Blacklight: Tango Down (PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade, PC)
Developer: Zombie Studios
Publisher: Ignition Entertainment
To be released: Summer 2010
Taking cues from the latest in multiplayer shooters, Blacklight has a leveling system to add initiatives to keep playing. Going up to level 70, players will all start at the same place, a sort of middle ground where even new players can compete with the veterans. As they progress, they will unlock new modifications for weapons and loadouts that will define players, more so than create a dichotomy between the have-unlocked and the have-not-unlocked. Zombie Studios is aiming for players to outline their playing style in the way they want. Like to have more health, run slower, take less damage, and rock the shotty? There you go. Wanna bounce around with low health, run faster without all the extra weight, and use an assault rifle? Go for it. Blacklight hopes to allow plenty of customization for the loadouts, so there are lots of opportunities to make the player you want.
The customization elements are rather in-depth. Unlike many shooters where you design only the loadout with weapons and gadgets unlocked, Blacklight allows players to customize nearly every element of their guns, armor, and more. Everything will be unlocked as you play, and with five different weapon classes, numerous stocks, attachments, and more, there will be over 380 million different loadout combinations.
By far the coolest weapon shown in the game is the digi grenade. When thrown, instead of making an explosion or sending out a flash or smoke, the digi grenade corrupts your HUD, making that part of the game world look like a pixelated mess. Sure, it's almost exactly the same effect as a smoke grenade, but standing inside what amounts to a corrupted file and making a kill from within was a treat.
Also, I should mention that there will be achievements/trophies for teabagging. At least they know their market, right? Blacklight is, after all, receiving a Teen rating, so expect some higher-pitched voices coming through your headset.
The core gameplay is rather straightforward. Out of the seven game modes, I was shown two: Team Deathmatch and Domination. We only had 4 players (Blacklight goes up to 8v8), so the Team Deathmatch was a little lackluster, but it at least afforded time to appreciate the levels. One was a smaller, blown-out brick building, which made the 2v2 not so slow. The other level I played was an industrial rooftop, much larger and perfect for sniping.
Finally, there was the Domination mode. It's basically a control point mode (my favorite), and the level we played was a neon-lit urban snow level. There was one new feature that was tossed in to make captures more interesting. Get to a point, and instead of just waiting for the point to switch to your side, you can enter into a simple "Simon Says" minigame. Players will be able to instantly capture the point with completion, but you'll pay for it by losing control of your player while the minigame goes down. It actually feels like a simple addition that makes sense.
Now, I was not shown the other 10 levels, or the other modes, but we can expect levels of varying sizes and options. Also, while the plot, like I said, is not terribly important, there will be a four-mission co-op mode that will fill in some of the detail leading up to the comic and film.
And that is the most impressive element of Blacklight: Tango Down: all of this squeezes in under 2 GB. While the PC version will run at a better resolution and have some better textures, the title is the same across the board, and truth be told, it looks like there is a whole lot of game here in a small package. It also looks pretty great, especially when it comes to downloadable titles. Considering other downloadable shooters, such as Call of Duty Classic or Battlefield: 1943, are a little light on features, having a very fully-featured multiplayer shooter as a downloadable title is surprising. Hopefully Blacklight can follow through with super-solid core gameplay, which, as of right now, feels like it is in the right direction.
Since there is so much focus on making the game good from the get-go, it doesn't look like DLC is going to be something to expect. The representatives were clear that they wanted the game to be long-lasting and play functionally well when it releases, not with content packs. As for price, expect to see it in the $15 range.
Now, one of my biggest concerns with the game is that it simply is a high-tech sci-fi first-person shooter led by a bunch of militaristic dudes. Nothing wrong with with that, but it shows the problem of stagnation in this specific genre. If they can add more stuff like the digi grenade, Blacklight could be very cool. Zombie Studios, for all their impressive work with getting Blacklight as a DLC title, well, now they just have to make gamers interested. That, my friends, is the tougher challenge.
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