When you think of online modern based multiplayer shooters, chances are you’ll think of either Modern Warfare series or Battlefield. Due to their immense popularity, the idea of releasing a more affordable alternative makes smart business sense to cash in on those looking for something different. With the advent of Blacklight: Tango Down, developer Zombie Studios is attempting to exploit that potential niche, and whilst the theory is sound, the execution is unfortunately rather lacking. Very much moulded in the same vein as the aforementioned titles, BLTD is a multiplayer focused FPS which, whilst borrowing heavily from its predecessors, also manages to come up with one or two tricks of its own.
The premise is simple: 2 factions battle in 7 game modes over 12 different maps. All the modes available are pretty standard (deathmatch , team deathmatch, retrieval, domination, etc), but the variety is reasonable given Blacklight’s price compared to its retail cousins. Sprinting, aiming down the sight, grenades, levelling rewards and customisable classes are all present and work well, and the general mechanics of control are certainly up to scratch. The problem however, is that most of the other aspects of BLTD seem straight out of 1999.
Level design is a primary issue. All too often I was frustrated with campers who seemed content to spend the entire game as if they had superglue on their boots. Flanking opportunities are minimal thanks to a lack of alternative routes through the scenery, and whilst some tough-to-approach spots are expected, Blacklight frequently felt unfairly biased towards either team. In some cases a well placed grenade would be appropriate, but trying to throw one accurately is easier said than done; the blast radius is about as wide as a lamppost and aiming terribly imprecise. Bottlenecking is also prevalent in most levels, turning matches into a boring game of stick or twist, with anybody venturing across a fire zone guaranteed a swift and painful death.
There is hope however, in the form of a vision mode using the ‘Hyper Reality Visor’. This handy gizmo enables you to see through walls to locate friends, foes and other points of interest such as ammo or health stations. You’re unable to shoot whilst in this mode, and it only lasts a few seconds before disabling and running through a recharge timer, but it does help to combat camping and reveal enemy movement. But it’s not a perfect solution, and it’s hard not to feel it’s somewhat of a missed opportunity. Had they allowed shooting with the visor whilst only allowing its use after you die a couple of times in a row, it could have helped balance the battlefield and make the game more enjoyable.
It’s not all bad however, as BLTD does add a few unique elements that help the overall experience. In addition to the frag grenades, you also have access to a digital variety that act as a sort of fuzzy smokescreen. Automatic turrets are positioned at each base to avoid spawn camping – which is a necessary inclusion due to the congested spawning areas – and a levelling system allows unlocks of various guns and accessories such as sights, paint jobs, muzzles and more for a great deal of customisation. Whilst it takes several levels to get to the good stuff, when it does come, the rewards are worth the wait and make BLTD more enjoyable as you go.
A mission mode is also present that features 4 different levels and can be played either solo or with up to 3 other friends. Whilst co-op is a welcome addition that increases value for money, ultimately it feels tacked on and almost like an after thought. There is a scant amount of story involved, and levels are short and uneventful. Get to a checkpoint, defeat several waves of enemies, get to next checkpoint, defeat wave after wave, hack the control panel, move on and repeat previous steps until the level ends. In a singleplayer game, death results in an instant fail that means you start the whole level again. Other players can only join via invite, meaning your choices are limited to people on your list that own the game.
You would think that with all the criticism leveled above that I dislike Blacklight intensely, but the truth is I did enjoy myself despite its flaws. With a balancing patch and a few new levels that are designed a little more thoughtfully, there could be a promising future in the works. The net code is absolutely fine, and the graphics and frame rate are good given the pricepoint. And that’s what it essentially boils down to. If Blacklight was a full-price retail game, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. However, for a gamer on a budget or a gamer looking for a fresh FPS experience, it’s certainly worth a shot. Or several, from the same spot.