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Independent developer A Crowd Of Monsters are the producers of this dramatic adventure game Blues and Bullets which is available on the PC Steam and the Xbox One. Players take on the role of former detective Eliot Ness as he investigates, interrogates and exchanges gunfire with the criminal underworld of the fictional city of Santa Esperanza, as he simultaneously unravels the truth behind the case.

The first episode of Blues and Bullets introduces players to Eliot Ness (excellently voiced by veteran Doug Cockle) who now owns a diner in Santa Esperanza. Although retired, Ness gets drawn into a new case by a customer who goes by the name of Milton. Milton is Al Capone's latest right-hand man. The player gets to investigate crime scenes,analyse clues, make decisions using (arrow keys) and involve Ness in violent, bloody gunfights - if you manage to get Ness killed the game returns to the scene just prior to his death and you get to go again. Ness is told that Milton's Boss wants to see him and taking no notice of a cinema poster nailed to a wall for the latest star movie "Never Follow A Stranger"  Ness does just that and follows Milton, the guy he has only just met.

The player gets to make some decisions for Ness, though is generally led by the red circle and the floating E which gives a great hint that something can/should be done at that spot. You generally get a one or two word suggestion next to an arrow and you just choose the one you want Ness to react to (for example: Right Arrow = Anger, Left Arrow = Compassion).  Apparently the decisions Ness makes by using the Arrow keys affects how the story continues though unless you replay several times you aren't going to know by how much effect or what impact your decisions will have.

Blues and Bullets is scripted by writer Josué Monchán (Runaway and Yesterday) and has the aforementioned Doug Cockle (Geralt of Rivia in The Witcher 2 and The Witcher 3)  with Jules de Jongh (Faith from Mirror's Edge) as Delphine

Blues and Bullets was the winner of the "Excellence in Story & Storytelling" development award at the GDC Game Connection America 2015 conference and “Best Indie Game” at Gamelab 2015. Blues and Bullets will launch on Xbox One on August 28th and will be priced at €4.99/£3.99 per episode.

BLUES and BULLETS is episodic with each of the first four episodes - The End of Peace; Shaking the Hive; Mourning the Dead; Behind the Mask - creating an ongoing story that culminates with the fifth and final episode - The New Untouchables. The first problem as such is that there has been quite a gap (timewise) between episodes one and two that players need reminders of what went before, the same as watching a TV series where you get a "previously on ..." announcement.

It is also not possible, or at least I have not found a way to get round it, to begin playing from anywhere other than episode one. You have to complete this episode before you can continue onto the next. If you know a way to bypass episode one and begin on episode two please email me and let me know so I can pass it on. Not everyone, even in this day and age of multi-terabyte HDDs, keeps every game they have played - especially those they have completed - on their computers; so as there is a fair amount of time between the release of each episode it is highly likely you may have deleted the previous episode and then cannot continue with the next. As I say, I haven't found a way of playing episode 2 without completing episode 1, but I feel there should be a way of doing so simply because of what I have just said.

So, in a flashback, Elliot Ness has found the location of the top Mafia Bossand on the way he (you) kill a good dozen of bad men. Then you enter the room where the Boss is only to find that it is indeed Al Capone. He is unarmed but uses his grand-daughter on your conscience to prevent you killing him there and then, and so the story begins....

Years later and Ness is following Milton to visit the Boss. Now retired from the Mafia, Capone lives in luxury but also fear. He explains to Ness that his grand-daughter, Sofia, whom Ness had met as that little girl back in the early days when she "saved" him from killing Capone, has gone missing. Capone wants to hire Ness to find her; this is one of the points in the game where the Arrow System gives you the opportunity to decide what your payment will be.

The game is played in Black & White with the occasional flash of colour, mainly red, in much the same way as Frank Miller's renowned SIN CITY comic books and eventual movies. This stark visual with the garish red, sometimes just a misty hint, other times the shoes or hat on a passing woman, creates one of the best dramatic game atmospheres possible, far more memorable than the wonderful colourful and detailed backgrounds in most other games. 

There are times when the game slows down and you wish you could do something to hurry it up, particularly if you accidentally hit the E button again after watching a painfully long cut scene, and the actions from episode one continue in much the same way throughout episode two (and one presumes episodes 3, 4 and 5 also) which gives the impression (as it is no doubt meant to) that the game is one long tale where the peoople and situations may change and the locations may be different but everything else remains the same - everything changes, everything remains.

It is quite an impelling game, despite often being almost "through the motions" , and although the action based shoot outs, of which there are many - more in episode 2 than in episode 1 - are a major part of the play they are sort of numbing. You aim with the right mouse button, causing a large red circle to appear and tighten at where you will be shooting and then the left mouse button both brings Ness into firing position and fires at the spot selected. Unless you get a direct head shot in you will generally require a double-tap (two hits) on a mobster to bring him down, Ness can take considerably more damage from bullets but on special action scenes where you have to quickly press the keys in the order they appear on screen if you miss a key or are too slow in reacting Ness will be killed, often by a single blow.

Probably, at least definitely for me, the best part of the game is the detection and clue finding, though it is the overall storyline which is the glue that binds. If you like this game style then my suggestion would be to wait until all five episodes are available - probably be some kind of deal to get them all at once (like you findwith movie trilogies etc.) - and then you can play them through at your leisure with no problem flowing through from one to the next.

This is a game where the animation and visual graphics are well conceived and demonstrated throughout, but there is a marked fluctuation in the voice talent between the extremely good and the sometimes accidentally comical. Overall each "next page" of the comic book is a little slower to materialise than I would have liked; there is more down time than generally associated with an action adventure thus putting this more into the Sherlock Holmes style adventure block, but with a tad of extra added action.

 

Stark Black and White with garrish Red create the dramatic atmosphere.

 

Ness's Mess - a better name (I think) for his Diner, where he meets straight and dodgy cops.

 

So many girls have gone missing, is Sophia amongst them ?

 

Torrential rain and an old cable car are part of the fun but of no actual consequence.

 

Breathtaking views through the glass floor and from the edge of the high towering buildings.

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015