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Zombie Studios


Blacklight developer Zombie Studios closes doors

Leaves behind twenty year legacy
Jan 08
// Conrad Zimmerman
Zombie Studios, the developer behind Blacklight and responsible for launching the Spec Ops series, has stated they are shutting down operations after more than two decades in the industry. The announcement comes by ...

Review: Daylight

Apr 29 // Caitlin Cooke
Daylight PC [reviewed], PlayStation 4)Developer: Zombie StudiosPublisher: Zombie StudiosRelease: April 29, 2014MSRP: $14.99 The player awakens as Sarah, a young woman trapped inside an abandoned hospital with a smartphone conveniently at her side. A creepy man barks instructions and vague allusions to her past through the phone, which also acts as a map and a light. Glow sticks can be collected and used for light and double as a basic hint system, casting a soft green glow to highlight item containers or puzzle mechanisms. Flares are the only other usable items and are used to fend off the creepy witch ghost thing that haunts you throughout the game. The goal is to make it through each level without getting too close to creepy witch ghost thing, who I am now dubbing Miss Ghost. Miss Ghost is deadly and can appear at any time, more often so as Sarah collects “remnants” -- notes and articles scattered about the levels. The mechanics are similar to Slender; the more remnants that are collected, the higher the threat of meeting Miss Ghost. Once all of the remnants have been found, the strange man over the phone instructs Sarah to collect a “sigil” -- basically a creepy token like a busted up bible or a haunted teddy bear -- and bring it to the gate to unlock the next area. Unfortunately during this phase, Sarah is not able to use glow sticks or flares, essentially making it a “run for your life” type of situation. I appreciated this from a horror perspective -- however, this feeling waned after I noticed that running right past Miss Ghost wasn't much of a problem at all. The game alternates between these “sigil” areas, and more laid-back puzzle levels where the goal was to get to the next area of the island. I didn't find these levels too engrossing as most of the tasks involved moving boxes around slightly or finding a lever to move past a barrier. That coupled with the fact that the glow sticks basically told you where everything was, there was really no challenge here. The overall atmosphere of Daylight was certainly chilling. The lighting was spot on - whenever Sarah put down her phone to bust open a new glow stick, the entire area would grow scarily dim. In true jump-scare fashion, the game would often have various items fly off the wall or unleash disturbing sounds at random. Occasionally Sarah would black out, and in an instant the game would transport me to a creepy hallway starring Miss Ghost. Though short, feeling properly creeped out was the high point of the game. Sadly, the rest of Daylight was lacking. Miss Ghost overstayed her welcome midway through the game, I had become immune to her scares and eventually just stopped using flares for fun. Even the plot couldn't compel me to care -- the remnants weren't particularly interesting, and reading them felt like I was taking a class on Horror 101. I also found certain mechanics to be annoying -- the fact that I never really ran out of glow sticks or flares enough to feel panicked, Sarah’s constant whining of the same three phrases over and over again, the autosave functionality not working properly at times...the list goes on. Daylight does however have an interesting concept up its sleeve, besides the randomly generated levels. The game also integrates with Twitch, allowing viewers to enter commands and create spooky sounds or other events for the player. I wasn't able to test this feature out, but I can only imagine the havoc that Dtoiders can wreak on our Twitch channel. Overall I felt as if Daylight was made as a jump-scare machine with a loosely tacked-on plot. I never felt invested in Sarah or cared much for the mysterious man rambling through her phone. In fact, I was more concerned with getting Miss Ghost off my back so she’d stop screaming, more so out of annoyance than fear. Daylight would have benefited from a fresh set of spooks rather than intermittent scares and muddy plot lines, but at the end of the day if you’re looking for a cheap thrill you've found it.
Daylight review! photo
Starring: generic creepy witch ghost thing
I've been an enthusiast of the horror genre ever since I laid hands on Eternal Darkness for the GameCube. Although not a fair comparison to many survival horror games since, I’ve understood what it takes for...


Daylight sees a slight delay, now coming April 29

Get the game at an early discount
Apr 02
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Daylight has been delayed slightly, and will now be coming out on April 29 instead of on April 8. Why the delay? So Atlus and developers Zombie Studios can fine tune the scariness. Atlus released this statement on the exact ...

Blacklight: Retribution on PS4 gets a horde mode

Better late than never!
Feb 27
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Blacklight: Retribution on the PlayStation 4 just got a new update today, and with it came the Onslaught horde mode. This new mode sees four players working together to fight off endless waves of infected creatures. You know,...

Daylight photo

Daylight will let Twitch users scare PS4 streamers

Kinda scaring me already
Feb 20
// Conrad Zimmerman
Atlus dropped quite a bit of interesting information regarding the first-person horror game Daylight today. The most important nuggets may be that the game is now set to release for PC and PlayStation 4 on April 8, price...
DTOID News is wearing a dumb scarf
Hey everybody, I’m back from Japan! And here’s your quasi-timely news update for the first two thirds of this week. Irrational Games closed, pre-ordering Wolfenstein: The New Order gets you a beta for the new and...

Daylight photo

New Daylight trailer gives a little horror atmosphere

and another hospital
Jan 06
// Conrad Zimmerman
Above you'll find a new trailer for Daylight, the upcoming horror title for PS4 from Zombie Studios. It's suitably creepy, moving slowly through the game's ruined hospital environment and filling it with haunting noises and ...
Daylight screens photo
Daylight screens

Grimy Daylight screens make me wan' go home

Sewer? I hardly even know her!
Dec 13
// Steven Hansen
Zombie Studio's upcoming, procedurally generated PC and PS4 horror game Daylight just got some new screenshots, as well as a bit of backstory. It seems the abandoned hospital bit I played during my preview gives way to the se...
Blacklight photo

Blacklight: Retribution has a terrible launch trailer

As terrible a trailer as this is, the game is amazing
Nov 11
// Abel Girmay
Blacklight: Retribution, the best free-to-play game of 2012, returns with what has to be the worst trailer of 2013. Don't know if all of the chosen quotes were meant to be this bad as a joke, but it's not funny either way. T...
Zombie Studios photo
Zombie Studios

Exclusive! Zombie Studios announces Phantom Army

New free-to-play cover-based third-person shooter
Oct 24
// Niero Desu
Update: We have an interview! Like '80s comic books?  You're gonna dig this -- Destructoid just received an exclusive look at Zombie Studios' next game: Phantom Army, a free-to-play third-person cover-based shooter with ...

Daylight scared the sh*t out of me

Oct 21 // Steven Hansen
[embed]263844:50997:0[/embed] Daylight (PC [previewed], PS4)Developer: Zombie StudiosPublisher: AtlusRelease: Early 2014 Daylight, coming from a small-ish team at Zombie (Blacklight), might be the first Unreal Engine 4 game to market. The power of the engine, coupled with the highly improved workflow, has allowed the team to work quickly on the procedurally generated horror game. It's why the team managed to get the game running with the Oculus Rift in such a short period of time. It's the technology that's going to help make Daylight terrifying many times over. Coming from a team whose members have worked on games like FEAR, Condemned, and The Suffering, Daylight knows how to scare. It's also had the benefit of wisdom and creative control. This is not an action shooter with scary elements. Tension is the most important part of a good scare. It's what drives people more and more on edge. It's what got to me and almost made me just give and say, "thanks for the demo, I refuse to play anymore." I'm promised a number of scare tactics during the course of the game, but the one that most affected me was the strange ghost that decided to pop up and harass me every once in a while, seemingly unprompted. I began in some sort of decrepit hospital. Yes, horror 101, but I'm told there will be more locations to explore in the full game. The light that the game's lead holds up to dimly dull the darkness had a compass on it in early screens. That's been replaced by a mini map. However, it wasn't visible in my playthrough, making navigating Daylight's maze even more stressful. "No mini-map" may become a challenge mode or part of higher difficulties, I'm told. As I walked through dirty, abandoned corridors, getting spooked at every noise, I became slowly more unnerved. There was no reason for my fear. Nothing had happened yet. This is how tension works. It's the expectation that gnaws at you. A bookshelf rumbled a bit as I walked by and suddenly I found myself pausing before walking past any inanimate object. A seed had been planted. Eventually I found my way to the door that would let me leave and end this nightmare. Unfortunately, it appeared locked by some arcane magic. I would have to find a talisman that allowed me to open it -- a terrifying porcelain doll with obsidian eyes and a shark's grin.But first I got lost some more. As I wandered around, looking for the creepy doll, I accidentally took a turn into a room I had already been inside. It was a small, barren room containing nothing of interest. As I nonchalantly went to turn around, I was ambushed by a harrowing spirit. I briefly freaked out, somehow fumbling with a mouse as if I was dropping it through it sat on flat ground. Eventually I got my wits about me and booked it away, for a long while, not stopping to look back. I had made it out okay. Except I was still stuck in a creepy hospital looking for a creepy doll while being accosted by a creepy ghost, so things were not okay. Chance encounters with the haunt left me increasingly fraught and stressed out, swearing constantly, partially directed at the two men who I knew were in the room but couldn't even steal a glance at lest I turn back to the computer and some ghoul be up in my grill. In its simplest form, Daylight works well. There's still a lot Zombie isn't showing. A lot of semi-optional narrative bits, with note collecting, that is still under wraps. Other light sources, like flares and glows ticks will be available. There are other scare tactics, from the innocuous to the aggressive. There are other locations.Hopefully all of that translates into Daylight reaching its aims: holding up as impressively replayable and consistently scary. We'll find out next year. Well, you will. I may be a scared baby and not play it.
Daylight preview photo
Not the Matt and Kim song
Daylight? More like Darklight. Because it's so fu*king dark in here and I can't god damn see and there are fu*king ghosts everywhere god damn it Hamza why did you make me preview this game. This is what I remembered a few min...

Getting spooked in Daylight while wearing an Oculus Rift

Oct 21 // Steven Hansen
I looked down, towards my lap, and I saw hands, but they were not mine. It’s like a weird, inverse phantom limb syndrome. Atlus USA’s John Hardin picked up my left hand and placed it on the keyboard, my middle finger resting on “W.” He took my right hand and put it on the mouse. I was now in a terrible place. The small team at Zombie Studios working on Daylight had only been playing with Occulus Rift technology for the last three weeks. The environment I was put in to test it out was pre-determined, rather than following the game’s procedurally generated haunted house. It already worked quite well, though, and was incredibly efficient at adding to immersion as I craned my neck to look around corners, looked down at the strange hands that were not mine, and shot glances back and forth every time I heard a scary noise. Check out my non-Occulus Rift preview of Daylight for a lengthier look at the game. It scared the sh*t out of me, I’m mildly embarrassed to admit. When I started playing without the Rift, I thought something was missing. I felt more confident, less vulnerable. “I can totally do this,” I thought. Nope. Things spiraled out of control quickly and I cursed Hamza for making me play this spooky god damn game.
Daylight Oculus Rift photo
The Oculus Rift is really daylight-ful
Sensory deprivation can be relaxing. It can also be terrifying in extreme measures, like the sound proof acoustic chamber that causes its guests to hallucinate. Wearing an Oculus Rift is a little bit like that. Especially in ...

Lord of the Rings photo
Lord of the Rings

Console MOBA Guardians of Middle-earth coming to PC

Well, this is a bit awkward
Aug 15
// Jordan Devore
Monolith took a crack at making a multiplayer online battle arena experience for consoles with Guardians of Middle-earth. It was an admirable attempt -- and I enjoyed the game quite a lot for what it was, which was a trimmed...

Blacklight: Retribution gets level cap increase, Dropzone

New gear made available, too
Aug 12
// Harry Monogenis
Fans of Zombie Studios' Blacklight: Retribution will be happy to hear that the free-to-play FPS has received a splendid little update, increasing the level cap as well as adding a new map that Tango Down players are...

Blacklight dev: 'Sony is really in to win this one'

Mar 26 // Hamza CTZ Aziz
Furthermore, Sony is going beyond simply approving projects to offer more direct support to independent developers like Zombie. "They could have just been like, 'Yeah, put it on the PlayStation 4. Cool,'" Jared told me. "But they're sending us kits, they're sending us everything, they're pulling us into PR groups, they're setting up these events for us, and it's just awesome." It's especially significant that Sony is working with Zombie "considering the game's been out, most publishers had been 'yeah we don't understand cause the game's already out so whatever.' But [Sony's] been really awesome. 'Yeah let's get this, here you can talk to these guys, let's introduce you.' It's been really, really cool." Check out my full interview with Jared where we discuss the fear of self-publishing, and how the studio imagines using the PlayStation 4 controller's touch pad. 
PlayStation 4 photo
Blacklight: Retribution developer speaks on the PS4's strategy
Sony revealed several more indie titles last night during the Game Developers Conference that are set to hit the PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 3, and even PlayStation 4. Sony has been showing a lot of support to smaller devel...

Blacklight: Retribution is coming to the PlayStation 4

Mar 25 // Hamza CTZ Aziz
Once Jared got the rights back for Blacklight, he spent some time shopping the title around to other publishers to bring it on consoles. After not finding anything desirable, Jared decided take matters into his own hands. "So I went back to Zombie and said 'Let's just publish it all ourselves,'" Jared told me. "So we're going to be developing and publishing Blacklight on the PlayStation 4 all ourselves. Literally no safety net, it's really freaking crazy. That's kind of why with Daylight we've been doing a lot of things to figure out how to actually do our own marketing and PR with everything. It's going to be pretty interesting going from Daylight straight to Blacklight. "The really exciting thing is us publishing it, we have full control over it. Scarier existence, you know? [Before] we could say 'Oh, that wasn't us! That was those guys!' But now, we're going to be the holders of all things, which kind of sucks. That's the thing, back in the day 'Oh, wasn't me! Not me, not my fault.' But now it's like 'Shit. Yeah, okay, we'll get on that. Sorry. Okay, we'll fix that. Sorry.' That's the thing about developers that are willing to say sorry, versus developers that just don't even acknowledge it." [embed]249645:47781:0[/embed] The content and the gameplay of Blacklight will be the same as the PC version, but Jared tells me that the experience will still be different. Plus, they have the freedom to do whatever they want to the game now. "We're redeveloping everything. The content and gameplay will still be the same, but we're redeveloping all of the controls for the controller. We're going to start using the touch screen for it, and doing all sorts of fun stuff with that. Anything that makes sense that the PlayStation 4 has we're going to try and integrate it into the game. "The big thing that we're doing is the experience is going to be completely different. Not only the experience but the game just inherently changes when it goes from the PC market place and PC user base versus console. "We're also going to be doing a lot of things that we wanted to change but we had none of the control over. We're completely restructuring the monetization system. It will still be a free-to-play, which is really exciting, but we're going to be doing a lot of new things with it just as far as content, and also the game itself." Jared told me they'll be revealing more stuff as we get closer to E3, but some things he was able to share was that they're going to be putting a big focus on the eSports scene with a spectating system similar to a sports program, making use of the uStream service, and working with outside partners to get actual prizes for players. They're pushing for more maps and other content as well. I also asked Jared if they have any plans to use the PlayStation Move. "Only if it makes sense," he told me. "We have everything at our disposal, but if it doesn't make sense we're not going to make something do it. I really want to do stuff with the screen, but if it doesn't make sense for the game I'm not going to make them do it. There are ideas that we have with the Move that I think will make sense, but not until we prototype it. "That's the coolest part, we're not afraid to throw away work, and our guys work so quickly. HRV for Blacklight, when I told them 'Hey we're going to make it so you press a button and you can see through walls,' half my devs were like 'You're a fucking idiot. Why are you doing that!' It was like 'Well let's try it, let's just prototype it out.' We did it, we kept it in for a week, and then after we took it out, everyone was like 'I really like it. Let's put it back in.' For now, they're focusing on getting the thumbsticks and the general controls perfect for the console gamers. Plus, they want to focus on making use of the new PS4 controller's touch screen in interesting ways. "With Blacklight, the cool thing was we tried doing some interesting things like the mini-games, you'd come up to something and you'd have to do a mini-game. That's the first thing we thought of when it comes to the touch screen. Instead of just holding E, maybe you'll have to be like 'Oh shit, I need to do this thing.' "'Cause that gives that frantic nature. Those are the first things that we've thought of for touch screen, but we'll probably make it so that it will be a major part of the customization system, or instead of having to always use the thumb sticks to rotate. We need to get it really working and see what looks right and also the fidelity of the screen. "We have [a PS4], but we haven't gotten in our own art, and we haven't gotten it really dialed in. I honestly don't even know if the [controller] actually has LEDs in it, truthfully. We have it, and I've been like 'Holy fuck, this is so awesome!' but we're still focusing so much on just getting the engine updated, getting it to actually talk to the PlayStation, getting all that stuff to actually build that we're not even rendering yet. It's just so much that the guys are working on right like building our own backend, connecting it to the PlayStation Network -- I have a feeling by E3 when you see me I'll just have gray streaks everywhere. "It's pretty wild, it's fun. If we can even make a moderately successful free-to-play that's going to be a huge success for us. With most free-to-plays, the money that you have coming in is not going to buy a Lamborghini or anything, it's to keep the game going. If it becomes a success then the game will become even bigger and we'll be able to put it back into the community and all that fun stuff." Zombie Studios is aiming to release the new Blacklight a few months after the PlayStation 4. "I'd love to be able to do day one," Jared tells me, "but that's completely out of my control sometimes."
PlayStation 4 photo
Still free-to-play, but with a restructured monetization system
[Note: The images used in this article are from the PC version of Retribution.] Developer Zombie Studios has announced that its free-to-play first-person shooter, Blacklight: Retribution, will be coming to the PlayStation 4...

Why Zombie Studios turned down publishers for Daylight

Mar 25 // Jordan Devore
"I think it got confused in some earlier interviews where people are like 'Oh, the main character is Jessica.' And that's not the case," explained Chobot. "What we were trying to talk about is the main character is whoever you want yourself to be because all you see is a first-person perspective. We do have moments where certain voice-over is done which I did because I'm there and it's easy and I wrote it, so I know what to do -- and it's just like quick little quips. So that's about as 'Jessica' as it gets." Describing what development has been like on Daylight, she said "The funny part of it is I literally had to set up a makeshift VO booth in my living room where I took a microphone and I took all the couch cushions off my couch and surrounded the microphone in it to muffle it ... and downloaded this flashlight application on my iPhone so that I could read the lines when I was inside my little cave. And then that was how I recorded everything." It seemed funny to me how, of all the teams that could showcase the prowess of Unreal Engine 4 in this transitional period, it's a handful of people working on Daylight who are among the first. "The head of licensing still gives me massive shit because we're going to be coming out quite a bit before any other Unreal 4 game," laughed Gerritzen. "I saw him last week, and he was like 'Dude, I don't believe it's coming out. I don't believe it's going to run.' And it's because the engine is so much in its infancy still. [The game is] going to be a beast. You're going to have to have a good PC to run it." [embed]249214:47680:0[/embed] When Daylight releases on Steam, it will cost $20 or less. I asked Gerritzen what he thought about other titles in the genre also going after a similar price point. "I hope that the mentality kind of changes where you actually get what you paid for," he commented. "There's been numerous games in the past couple of years that we pay $60 for that really shouldn't have been 60 bucks. But that's because it's either [Xbox Live Arcade] $15 or $60. There's never been this middle ground. "I think we'll see games that might be $45 where we wouldn't have seen that a while back. When I first started, you needed to have a publisher ... now with the digital distribution thing happening, and Steam, and Origin, now people like us can make a game, we can distribute it. The only thing that we're unable to do, really -- I mean if we have the money -- is put a commercial or do a big ad campaign connected to it." Continuing, he explained that "If [Daylight] is successful, we're going to do another independent game. I would love to control my own destiny with our games. We could have a publisher that has five games and our game is the marketing person's least favorite game out of the five because they might be into completely different games. And so, this game doesn't become as successful just because of one person's taste. So now if it's us developing, producing, publishing, it's really up to us to do as much as we can or can afford." Let the record show that the choice to self-publish is exactly that: a choice. "I've got a few games that still have publishers and every time that I talk to those guys they're like 'Hey, how about we publish Daylight?' It's like 'Nope! I think we're good. We're going to do ourselves and just see if it can be successful.' I love the idea of living and dying by our own sword. It's one of those things -- it's scary as hell, but it's going to be fun as hell to see what happens.
Daylight photo
Details on the surprisingly small team behind this horror game
Rounding out our recent coverage of Zombie Studios' horror game Daylight, I have a little more from my chat last week with studio creative head Jared Gerritzen and writer Jessica Chobot. With the studio behind Blacklight: Ret...

Daylight photo

PAX: Daylight takes horror into the YouTube age

Procedurally generated indie title takes inspiration from Minecraft
Mar 22
// Alasdair Duncan
When gamers argue about whether or not a game is survival horror, they tend to focus on the scares. Jump scares are a particular bone of contention because they can be effective only a few times before they get predictable. T...

How Daylight intends to scare the sh*t out of you

Mar 21 // Jordan Devore
In summing up the game, Gerritzen said that essentially "you're a rat in a maze. It's kind of cool because the storyline is about this hospital and this doctor that was doing all of these experiments, and this insane kind of thing that really fits with the '50s/'60s tests on rats. "And so it's really funny that you're literally just trying to find your way through this map, but as you're going through, you're constantly being hunted and you're constantly being scared. Everything is different each time. I didn't think [this approach] was gonna work when we first started working on it. It was just one of those things where I haven't seen it done -- or done well." Surprisingly, it does work -- even on the game's developers. "Like, I've thrown my mouse, twice, just because I'm getting into it so much that I just completely freak out," admitted Gerritzen. "You know, I'm an adult male and sometimes it's pretty embarrassing, but it's really funny -- it gets your heart rate up. "It's gotten to the point where some of the guys go and test it in our demo room with all the lights off and we actually have a night-vision camera that we try to capture with. That's where you get the craziest facial expressions or guys just freaking the hell out. Occasionally, I hide under the desk and come out and scare the living crap out of them." I couldn't help but feel like, eventually, players will become accustomed to Daylight's tactics, even if they are more mixed up than we're used to. That's where updates come in. "What we'll be doing with the new [post-release] chapters is adding new story elements but also new elements to the bucket" of content that the game draws from, said Gerritzen. "Either new set pieces, or new gags, or new ghosts, or new phantoms and all this new crazy stuff. "The great thing is since we're using Steam and we don't have to go through [certification] with everything, some of the guys have come and said 'I've got ideas,' and they're not big chapter pieces, but we're going to be sneaking new things in all the time. If you get a new update on Steam, the idea is you've played [Daylight] a few times, we're going to throw in a few gags here and there and hopefully you'll be constantly getting surprised by the game."
Daylight photo
Zombie Studios talks procedural generation
After catching a glimpse of Zombie Studios' Daylight in action yesterday, I hope you're in the mood for more on the horror title. I spoke with studio creative head Jared Gerritzen earlier this week about how the game will lev...

Daylight trailer photo
Daylight trailer

Exclusive: Debut trailer for Zombie Studios' Daylight

New psychological horror game for PC
Mar 20
// Jordan Devore
Zombie Studios has shared details and screenshots for its procedurally-generated horror title Daylight, but now we're getting to see the Unreal Engine 4 game in motion. While the video is indeed a teaser, it should help put ...
Daylight photo

Daylight will be playable at PAX East

Booth #668 is where you'll want to be
Mar 17
// Harry Monogenis
Zombie Studios has confirmed Daylight will be playable at PAX East 2013. The upcoming horror game has been attracting quite a lot of attention since it was announced back in February, and PAX East attendees will be ...
Blacklight: Retribution photo
Blacklight: Retribution

Blacklight: Retribution just got itself a horde mode

Onslaught mode sees you fighting waves of zombies with up to four players
Feb 27
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Zombie Studios's free-to-play FPS Blacklight: Retribution just got some brand new free content in the form of a horde mode. Onslaught sees up to four players working together to fight off wave after wave of zombies. Players ...

Get your Dtoid weapon tag for Blacklight: Retribution!

Feb 24 // mrandydixon
To redeem your code: Go to, register, and download the game client Install the game, select a server, and create your very own Agent! Go to Enter the code you received from Destructoid Enter game, collect items from your mail, and activate them Navigate to customization and equip your new weapon and gear!
Mr Destructoid Blacklight photo
Also a temporary unlock for the new AK-470 rifle, an XP boost, and more!
[Update: Codes expired! Stay tuned in the future for more giveaways!] Our friends at Perfect World and Zombie Studios have given the Dtoid community 10,000 codes to unlock the Mr. Destructoid weapon tag in Blacklight: Retribu...

Review: Special Forces: Team X

Feb 12 // Patrick Hancock
Special Forces: Team X (PC [reviewed], Xbox Live Arcade)Developer: Zombie StudiosPublisher: AtariMSRP:  $14.99 (PC) / 1200 Microsoft Points (XBLA) Special Forces: Team X is a multiplayer-only, third-person cover-based shooter. It is the type of game that relies on established norms and tired design decisions to bring in an audience for a few months and then disappear forever. So there's shooting, and the shooting feels solid. Each gun is broken down into four stats: damage, recoil, spread, and accuracy. Holding down the fire button will, depending on the gun's recoil, force your cursor upwards, resulting in missed shots. Tapping the fire button is the most accurate way to dispose of an enemy and may take some time to master for those not hardened on shooting mechanics. Dying is swift in Team X, which emphasizes not only cover, but working as a team. The cover mechanics are okay, though far from perfect. Blind firing from behind cover is an option, and is sometimes necessary in certain situations. It is, however, impossible to slide along a wall with varying heights. Here's what I mean: Where the chest-high cover turns into a full-fledged wall, your character is prevented from moving. The character should automatically stand up once he reaches the larger portion and continue along the wall, not stop instantly once he reaches the end of the short wall. To combat this, the player must remove himself from cover, move over, then go back into cover, thereby making himself unnecessarily vulnerable. It is things like this that make the game feel unpolished. Snapping into cover does work well, at least. [embed]244225:46907[/embed] Teamwork is rewarded by a multiplier that increases while teammates are around. It works well and achieves what it is supposed to, but there's a big problem when working as a team: there is no option to use voice chat. Let me repeat: this is a teamwork-oriented game with no option for voice chat. Action in Team X is very fast-paced, so even if there were a way to type only to your teammates (there isn't) it would take too much time to say the likes of "cover me while I run ahead" or "make sure someone has our back." So, while it is easy to stay next to your teammates, it is almost impossible to work as a team. The unlock system is incredibly stilted and homogenizing. Leveling up happens at a decent pace, but the incentives for leveling up are mostly bland and uninspired. Pretty much every player uses the same guns at the same character levels. Even simple character aesthetic pieces are locked behind levels. You want to be Asian? Become level 12 first. Black? Better level up to 29! Want to play as a woman? Tough luck, buddy. But hey, at least you can choose between any type of camouflage right from the start! There are five game modes to choose from, but good luck finding a server with the one you want to play. If you don't want to play Team Deathmatch or Capture Point, the chances of finding a server with people in it plummet. High Value Target is probably the most interesting of the modes, where one player acts as the High Value Target (HVT). If the HVT dies, the player who killed him becomes the new HVT. The HVT earns three points for each kill, while his teammates earn two. The opposing team only earns one point per kill. It offers a nice back-and-forth experience, and since the maps don't allow for camping, it never becomes a standstill. Capture the Flag is exactly what it sounds like. Hot Zone is basically King of the Hill. With a slight exception of HVT, these modes are so paint-by-numbers and derivative that it is no wonder nobody plays them. The map system seems unique at first, allowing the players in a server to choose what each third of the map looks like. Voting is cast before the match begins, with majority ruling. In theory, this creates a unique map almost every time and prevents map knowledge from becoming an advantage. In practice, it's just the same few map sections smashed together, over and over again. Sure, the overall map is different each time, but the only part that's actually different is where the sections meet. Each section is exactly the same as the last time it was chosen, it's just in a different part of the map. I've memorized the map sections already, and the only thing I can't predict are the two areas of the map in which the three sections intersect. It doesn't feel like a unique map every time, it feels like the same boring sections repeated every time. There is a cavalcade of bugs and poor design elements all throughout Special Forces: Team X, and I'll do my best to list them all here. I've spawned in the same area of the map as an enemy when the round begins. The server browser cannot be sorted by players, mode, etc. Sometimes the server browser shows 15/16 players but when I join it, no one is in the server. There is no auto-team balance when teams become uneven in number or in skill. You can spawn on allies, but many times the game will put you somewhere else. When leveling up, the game says you have new unlocks but doesn't mention what they are, leaving you to search for them yourself. The perk to detect mines unlocks at level 3, but mines are not unlocked until level 38. Clicking "customize secondary" shows nothing but black bars. The perks are not listed in level order, or even alphabetically for that matter, but are instead seemingly thrown together using a dart board. The attack dogs' AI is completely broken. Oh, and a few days after release, my and many others’ stats were reset to level 1, with no indication as to why. Ugh. The game has a cartoony cell-shaded look, which looks nice in action and up close. The game is seemingly going for a light-hearted vibe, judging from some of the trailers and the visual style, though few things in the actual game resemble anything related to humor; it seems more like a façade than anything else. The sound effects are just as solid as anyone would expect. Guns go "rattatat tat," grenades go "kaboom," and beefy guys go "HEY I'M RELOADING!" when they reload. Oh, and the menu music is painfully, generically epic. I would hope that no one is so desperate for a third-person cover-based shooter on PC that they have to resort to playing Special Forces: Team X. It's bland, uninspired, unpolished, and borderline unfinished. The already paltry amount of players is sure to dwindle in the coming weeks and months, leaving Special Forces: Team X nothing more than a line in some unfortunate fans' Steam library. Special Forces: Team X offers nothing unique to the genre and is likely to leave players unfulfilled. What could have been an interesting, inoffensive multiplayer game turned out to be a buggy mess without so much as a hint of something fresh. 
Special Forces: Team X photo
Chest-high aspiration, knee-high realization
Special Forces: Team X looked to fill a certain void in the PC market. One without the joint effects of chest-high walls, competitive multiplayer, and a cover system. Mass Effect 3's multiplayer helped bring third-person cove...

Daylight screenshots photo
Daylight screenshots

New screenshots of Unreal Engine 4 horror game Daylight

Zombie Studios wants to play a little game
Feb 12
// Jordan Devore
Although we already got the first details on Zombie Studios' PC horror game Daylight from an interview last week, the company has put out a proper announcement for the title. Built using Unreal Engine 4, Daylight focuses on r...
Dtoid Show photo
Dtoid Show

Half-Life & Portal Movies? Rayman Delayed? What MADNESS!

Also: The Destructoid Show is being weird and stupid again
Feb 08
// Max Scoville
What a bunch of wacky news today about the video games! There's the ongoing Rayman Legends debacle, with it being delayed for a multi-platform release, causeing devs and fans to speak out. Meanwhile, J.J. Abrahms a...
Daylight photo

Horror game Daylight relies on procedural generation

Developed by Zombie Studios using Unreal Engine 4
Feb 07
// Jordan Devore
Blacklight Retribution developer Zombie Studios had previously shared a few details on its unnamed horror game, though there was a bit too much left to the imagination. As we now know via IGN, Daylight will utilize procedura...

The maps are never the same in Special Forces: Team X

Jan 21 // Abel Girmay
[embed]242194:46462[/embed] Special Forces: Team X (Xbox Live Arcade, PC)Publisher: MicroproseDeveloper: Zombie StudiosRelease: February 6, 2013 The big hook of Special Forces: Team X is its map design, or rather, the players' hands in its design. Maps are broken up into three tiles -- a middle and two ends -- with players voting on each of them in the pre-game lobby. The tiles themselves are essentially slices of whole maps, each of which follows a motif: industrial, warehouse, etc. As you can imagine, this leads to a mind-boggling amount of variation for each map. Conceivably, this can also go a long way to keeping play styles from getting stagnant. Whether you play Call of Duty, Battlefield, or what have you, after a while every player finds the same few routes to run in each map. With Special Forces, that's not going to be a viable strategy when the map layout changes every time you play. With so many permutations of maps though, it remains to be seen how well objective modes play. For deathmatch at least, which is what I played, I always felt there were a good amount of routes and flanking options. So the maps are a blast, that much is sure. What isn't so hot, is really just the rest of the game. While there's nothing that stands as particularly wrong, there's also no compelling reason to keep this on my radar. The moment-to-moment gunplay follows well established genre rules with no real deviation. If you have played a third-person cover shooter, you know what is on offer here. And if you have played any online shooter since 2007, you know what to expect from the progressive level system, though there are a bevy of cosmetic customization options. Special Forces: Team X does try to encourage teamplay at least, with a scoring system that multiplies scores if you run with your team. The health system makes players a bit bullet-spongy, so running with a teammate is best. Still, outside of its approach to map design, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot to get excited about.
Special Forces: Team X photo
Vote on the map design in the pre-game lobby
At first glance, you may find Special Forces: Team X to be just another in today's long line of military shooters. I mean, for God's sake, it's actually called Special Forces: Team X. I don't think titles get more generic tha...


Zombie Studios next game will use Unreal Engine 4

And it's a psychological thriller
Dec 18
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Zombie Studios, makers of awesome games such as Frogger: Hyper Arcade Edition (For real, it's super fun) and Blacklight Retribution, have announced their next game will be utilizing Unreal Engine 4. This now makes them the se...

Review: Blacklight: Retribution

Apr 18 // Jim Sterling
Blacklight: Retribution (PC)Developer: Zombie StudiosPublisher: Perfect WorldRelease: April 3, 2012MSRP: Free-to-PlayRig: Intel i7-2600k @3.40 GHz, with 8GB of RAM, GeForce GTX 580 GPU (SLI)  It's hard to believe that Blacklight: Retribution comes from the same team that developed Tango Down, such are the differences in terms of quality, ambition, and variety. Structured entirely as a competitive multiplayer game (smartly eschewing any cooperative nonsense), Zombie Studios has centered Retribution around a familiar free-to-play model. There's no entry charge, but if you want the bells and whistles (the many bells and whistles), you'll be reaching for your wallet.  Whether you pay or not, this is a shooter worth trying out, especially since it initially costs nothing but your time. While Retribution does nothing revolutionary, it does everything incredibly well. Its game modes, combat mechanics, and leveling system will feel instantly familiar to players of almost any current-generation shooter, but rarely have all these well-worn elements come together in such a sleek package.  Matchmaking is incredibly fast, with players able to jump into quick matches within seconds. The matches themselves run smoothly without lag, despite how many losing players will whine about it in the chat. There's a surprising amount of polish, with only a few minor glitches encountered during the entire experience. The combat is incredibly solid, packing a sizable variety of weapons, all of which carry a satisfying level of heft and impact. Zombie Studios has cherry-picked the very best elements of the very best modern shooters and done each of them justice.  [embed]226017:43415[/embed] There's a modest number of maps, but each one is very well designed, which is a huge step forward from Tango Down's horrendous collection of predictable, uninspired, glorified crawlspaces. There's also a selection of traditional gametypes -- Deathmatch, King of the Hill, Capture the Flag and Domination, and each mode squeezes the most out of the intelligently structured environments. Spawn points could do with a little improvement, as the smaller maps have a tendency to throw one right into the middle of a firefight, or place one team nearer to the objective than another. These problems aren't encountered commonly enough to be too much of an issue, but they'll certainly crop up from time to time.  As players score kills and complete objectives, they'll earn CP. CP is a form of currency that can be used at depots positioned along the map, allowing players to buy themselves temporary bonuses. Some of these bonuses are functional and simple, such as quick health or ammunition refills, but most players will be using them to access rocket launchers, automatic turrets, and miniguns. It's a fun system that adds a dynamic level of reward, though it can be incredibly annoying to buy a hot weapon and get killed, instantly losing it. It can happen quite a bit.  Most importantly, depots house the Hard Suit, which is the star of the show, as well as the number one item guaranteed to make the other team groan in displeasure.  Once bought from a depot, players must summon their Hard Suit on a clear patch of open ground with no roof coverage. If successful (the game can be incredibly picky about where it'll place a suit), this gigantic mech can be clambered into to provide the team with a slow-moving, heavily armored, walking box of death. Armed with both a minigun and a railgun, the Hard Suit is terrifying to encounter and empowering to pilot. Interestingly, however, it's not too hard to unlock, with any moderately skilled player able to garner the required CP. It's not unusual to see up to three Hard Suits on a team at any given time, although they're not always useful thanks to their bulk and sluggish speed.  The Hard Suit is sure to be a controversial addition, owing to how powerful it is, though I found it doesn't break the game at all. My only criticism is that the armor is perhaps a little too excessive, since they can take forever to put down. Even with stinger missiles specifically designed to neutralize the machines, players will have a tough time taking one down, and I feel their durability may need to be nixed a tiny bit. That said, wiser players will likely abandon Hard Suits as time goes by, since they tend to get stuck in confined spaces, can be easily outrun, and aren't as flexible as some of the more tantalizing depot choices. Useful as they are, they're not the answer to anybody's prayers, making them a bit less "cheap" than one might initially fear. Players can customize their own depot options as they progress, unlocking new types of guns, turrets, and other exotic items. It's not just the depot output that can be tailored, either. Personalization is, as one would expect, a huge part of the experience, with an almost overwhelming amount of options. From emblems to camo colors to a whole host of weapon parts, there's a massive amount of things to tweak and customize. Players will be able to build their own guns from scratch, and even pick up special (and sometimes hilarious) emotes that they can show off on victory screens. Of course, most of these options are going to ask for your cash, and quite a lot of cash will need to be spent if you want the best gear.  There are two ways to buy equipment in Retribution -- GP and Zen. GP is earned after each battle, essentially serving as your "free" money. Zen, meanwhile, is purchased with real-world cash. While many items can be bought with GP, the costs are significantly greater than if they're to be purchased with Zen, creating the classic balance between paying for an early edge or grinding for a very long time. As well as paying outright to keep one's stuff, Retribution also sells items on a "rental" basis, with options for one-day, seven-day, or permanent purchases. The rental system is a good way of trying out equipment before buying them, while some regular players may even be able to earn enough daily GP to rent their favorite things indefinitely.  Things get less savory when it comes to permanent buys, however. Prices for outright purchases are pretty damn expensive, with a single gun costing anywhere up to $15 to obtain and tweak. The initial list prices look relatively cheap, but you only ever see the single-day prices when browsing. Much of the content can be bought eventually using GP, but the key word is "eventually." The numbers are pretty obscene when it comes to bagging the high level goods.  Fortunately, however, it's not quite as bad as it would appear, due to the fact that the game is plenty fun without the extras. I had sunk hours and hours into the game, having a great time, without having to spend a single thin dime. Once I got some of the premium gear to try out, I found that they gave me a bit of an edge to keep things spicy, but not once did I feel overpowered. After trying some higher level games with players who had already spent a lot of time and money on the game, I was still able to hold my own, albeit with a bit more of a challenge. While only time can tell, I feel safe in saying that, at the moment, I see no insurmountable pay-wall that would lock players out of the party. Even if there is, after not seeing one for a number of days, I'd say there's more than enough enjoyable gameplay for anybody wanting to just dip in.  While the game is highly polished, there are a few niggling problems holding it back, mostly to do with certain weapons. For instance, the minigun has a tendency to not work when the fire button is pressed, while the heal gun is absolutely useless due to its finicky aiming. It's also a shame that certain support items can't be equipped together -- for instance, I'd love to have revival syringes and heal guns to create a medic, but you can only ever have one or the other. Some of the guns, too, feel oddly imbalanced. The SMG is Godly at all ranges, while the LMG (my usual go-to gun) feels oddly powerless and far too imprecise to be of any use. That said, with so many options to choose from, nobody should have any trouble finding a set of guns, depot drops, and utilities that serve their needs.  What really puts Blacklight: Retribution over the top is its sense of raw style. Feedback is a big part of the game, with players regularly informed on who the highest threats are, and whether or not they've become the team's "warlord" by scoring the most points. If you're killed, the camera freezes the action and zooms to your murderer with a Matrix-esque effect. The sound design is impeccable, and does a great job of letting you know where the action is, and whether or not a Hard Suit is around the corner. With emblems, tags, and emotes all lending a sense of personal flavor to proceedings, there's always something to tweak in order to make your avatar feel all that more yours.  The visual design merrily borrows from Halo, Crysis, Deus Ex, and more to create something that looks familiar, yet strangely unique. While characters may appear to be the kind of masked mooks we've all seen before, the level of detail and the often eccentric takes on science fiction armor give them a level of freshness, helped by the strong blue and orange color schemes, and the camouflage options players can take advantage of. Graphically, this thing looks far better than one would expect any freemium game to look. It's not exactly a Crytek game, but it's definitely pretty. Environments are especially beautiful, with unique locations brimming with color.  Blacklight: Retribution is so far above its predecessor that I still can't believe the two games share a name. Every single thing has been improved, and the result is a game that's fast-paced, supremely gratifying, and hard to put down. I think it would be in Retribution's best interest to lower the prices, as it would encourage more purchasing and keep players invested for longer, but the bare-bones experience is so damn good that the premium content shouldn't be considered a barrier for entry. There's more free fun in this game than many $60 games (and their paid "downloadable" add-ons) seem to offer these days, and those who truly get into the swing of things won't mind paying for some upgrades in the end.  This is not only a great example of a professional and credible free-to-play game, but it's also one of the best first-person shooters I've played. I am quite serious when I say that, too. This game is a serious FPS contender, and its freemium status should not diminish your expectations. I wholeheartedly recommend you jump in and give it a try. It'll cost only your time to give it a whirl, and I am certain that it'll be time well spent.

When I first heard that Blacklight: Tango Down was getting a sequel, I was stunned. While the original game looked pretty, this particular reviewer found it incredibly tiresome and miserable to play. I was reluctant to tackle...

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