On July 23rd, A Crowd of Monsters released Blues and Bullets, episodic story-driven noir mystery game, on Steam for PC. It so far has received very positive reviews from the Steam community. Originally, this was going to be a news piece but due to the increased amount of information about Blues and Bullets I found , it felt more right to turn this into a newsy-featurette sort of thing. If you liked L.A. Noire, you will find yourself liking the flawed character of Eliot Ness in this noir, action-packed, investigative setting (perhaps Team Bondi was inspired by Eliot Ness when designing Cole Phelps?). If you’re a general noir fan, the narrative and setting overall may peak your interest as well.
Research paper mode engaged.
Some History/Tribute to Eliot Ness and the Untouchables
So, Eliot Ness and the Untouchables were real people. Really important people. Eliot Ness (1903-1957) was most notably known as an American Prohibition Agent during the 13 years of Prohibition (1920-1933). Now, for anyone who doesn’t know about Prohibition. Back during the 20’s in America, by the 18th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the Volstead Act/National Prohibition Act, everything involving alcohol became illegal since authorities felt there was a connection between the increasing negative social issues and alcohol. Sale, production, importation, and any kind of transportation of alcohol was completely illegal. There’s much debate about the success of Prohibition during that time but there is a definite correlation between an increase in organized crime during those 13 years.
All over the country people were drinking and making alcohol in secret despite the laws and regulations at the time. More notably, even hidden rooms/bars were created where individuals could drink and socialize called Speakeasies. It became such a problem that apparently the government even poisoned the alcohol in an effort to prevent people from drinking. In turn, thousands were dead and sickened but bootleggers weren’t giving up.
Alcohol became a highly desirable product at the time and crime bosses like Al Capone and other Mafia members took advantage of it to turn quite a profit. Alcohol was very profitable which made individuals like Al Capone very, very wealthy and powerful. Here’s where Eliot Ness comes in.
During the 30’s, the government was on the hunt for Al Capone, targeting both tax evasion and his bootlegging activities. Eliot Ness was made head of operations for targeting all of Al Capone’s illegal Prohibition activity. Now, Eliot Ness was as clean as a whistle, a good ‘old boy, a well-balanced/well-rounded, morally acute kind of guy. He believed in maintaining composure and being ethically sound when you’re a man of the law. At the time, Chicago was actually struggling with corruption with their law enforcement boys and Eliot Ness was actually on the forefront in seeding out these corrupted individuals, leaving only the best and most squeaky clean of officers remaining who will not only abide by the law but enforce it strongly without sway.
Actually, taking his responsibility during the Prohibition era very seriously, Ness even gathered together 9 of the best officers he could. They were widely known as “The Untouchables” due to their stern, unshakable nature and for being incorruptible especially once bribes were turned away. Once the team was assembled, they began raiding Prohibition operations immediately, acquiring over one million dollars in value of evidence within only six months of organizing together. They heavily relied on wire-tapping to find their information. One of the 9 “Untouchables” members was actually killed, a very close friend to Eliot Ness, and that may have strongly lead to Capone’s downfall.
Despite Ness’s efforts, it was actually the IRS that managed to take down Al Capone, charging him for income tax evasion and sentencing him to 11 years in prison.
Afterwards, “The Untouchables” disbanded and Ness was promoted to Chief Investigator of Prohibition Bureau of Chicago. His career eventually lead him to Cleveland where he once again targeted corruption in our law enforcement system. The man was on top of the world and famed for his unswayable moral stance. He was a man of the law and could not be corrupted. But everyone has their flaws.
Reliving his old glory, he targeted notable mob members in the Cleveland area at the top and completely threw himself in his world. Unfortunately, this had a very negative affect on is personal life, destroying his marriage, worsening his alcoholism (ironically), and the public did not hold back on their criticism which ripped his reputation into shreds. Especially after his drunk driving incident. During this time in Cleveland, Ness was actually Safety Director at the time the “Cleveland Torso Murderer” was on the loose, who had taken 12 documented lives (though there is speculation the body count was more). This is relevant for Blues and Bullets! The Torso Murderer’s mark was always to behead and mutilate/dismember the bodies of their victims, often leaving them unrecognizable. Eliot’s position made him a notable figure during this time period though he supposedly had little direct involvement in the investigation of the murders in actuality.
Ness’s reputation in shambles and going through multiple marriages, he eventually moved to Washington D.C. to take important problems at the time such as prostitution. He even made an attempt to be mayor of Cleveland in the late 40’s but that rough reputation caught back to him. Ness spiraled out of control, supposedly, from that point onward and his drinking problem took a notable turn for the worst. He fell into debt pretty harshly and worked odd jobs in an attempt to get by. By the end of his life, Ness’s glory was long forgotten until he died of a massive heart attack on 1957 at his home.
(Whew! 1,000 words of history, folks!)
Now, Blues and Bullets takes place in an alternative timeline where Ness was able to get his life back together a little bit, quitting the drink, opening up a restaurant (adopting the titular Blues and Bullets), and taking it easy. Oftentimes, he would take a moment back to think about his good ‘ol days with “The Untouchables” and fighting off Capone’s lackeys. But Ness was just trying to live a quiet life. Ness cleaned up Santa Esperanza (a fictitious city) back in the day but now, 20 years after the events during Prohibition, it’s returned to a violent, disgusting place once again.
Back in Ness’s hayday in the Blues and Bullets universe, all the events leading up to Capone’s arrest have been set in place. Even one of Eliot Ness’s closest friends, a member of “The Untouchables” was murdered, supposedly by Capone too. It’s Christmas during the early 1930’s and Ness is completely drunk off his rear end. He’s heartbroken and grieving the recent death of his friend. He wants to speak to Capone personally. He’s offered the opportunity to take sweet, sweet revenge but being the morally unshakable man he is, Ness cannot do it. Promptly after, Capone was arrested for tax evasion and sentenced to 11 years at Alcatraz.
Current time, which is the 1950’s in the Blues and Bullets universe, Ness thought his life was finally settling out and he could live peacefully in his diner when the mark of his greatest target, Capone, reenters his life. There’s a great mystery at hand and the now old and washed up Capone asks Ness for a very important favor using his investigative abilities. Children are disappearing all over Santa Esperanza and the police are completely useless in doing anything about it whatsoever. Eliot travels all over Santa Esperanza trying to piece together every bit of the truth and finds himself dealing with a killer strikingly similar to the Cleveland Torso Murderer (though it’s not actually confirmed on the Blues and Bullets website that it’s him, it seems like there is an influence).
Divided into 5 episodes, players step into the shoes of Eliot Ness and delve into this gruesome, horrifying tale about what’s actually going on in Santa Esperanza and how will he cope with his own personal demons.
Gameplay of Blues and Bullets
The gameplay of Blues and Bullets is linear with slight environmental exploration with interactable objects the player can engage in. They are given a small setting they can traverse through and investigate. The entirely of Blues and Bullets follows a noir black and white/grayscale style with notable objects marked in red, fully rounding out the crime-based drama vibe for players and the story. The player is directly interacting in a cinematic narrative, as if stepping into their own noir film.
Aside from investigative elements, players will find themselves in moments of action with third person shooter aspects as well. When you’re chasing after evil criminals, you’re bound to have a shootout or two.
The Development of Blues and Bullets
Blues and Bullets’s development diaries, available on the A Crowd of Monsters Youtube channel and the Blues and Bullets official website, really delve into detail about Blues and Bullet’s development and the A Crowd of Monsters studio.
For More Information
Currently the first installment of Blues and Bullets is available on Steam for $4.99 at the moment as is the season pass (episodes 1-5) for $19.99. There is currently no word about when the next installment will be released but I will report on that when I catch news of it. Secondly, I’ve given Blues and Bullets a playthrough myself and should be posting a review of it later on in the week, so if you’re interested keep an eye out for that!
Favorite game(s): Gone Home, Life is Strange, Back to Bed, Transistor
Non-indie: Mafia II, L.A. Noire, Dark Cloud II (Dark Chronicle), The Assassin's Creed Series (mainly Brotherhood and Black Flag)
Worked for Cliqist.com from Jan 2013 to Februrary 2014.
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