After a notable absence, Blues and Bullets returns to PCs once again, picking up where the cliffhanger left off. Moving undercover, in his efforts to bring Sofia Capone’s kidnappers to justice, retired detective Elliot Ness begins to realise that there is far more at work than a simple abduction. Human trafficking has been working its way through San Esperanza for years, and he soon witnesses first-hand what kind of monsters have been buying up children by the dozen from them.
Playing out like Sin City were it envisioned by Mike Mignola, there’s a near perfect balance of noir tropes, supernatural elements and character pieces present in the story. This time it delves deeper into Ness’ personal history, from his flaws to decisions while working to take down Capone. We see how he has witnessed San Esperanza slide deeper into the gutter, and flashbacks are used to emphasise that hard life. These are interwoven with present day to help emphasise the character’s personal demons and offer a few meaningful choices.
Rather than directly mimicking Telltale’s approach, A Crowd of Monsters offers decisions that matter to the protagonist himself. They speak more of how he has led his life, whether he took the good or bad cop routine; even offering the player chances to truly be the man the public thinks he is or a hypocrite when given an opportunity for revenge. These offer more opportunities to truly role-play a man within the story, rather than simply make the odd arbitrary decision here and there.
However, this is quite the flawed episode, despite its strengths. Sadly, it’s notably rougher around the edges when compared with its processor. Along with a frustratingly uneven frame-rate and a few dodgy textures, it rushes to re-introduce many of its core elements. Having kept their audience waiting for nine months, it seems A Crowd of Monsters wanted to front load this episode with a show reel of its core mechanics, rather than allowing them to be more evenly distributed into the story. This results in a furious gun battle abruptly jack-knifing into a crime scene investigation, and some odd tonal shifts. What’s more, the episode itself is heavily reliant upon its gunplay this time and introduces two lengthy battles, the latter of which more than outstays its welcome.
It’s a disappointing release after the nine-month wait, but hardly a bad one. Blues and Bullets still shows promise and the answers on offer allude to a deeper, more complex plot to come and there’s enough good here to still outweigh the bad. Let’s just hope Episode 3 opts to focus more on that over another turret section.
BLUES AND BULLETS – EPISODE 2 / DEVELOPER & PUBLISHER: A CROWD OF MONSTERS / PLATFORM: PC, PLAYSTATION 4, XBOX ONE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (PC), TBC (PS4, XBOX ONE)