for our detective? Well, it certainly opens the eyes of the player to some of the gruesome sights lurking within and the grim realisation that many people whom have unwillingly stepped foot on this vessel have left in worse shape than they arrived.

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One thing I criticised back in the first outing was the dialogue, or lack thereof, but thankfully there seems to be a slight increase in quality. Even if the initial dialogue choices seem very vague, the conversations to be had are enlightening about certain characters personalities and help the player to build a connection with them – or in some cases make you hate their guts. I could actually sense the tone of characters from the voice actors, especially Jim Dockers voiceover due to his lovely, calming approach.

The increase of dialogue shouldn’t worry you as the action side of proceedings isn’t compromised at all. Third person shooting happens an awful lot though and with it being such a simple shooting mechanic, I found it really boring by the time I’d pumped lead into a handful of baddies and there were still plenty more to shoot at. Fortunately, action also comes in the form of Quick Time Events for a couple of set pieces. Occasionally I failed during these but the quickness in which the game lets you try again is great, you get to view a cool death of Ness and then give it another go.

To further the player’s insight into the narrative, the episode switches between present day and when Ness was a legendary detective with a hero’s reputation in Santa Esperanza. These trips down memory lane explain the demons that have taken hold of Ness mentally and how, for fear of history repeating itself, his mindset allows no one to get close. I thoroughly enjoyed the surreal segment of episode two, which highlighted his mental state and was seriously trippy.

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It’s really hard to judge Blues and Bullets on visuals because everything is black and white, except for the colour red, which makes blood really stand out. When a scene is playing out without any of your input, it’s easier to notice any problems and one such issue occurred in the way that I could hear the character talking, yet he was nowhere to be seen – he’d glitched. Other than that, it was all rather smooth going.

Blues and Bullets episode two ‘Shaking the Hive’ marks a strong return for the crime noir series and a definite improvement on the opener in the storytelling sense. There’s nothing currently on the market of the same ilk, which combines old school detective work with gory discoveries and a really crazy plot featuring some sadistic characters along the way. It’s just a shame about the shooting parts and how regularly they occur.

A Crowd of Monsters certainly know how to drag the player back in and leave them wanting more. I can’t wait to find out who’s behind the kidnapping but I hope I won’t have another long wait for it.

James Birks
James Birks
Been gaming casually since the SNES as a youngster but found my true passion for games on the Playstation 1 (the forbidden word ooo). My addiction grew to its pinnacle with the purchase of an Xbox 360 & Xbox Live Service. A recovering GS hunter that will still play literally any game.
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