Blues and Bullets – Episode 2: Shaking the Hive (Xbox One Review)
Blues and Bullets has returned to the gritty noir stage with its second chapter “Shaking the Hive” and still has me perplexed as to what the hell is actually going on in the city of San Esperanza. A Crowd of Monsters continues to hurl us down the rabbit hole of mystery and moral choices in hopes of holding our attention till the inevitable conclusion and they have successfully latched onto my doltish but curious psyche. It’s been quite some time since the initial release of the first episode, roughly seven months ago, but i’m definitely glad to see its return and was eager to jump straight in.
After leaving us at the end of episode one with the allure of undiscovered secrets as to who kidnapped Al Capone’s granddaughter and a sight of a conspicuous looking submarine emerging from the dark depths of the ocean, we get to pick up exactly from where we left off; in Elliot Ness’ steely boots. The main focus of episode two shifts the paradigm from narrative to gun toting action as the opening scene – and many thereafter- has us taking cover and blasting holes in heads as the “on the rail” shooter sections return with a vengeance; with very little threat to the player character. These areas are now typically longer than the explorative and crime solving sections. This time around Crowd of Monsters give you some new toys to play with and characters to test out. As you switch momentarily from revolver slinging Eliot Ness to shotgun wielding Al Capone, anunlikely duo, the team pulls together to take on the organisation that kidnapped Capone’s granddaughter.
The explorative sections are fewer and smaller in size with less objects to interact with. The crime scene scenario of piecing clues together comes at the player a bit darker and disgusting than the previous episode. With evidence of mutilation and torture littering the scene and supposed child abduction/cruelty are suspectly evident as well, the dark setting of episode 2 becomes apparent. With episode one being lite on the pessimistic and menacing themes that the film noir style usually brings to the table, episode two has certainly made up for the initial lacking of said themes.
As with all good stories, it’s good to know and understand the character you play. In Shaking the Hive we jump back and forth between the present day and the past life of Elliot Ness. His past revealing that, even though he’s an upright and hardy cop, he still his fair share of sins and regrets. Shoving the player in Elliot’s mind and ultimately having them make these difficult moral choices provides little resolve to the character as he is already knee deep in anguish. I suspect these decisions are more to do with Blues and Bullets “decision leaderboard” – for the lack of a better word – to see how you stack up against the rest of humanity. Seeing as no matter the decision there doesn’t seem to be a decisive outcome that impacts the narrative as of yet. We also haven’t seen the resulting decisions of episode one either, but again these could still come at a later date.
The most surprising chapter has us burrow into Elliot’s subconscious, viewing the dream realm through a first person perspective and adds a hint of horror/surrealness to the experience. Giving the player a close up with Elliot’s fears and anxieties. It helps further our connection and understanding of Eliot as a person and even though short, it was a welcomed addition.
Shaking the Hive wouldn’t be complete without firing in new characters and a boatload of questions that need to be answered. Some new key figures show up looking less than human whilst others have a semblance of wickedness about them, and others are straight up revolting as human beings. The ending once again has us dangling over the line waiting for more as the allure of what could possibly come next has us beckoning for another episode.
With all that said and done, Shaking the Hive is a much welcomed and needed addition since we’ve waited a long time for its release since Blues and Bullets initial outing. It is always difficult to say whether or not an experience that lasts an hour or two is worth it if we have to wait half a year to get our hands on another segment of it, although the experience is definitely worth the price of admission. The narrative is shorter than it was before, but still holds strong as we get to discover more about our protagonist and furthers the story a good portion in terms of Al Capone’s granddaughter’s fate. The heavy action sections don’t do Blues and Bullets any favours as it tends to be repetitious and uninteresting with still no real element of danger to the player’s character. Its overall arc is interesting and its conclusion will have you asking for more from A Crowd of Monster, I’m personally just hoping we don’t need to wait as long to find out what answers lie in wait for us in episode three.