Elliot Ness returns in Episode 2 of Blues and Bullets, subtitled “Shaking the Hive”. The game does a good job in it’s opening scene of quickly getting you up to speed with the goings on from the previous episode, recapping the main beats of the story in a quick video somewhat reminiscent of a trailer, handy for folks who haven’t revisited Santa Esperanza since the first episode was released back in September.
Having quickly reminded me of my hunt in helping my frenemy, Al Capone, find his grandaughter Sofia I jumped right in. I was half expecting the game to open with Ness aboard the submersible the Alligator III, revealed during the conclusion of Episode 1, but the game put me on the back foot straight off by having a clearly younger looking Ness heading out on a date, which instantly had me wondering how this was going to link to the overarching story. Truth be told I had just played Episode 1 again in preparation for writing this review, and I did feel more invested in the story which not only helped suck me in, but also gave the opening scene a bit more weight – I will steer clear of any spoilers here, but having literally just finished the first Episode and jumping straight in to this one, the first scene serves to provide more background to the character of Ness than arguably Episode 1 did in it’s entirety, giving me an idea about the man he is as opposed to the man I was making him out to be via the choices I was making in Episode 1 when he was a pretty much blank canvas.
Have you not played Blues and Bullets in the interim between Episodes 1 and 2 then not to worry – the game does a good job of catching you up to speed with the choices you made in the first episode, helping remind you of the man you were making Ness out to be by providing a handy synopsis of each choice and highlighting the decision you made via the game’s main menu, but this first scene has me rethinking some of those decisions – Ness isn’t as black and white as I first believed, and whether this is a metaphor that was intended or not when considered alongside the black and white game world he inhabits, it did add a bit of character development that was missing throughout the majority of Episode 1.
Ultimately Blues and Bullets Episode 2 is still the same game and if you’re hoping for big changes you’re fresh out of luck – all that Episode 2 does is expand upon the story, assuming you have played Episode 1. It does benefit from the fact that Episode 1 laid most of the foundations with the storyline and as such does jump right in without the need for much groundwork having to be laid, but at times the pace does still feel a little off.
In my review of Episode 1 I said my main complaint was how slow Ness moved, and this is still true during Episode 2. Yes the run button still has Ness move like a drunken uncle dancing at a wedding, but it is in the getting from A to B that still really frustrates. Not only that, but not being able to skip cut scenes or unnecessary dialogue does feel more of a hindrance – I get that being a story driven game I am supposed to take in every detail, but with subtitles turned on by default I found I would read them and get the main point but still have to sit while the scene played out. I realise this makes me sound rather impatient, but the pace of the game still feels off somehow, and at times this does make the game feel quite laborious to play, which is still a shame.
Having said that, Episode 2 is much more action packed than Episode 1, reflecting the fact that the story is gathering pace. The shooting sections return, but again need no real skill or offer much challenge in order to complete. Also making a welcome return are the sections that require you to use Ness’s detective skills to examine and piece together clues, one of the more interesting mechanics in the game that has you hunting for and interacting with various items in an area in order to piece the clues together to progress the story. Again these offer no real challenge but serve as an interesting concept, a welcome respite from the quick time events, and they do make you feel a little more in sync with the detective Elliot Ness is made out to be.
So is Blues and Bullet’s Episode 2 worth your time? The majority of you reading this will have already played Episode 1, in which case you pretty much know what to expect from Episode 2. The story, having been laid out so well in the first episode, does start to pick up momentum here, and some of your earlier choices do begin to have an impact, but many of the problems that were apparent in the first episode still remain. The game does benefit from a few quicker, more action oriented set pieces, which does serve to counteract the games overall pace problems, and as such Episode 2 does improve (slightly) upon what came before. Hopefully these improvements will continue to be made by the time Episode 3 comes out later in the year.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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