Blacklight: Tango Down was a lightweight, budget-priced first-person shooter that sought to offer a full-budget experience. It fell short of expectations, but the free-to-play sequel has started to make a showing recently. I got to put my hands on the game and see how the offering is shaping up so far.
Blacklight: Retribution closed beta (PC)
Developer: Zombie Studios
Publisher: Perfect World Entertainment
Release: TBA 2012
We've already told you about a limited encounter with the game before. This time, I was able to play over three maps, and four modes. There was one map that took place in a warehouse area, complete with interior and exterior areas. Another map was on a construction site in the middle of a city, and the last one was in a blockaded-off block or two of a city.
The nice thing about each map is that, though they seemed small at first, there is a good deal of verticality to each map, with paths leading to higher and lower areas. In addition to this, both the warehouse and the city block maps had shortcuts that could be closed or opened by players.
The modes are pretty standard as well. There's the deathmatch, along with its team counterpart, king of the hill, and domination, or point control. I think the domination mode stood out the most, emphasizing a couple of features of Retribution and requiring more strategy. On every map, there would be three points that you could capture. You can do this the normal way by just standing near the point 'til the meter fills up. You can also hack the point, starting up a quick minigame where you match numbers, and capture the point in a fraction of the time as long as you don't fail or get interrupted while occupied.
Blacklight: Retribution feels fast -- like a good mix between an old-school twitch shooter, like Counter Strike, meshed with the pacing from newer shooters like Call of Duty. This is in part due to the return and use of the Hyper Reality Visor from the first game.
Using it allows you to see all the players in your line of sight, at the cost of terrain detail. Because of this, there's not a lot of running around aimlessly looking for a fight. It's easy to run at someone, and there's a pressing sense of needing to keep moving before someone catches you. When you do catch up to someone, it begins to feel a lot more classic, aiming going fast, and movement light.
Thankfully, the visor does not feel overpowered or game breaking, nor does it feel underutilized like it was in the first game. This is in part due to the new gameplay additions, one being the new armories scattered throughout levels. These always show up in your visor, and allow you to purchase health, ammo, or new heavy weaponry using points you earn from achievements in the match.
This gives the game some of the feeling of something like Counter Strike by rewarding you for performance while still in the match.
Of course, that's not to say they tossed away all the customization from the first game in favor of the Counter Strike model. The character customization is back, and better than ever. There is still the system where you can build a gun from a series of parts, and it functions almost identically to how it was in Tango Down. Stats for the weapons are a lot clearer to see this time and are measured in the typical ways, such as damage, spread, and rate of fire.
In addition to the gun customization, there is also character customization, and true customization at that, starting with a choice that few other shooters offer, gender. After choosing if you want curves or not, you can choose between armor parts that not just affect your appearance, but also how much health you have, how fast you run, and even how long your visor lasts. There are other aesthetic customization options here too, such as the character's voice, taunt gesture, and armor camouflage.
A skill system is in place which dictates what support items you can use, and to what proficiency. Here you could learn how to use things like emp grenades, or better knives. I couldn't see the full breadth of everything available at higher levels, but it appears to offer a good deal of specialization. You could go straight CQC, and ditch grenades in favor of knives plus a riot shield, or even a powerful breach hammer if you had enough points. What items show up in the armories through the level can even be customized as well, though only the five starting items were available for me.
There were a few things that seemed to be off in the game though that still need to be ironed out. Some of the gun types seem under shadowed by others, such as submachine guns outshining assault rifles, the breach hammer being a one-hit kill seemed overpowered given how easily you could rush up on someone from behind. There were a couple of glitches I stumbled upon, too.
However, the game looks great and appears to be shaping up well. Some others here at Destructoid are going to get to check out the game in the near future, and you'll be able to hear what they think of the it soon enough.