Blues and Bullets – Episode 1: The End of Peace Review

Blues and Bullets

Score: 4 out of 5For an episodic noir detective drama, Blues and Bullets is quite surrealist, seemingly inspired in equal parts by Telltale adventure games, Sin City, and occult horror such as Silent Hill. These far more so than the U.S. history from which it borrows, as it takes full creative license with characters Elliot Ness, Al Capone, and the events surrounding their prohibition-era rivalry. In fact, the inclusion of such characters is all but superfluously painted onto a related, yet distinct, narrative.

In Episode 1: The End of Peace it’s the year 1955 in a faux-Chicago called Santa Esperanza, and an aging Elliot Ness struggles with booze and the memories of dead friends and his crusade against Al Capone, which ended in an all-out gunfight rather than clever paperwork. A parallel storyline opens the adventure, and gives teasing glimpses into a cult obsessed with kidnapping and “punishing” children before we switch to Ness and an investigation that sets the two ends of the narrative on a collision course. It is intriguing and gripping from the outset.

The pace of our hero detective’s activity is fairly slow to start. Some expository dialogue at his titular, post-retirement Blues and Bullets diner eventually puts the man back in action and on the case. The conversation system feels rewarding despite its limits. A few emotional notes are what players have to go on before watching and listening to Ness’s response. Any consequences of dialogue choices are invisible, but with options to reply in completely opposite tones, as well as to lie outright in some instances, one can be sure there is at least a momentary effect to these selections.

Blues and Bullets

The most notable aspects of the game, aside from the dark and mature themes pervading the narrative, are things that greatly assist in developing that dark mood. The visual style is one of high contrast shafts of light and deep shadows, with splashes of red often appearing somewhere in the frame. It is as noir a presentation as I’ve seen in a modern video game, and works wonders for player engagement and commitment to the setting.

Unfortunately, it took me a PC upgrade to actually enjoy it, as the game is not very well optimized, technically. On anything but the strongest machines, the game will suffer slowdown frequently. Even at low settings, the system requirements for a smooth experience are unusually high. The game has just now come to PlayStation 4, where one would expect the uniform specs to have guided the development team in optimizing the port. When the game is firing on all cylinders, however, it’s a sight to behold.

Blues and Bullets features some light, cover-based third-person shooting sequences. These are enjoyable, and seem appropriately constructed for what is primarily an adventure game. These parts of the game don’t require high-level twitch-response shooting skill, and most gamers should be able to participate here without failing and breaking the flow of the story. The real crux of the play mechanics, however, lie in a much more deliberate and cerebral activity: crime scene investigation.

Blues and Bullets: The End of Peace

Episode 1 gives players the first taste of Blues and Bullets‘ robust and unique investigation system. Ness must explore a crime scene, discover potential clues, and then place them on a crime board menu arranged as a tree of connected elements to piece together what happened. The sequence of events is already more complex in this first episode than in other games of this genre, which is the most refreshing part. I may have thought I had an idea of how a clue fit into the chart and what it may have implied, but when I was wrong and eventually figured out why, it was perfectly reasonable to have deduced that information from the clue as it had been observed. I enjoyed this aspect of the game very much, and suspect most players will, as well.

Playing out as a mystery, the game affords itself the opportunity to keep players on edge, guessing what is yet to come, especially after playing through revealing investigations or taking short peeks into the disturbing goings-on at the underground cult lair, as The End of Peace showed us just before rolling the credits. I expect great things from this episodic series, and while the massive 8-month wait for Episode 2 is not a habit I’m hoping developer A Crowd of Monsters intends on maintaining, it does suggest they have spent the time to improve the areas of the game that were clearly in need in Episode 1. As it stands, Blues and Bullets is undoubtedly worth playing, and now there’s finally a second episode (of five) to look forward to, as well.

Buy on Amazon


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Author: Eddie Inzauto View all posts by
Eddie has been writing about games on the interwebz for over ten years. You can find him Editor-in-Chiefing around these parts, or talking nonsense on Twitter @eddieinzauto.

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