When the ending credits to Blue Estate rolled, unlocking the final level for play in arcade mode in the process, the thought of playing through each stage again didn’t exactly fill me with joy.
While not a bad game, this on-rails shooter suffers from the same faults as Rambo, House of the Dead: Overkill, Blackwater and others designed exclusively for consoles – the levels are drawn out for far too long, and bosses absorb bullets as if they were mere spit wads. It’s easy to understand why the developers took this approach – being a console game and all, most gamers would expect a 3-hour run-time at the very minimum – but it still doesn’t make for the most engaging of experiences.
At least the environments had some thought put into them, with each location more diverse than most. There’s a sewer system that’s not only a gang hideout but some kind of holy shrine, a fried chicken factory that’s a front of an illegal fighting syndicate, and a luxury golf course that’s being prepared for a lavish party. Each stage bestows a new weapon or two, while a combo system keeps the whole thing together, complete with an elusive 5-star rating to aim for.
In arcade mode this combo and scoring system really comes into its own. As I should have anticipated, levels in this mode are far shorter. The pace is faster as well, giving each stage a neat bite-sized feel. By which, I mean it’s possible to play all six stages in arcade mode in around twenty minutes. It certainly lives up to its name.
Missing a single enemy here deals a significant blow, as not only does each kill add a couple of precious seconds onto the clock but there’s a huge score bonus – and an achievement to gain – for killing every enemy within a stage. This prompts players to memorise enemy locations; the more times you play through a stage, the closer to achieving the target ‘S Rank’ you’ll doubtlessly get. In turn, arcade mode proves to be far more rewarding and satisfying than story mode.
The mechanics are slightly different here, too. Headshots now fill up a slow-mo meter, and activating this just at the right time contributes heavily to gaining top rank. Like the main campaign’s ranking system, it’s still vital to pop a few crouch shots. Indeed, Blue Estate has a pretty warped sense of humour. It doesn’t always pay off – the pop culture references, in particular, feel a little phoned in – but the fact that the developers tried to cram in as many jokes as possible is at least appreciated around these parts.
I came to Blue Estate for the story but ended up staying for the bonus arcade mode. It offers less but provides more. Now there’s a thing.