Zombie Studios and Ignition Entertainment have teamed up to release Blacklight: Tango Down, a $15 FPS shooter intended for online multiplayer. This budget-priced title, available now on Xbox Live and PC (and eventually PSN), is powered by the Unreal engine and may prove to be an interesting distraction for online FPS gamers looking for some fresh IP.
Shine A Light
Blacklight: Tango Down (BLTD) is is designed around fast paced FPS action, weapon customization, the HRV, and a leveling system. No campaign mode is included in the traditional sense, although there are four Black Ops missions which can be played with up to four of your online friends. The Black Ops missions are also playable by your lonesome, but they aren't built for this, and you'll likely find them a pain in the ass to play through alone. There are Leaderboards for the Black Ops however, so if you and your friends are interested, you can work towards that elusive top spot.
What's left then is the other ninety percent of the game which is solo and team based modes. There are two factions in Blacklight: the "good guys," i.e., Blacklight, and The Order (the bad guys). That's really all that's said about them, but what more do you need to know? Players can choose between either faction (they're practically identical) and use them in any of the available modes (although Black Ops is strictly Blacklight versus CPU-controller Order). These modes include your typical selections like Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Last Man Standing, Last Team Standing, Retrieval (CTF), Domination, and Detonate.
Most of these are self explanatory for anyone that has played an FPS since the 90s, but some are worth elaborating on. For example with Retrieval, the idea is just like CTF, but instead of a flag your team is tasked with capturing a data canister. In Domination, control points across the map are marked and teams are split up into red and blue. Your HUD shows the state and location of the control points. As a team holds these control points, their point total increases, edging them closer to victory. Control points can be taken over by standing in control point areas, or much more quickly by holding X next to a computer to 'hack' the control point. In Detonate, a neutral explosive is placed in the middle of the map, and teams must race out to get it and drop it off in the opposition's base. After placing the bomb, it must also be defended before the opposing players can defuse it. Finally, the Last Man Standing modes disable respawning.
Modes are dictated by time or point limits set by the host. Each mode can be played on any of the twelve maps which include a variety of modern settings. Maps are designed for outdoors action and feel a little small and I didn't find any of them all that interesting. The in game Dr. Pepper ads were lame as well.
The actual gameplay of BLTD is fast and furious. A lifeline in the lower corner of the HUD reads "175," which in any average FPS game would mean a whole lot of health. In BLTD though, this empties out about as quick as any FPS I have ever played. It literally takes just a few bullets to bring you down to zero health. In some ways, I like that, but expect to see that respawn counter an awful lot. This is especially true when playing highly ranked players who have advanced and customized weapons. Fortunately, respawning only takes five seconds, and you don't get to choose where to respawn at. Due to the relatively small size and quick kill nature of the game, spawn kills or camping is a fact of life in Blacklight, but you'll find yourself able to take advantage of these situations almost as many times as you are taken advantage of.
To help you locate both friends and enemies, as well as health and ammo stations, both factions are equipped with the HRV, or Hyper-Reality Visor. You can turn this on as long as you have enough juice (shown by a meter in the HUD) by pressing Up on the d-pad. With it, you get a 'rail gun' type of view of the world. Basically, you can see through walls and Friends and Hostiles are marked for you, and ammo and health stations become clear. The trick is, HRV mode doesn't last long, just a few seconds, and you can't shoot while you are in HRV mode, which feels contrived. Worse yet, to get out of HRV mode to where you can shoot, you have to wait about a second for your character to reach up and touch his helmet to turn HRV off. For the seriously fast paced, every one for themselves modes, HRV pretty much went out the window because of that delay. I think it's nice you can just press RT (shoot) to get out of HRV instead of having to press Up on the d-pad again, but it's still an intentional, considerable delay.
EMP and Digi-grenades offer a way for players to combat the 'see all' ability of the HRV. With these grenades, players who are using HRV in the area will get a greatly distorted view. Seeing these detonate at a distance provides a pretty neat visual effect.
So as you compete and earn Kills, Double Kills, Headshots, Assists and all that, you also earn XP. Like other games in the genre, XP goes towards a rank, and a rank gives you not only prestige but access to additional upgrades and customization. In BLTD, players unlock new weapon presets, equipment, armor, and weapon tags. Weapon presets can be customized and saved, allowing you to take the stock SMG preset and tweak it to your own liking. There are presets for SMG, Assault, Shotgun, Sniper, and Machine Gun classes. Within each, you can pick your primary weapon, secondary weapon, armor type, and equipment (generally explosives of some kind). The new presets that you unlock as you level up yield new weapon customizations which give you more firepower. You can preview upcoming presets before you earn them to see what difference they will give you in terms of an overall 'rating' as well as their appearance. Players can further customize their loadout with Weapon Tags. These are trinkets that you can attach to your primary weapon to give you an additional boost in health, speed, and damage. Tags are unlocked by leveling up.
All in all, I think BLTD is an okay game. I'm not particularly impressed with any of it, but I'm also not taken aback by anything either. It really is what it is, a $15, online only FPS. How much you enjoy it will depend largely on the community and what Zombie Studios does to keep players playing. One thing I would like to see is an increase in how far you can throw a grenade. The in game advertising is likely here to stay, but I can't help but be perturbed by it a little. In most other respects, BLTD isn't that bad, it just isn't great either.
To the summary...