The first episode of Blues and Bullets introduced players to an alternate-reality version of Eliot Ness. We catch up with the famed hero who took down Al Capone much later in life. Retired from the force and running his own diner, Ness is pulled back into the world of crime when Capone, newly released from prison, coerces Ness to track down his missing granddaughter.
The second episode, Shaking the Hive,continues directly from the second, with Ness heading into a meeting on a submarine with a man associated with the disappearance of the missing kids. The dark and twisted story line continues throughout the second episode, diving into an underbelly of human trafficking, slavery and prostitution. Blues and Bullets continues to deal with topics that you generally do not see in video games, especially when the main mystery is kidnapped children.
Shaking the Hive moves along at a much nicer pace and never dips into the sheer amount of pure exposition found in the first episode. Being the second episode, naturally this means that a few questions are answered, while many more new mysteries rear their heads. There is still a good progression throughout the episode where you are moving forward in the story and slowly starting to piece things together, even if it is only a small piece of the overall puzzle. The occult overtones continue with Ness directly confronting a masked figure who seems stronger and tougher than any normal man should. It starts to appear that some type of Illuminati-style organization is kidnapping the children of criminals, with the reasons still very unknown.
In Episode 2, Blues and Bullets also continues to just ooze style. The black and white graphics contrast well with the highlighting of red in the environment. There’s a particularly arresting dream sequence played in first person mid way through the episode that really gets the opportunity to play with lighting and perspective in a beautiful way. It’s also pure noir focusing on Ness’ internal struggle about all the people he’s hurt in his life, both emotionally and physically. The voice acting continues to be solid, with Doug Cockle (The Witcher’s Geralt) providing a great Eliot Ness and the remaining supporting cast providing solid work.
Naturally, Shaking the Hive plays out in similar gameplay style as Episode 1. Expect lots of dialog options where your choices will directly affect aspects of the story. The detective gameplay returns and still stands as the highlight as Ness investigates and pieces together clues surrounding an area clearly used for human trafficking. Combining various pieces of evidence together to formulate a theory of what happened at the site is a really interesting way to handle classic adventure gameplay and it works really well here.
Also returning are the third person shooting sequences. Here your character moves from cover to cover in a linear path akin to something like Time Crisis. You pop out and shoot people and then move onto the next area when everyone is dead. In small pieces the gun play was a decent change of pace in Episode 1. Here the game relies heavily on it, especially at the very end of the episode. It’s not that it’s bad per se, but there are no stakes involved. The sequences are far too easy with Ness stuck to one or two cover points with no strategy other than not staying out of cover to aim too long. Nothing has evolved or changed with the shooting in this episode except that you get to use a shotgun for part of the time – that’s it.
Blues and Bullets continues to pull me along its mystery by dangling even more interesting story beats like a carrot on a stick. The gameplay sequences aren’t going to win any awards but the characters, plot and mystery are quite captivating. Shaking the Hive also benefits from being the second episode. With the majority of exposition and introduction accomplished in Episode 1, now the story can focus on the characters and moving the plot forward. And it’s a plot that I am very interested to follow. I just hope it doesn’t take another eight months for the next episode.
SCORE: 8.0 out of 10
A code for Blues and Bullets – Episode 2 was provided to Pixel Related for review