Platforms: XBLA (reviewed), PC, PSN (delayed)
Developer: Zombie Studios
Publisher: Ignition Entertainment
These days, it's not really enough to be just another First Person Shooter. FPS games need to have a genuine spark of quality, originality or just a fun gimmick to flourish in the glutted marketplace. Enter Blacklight: Tango Down... which is just another online shooter with a single unique selling point.
Blacklight provides a fairly serious amount of content. Twelve maps, seven gametypes (running the gamut from deathmatches, team skirmishes and a capture the flag variant), seventy experience levels and an enormous variety of customisable wargear make for some serious value at 1200 Microsoft Points.
On the face of things, Blacklight is solid enough. It's an FPS, after all.You know the drill by now: kill some guys with some guns, get experience and level up, unlock some new weapons/slick near-future armour... and use them to kill some more guys. Whilst movement speed and controls feel slightly clunky, FPS fans will instantly fall into line and start fragging away thanks to the reliance on the tried-and-tested Modern Warfare button layout. Weapon balance is fairly decent (though sniper rifles seem a little underpowered), and the deep customisation provides a little something for every taste. It's also an incredible graphical achievement for a downloadable title and deserves to be praised accordingly. Another great showing from the Unreal engine.
Unfortunately, this is where my praise for Blacklight comes to a screeching halt.
It's difficult to shake the feeling that I've played this game many times before... and in fact, it's probably the most generic FPS I've played in some time. Everything from the weapon selection to the overfamiliar wartorn European cityscape setting has been done to death dozens of times before. But better. In fact, you almost certainly have several superior multiplayer experiences sitting on your shelf! Blacklight simply feels made to order, providing a cheap replica of other game experiences without improving or adding anything of note. Put simply, it feels soulless and almost completely devoid of character.
What's more, a fair few design flaws hamper the fun- and whilst I hate to rag on a smaller developer, it's my job to bring them to your attention. The aforementioned weapon customisation is poorly implemented into the menus with a meagre three attributes to help you compare builds- and it's both vexing and perplexing to be informed of unlocking a mysterious item without a clue as to what it actually is. A host of smaller niggles such as a lack of decent quitting penalties, oddly weak grenade splash damage and a couple of badly designed levels (bottlenecks and spawn camping, anyone?) also rear their ugly head on a regular basis. There's nothing truly gamebreaking here, but there's a profound lack of mechanical polish lying beneath the impressive graphical sheen. Everything just feels a little...off.
There's also a cursory nod to the singleplayer and cooperative crowd- but it's fairly miserable. Idiot bots and uninteresting levels make for a minor diversion rather than a fully fledged experience, but at least you can still earn experience to take online.
- It's a functional online FPS for around £12. Mission accomplished!
- Fantastic graphics for a downloadable title
- Weapon customisation and unlocks are extremely addictive
- There's just no soul. No spark. No reason for it to exist... beyond the price tag
- Weapon customisation/ unlocks are poorly explained and handled
- Spec Ops missions are miserable
The Short Version: Blacklight is a functional online FPS... and that's pretty much all you can say about it. Without a single spark of real originality or anything particularly exciting to bring to the table, Blacklight fails to justify its existence in any genuine way. Fans of shiny levelling-up rewards may find it to be a forgettable if solid little package, but I strongly urge you to get stuck into the multiplayer mode of a game you own but haven't tried yet instead. Otherwise, you're just paying good money for old rope.