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    Blues and Bullets: Crime has a new enemy, payable in five easy transactions

    Episodic gaming. It’s popular right now. Popular like the last slug of rye from the last bottle in the last bar in town. Or like that time everyone bought yo-yos. It all started with a studio, Telltale Games. Old kids on the block with a new take on this Febreze-sprayed funeral suit of a medium we call games.

    Telltale set the scene. Or should that be the scenes? If we were going to be cynical and we are, because this is hardboiled games criticism we’d say that multi-part games are a cheap parlor trick, a way of taking a single, unfashionable point ’n’ click adventure and squeezing out interest by inserting cliffhangers. Gunshot shocked face is the dame dead? We hope not, because she hadn’t paid her tab… with God. Fade to black. Classic.


    Charge per episode and, hey presto, you’ve got yourself a bona fide money-printing operation, capisce? But there’s another side. A lighter side. A side that might just shine some artistic intrigue through the grotty peephole of anything-goes commercialism and illuminate the porcelain shine of player enjoyment. And that’s where the noir thing ends not least because Blues & Bullets producer Ramon Nafria has had a lot more practice with his new episodic indie title: “Santa Esperanza is a dark, rotten city. Every day sees it decay more and more. Corruption is everywhere. It’s difficult to be honest and abide by the law, defend the weak or get away from the pit of perdition the city is becoming.” See what we mean? Chills.

    New tale to tell
    While the premise bears a fairly striking resemblance to Telltale’s The Wolf Among Us a five-episode story a cop-turned-PI as he investigates cases across a stylized city A Crowd of Monsters has the benefit of fresh eyes. Where Telltale has fallen into a steady groove, Blues & Bullets might throw in a jazz-like change of pace.

    For a start, this isn’t simply the talk ’n’ walk fare we’re quickly getting used to. Investigations should be a tad more in-depth, drawing on the likes of Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments as you pull together clues to come to a final conclusion. Conversations could resemble something more akin to  LA Noire’s interrogations, using mo-cap to make body language as important as what’s being said. Sometimes, however, the best answers come from the end of a gun, and friendly talks that go south will end in fully fledged shoot-outs.
    Where Telltale has fallen into a steady groove, this might throw in a jazz-like change of pace
    “It’s obvious we have a lot of influences”, says Nafria. “But many of them aren’t videogames. We’re looking at TV shows, movies, graphic novels, books, even newspaper histories. The dark tone is somewhere between things like Se7en, True Detective, authors like Grant Morrison or Warren Ellis… and some real events that happened in Chicago during the ’30s ultimately superficial A Crowd of Monsters aims not only to have player decisions alter playthroughs, but the fabric of the series itself.

    “There’s a strategic advantage to being episodic,” explains Nafria. “We can adapt the game’s course depending on decisions players prefered to make… We’d love to have an active community telling us what they think about the characters and taking an active part in the development.”

    None of this is to mention how the game looks, dressing Sin City’s bleeding monochrome (using the red detailing as a way to indicate points of interest) in The Maltese Falcon’s clothes to make for a game that pushes for stylized realism in a way this genre hasn’t yet. Only a vertical slice has been finalized at the time of writing, but we can’t imagine the wait for a first episode will be too long away. We can’t wait to see where this rabbit hole goes. Dig down deep enough and you’ll either find treasure or your very own grave plot. And what’s a plot without an ending? The End. Wow. This is easy can we write all previews like this?

    Com-motion
    Ramon Nafria explains why Blues & Bullets uses mo-cap so heavily
    “We want to show each character acting like they have their own way of moving and behaving. It makes them feel real. Motion-capture techniques capture the essence of an actor Everyone moves differently from each other and this is the way to make the characters look alive, even the secondary characters. Every game has a demanding set of characteristics, and in Blues & Bullets the motion capture is essential.”

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