So I am playing Just Cause 2 and during my escort mission (Pulling a Jeremy) my drug addicted government informer refused to get into the nice helicopter I provided for transport and instead is acting like a suicidal lemming.
So I surfed my casual games list and couldn't help notice that Xbox had added a new arcade title called Blacklight: Tango Down late in the evening... so I did what any red blooded American gamer would... I took it for a spin.
Blacklight: Tango Down is an online only shooter. Blacklight's main hook is that it offers you customizable weapons. Apparently instead of just getting better weapons as you go up in rank, you can tune your weapons like an engine in Forza 3. From what I have seen the developers took the realism route so there is no way to upgrade oneself to say a land shark gun or photon rifle which immediately strikes me as more than a whiff of missed opportunity. (Since Armed and Dangerous I have been jonesing for a land shark gun and am willing to pay top dollar for any game willing to feature one.)
Blacklight's other main "feature" is that it has no mini maps but instead allows you to switch to Predator vision. In theory this works great (to see this theory work great use the Batvision from Batman Arkham Asylum.)In reality you cannot reliably shoot from this mode (unlike Batman where one seriously wonders why you would ever turn the damn thing off). In addition, the information it imparts is that your enemy (marked by fuzzy orange blobs) is in front of you somewhere (knowledge I had possessed before turning it on).
I played team deathmatch. My team wore a bluish gray while the bad guys wore a tanish gray. The entire set mind you was bathed in corridor gray and more than once myself and an enemy stared at each other trying to ascertain whether we should be shooting or not.
Not that I could hit anything with my weapon of choice. You are allowed to pick one of five weapon kits in the Demo, and helpful hint here, don't pick the sniper rifle. Rarely have I seen such a mismatch between location (narrow corridors) and weapon choice. The game doesn't allow you to change your kit when you respawn so I invariably spent the first minute of each new life waiting for a teammate to die so I could pick up a useful gun.
The corridor we were playing in was also very unimpressive. There are stationary vehicles and gun placements but they appear to simply be window dressing as none allowed for any interaction. You also receive two grenades (one standard and one Digital Flashbang) which I set off quite frequently in my attempts to find the button that allowed me to take cover (There isn't one as far as I can tell). Despite the presence of grenades the game appears fairly explosion free and interaction of gunfire and the environment is nil.
As if the game needed another nail in its already closed coffin the entire experience seemed a bit distant. I never felt I was shooting a real gun and the graphics along with the predator vision gave the distinct impression I was playing someone who was watching the action on a second television screen. Kind of the difference between playing a jet fighter pilot and playing a guy in a Nevada bunker controlling a Predator drone.
In the very crowded online shooter market Blacklight feels like a throwback in all the worst ways. Chances are you already own much better online shooters and even if you don't there are plenty out there (Orange Box, Battlefield 1943) that can also be picked up for less than twenty bucks and are vastly superior to this offering.
Score: Three dollars but honestly worth neither the time nor the hard drive space.
Had Blacklight been a good game I might have been in a bit of a quandary. You see I really don't really need another online shooter. If I want team death match I have Team Fortress 2, if I want open level shooter with hard to control planes I have Battlefield 1943, and if I want to pass spy secrets with no chance of discovery I have the complete silence of Prey online.
Online shooters are a different animal than single player games. As my Prey example above shows they have a definite half life that starts ticking the moment you put them in your console. The Xbox live arcade already has a few examples of online shooters where the lights are still on but no-one is home.
Add to the fact that most of my single player games have online modes as well (though some like Fable's bizarre co-op are basically for achievement whores only), and even a small game collection has plenty of online options.
This is simply a time factor. When I am in the mood for an online shooter do I try a new IP or do I attempt to get a better horse than the concentration camp victim I am currently riding in Red Dead Redemption Online. Why bother with some strange team deathmatch when the well oiled machine of Team Fortress 2 is calling me up at three am saying we don't spend any time together anymore.
I occasionally have pangs of regret spending $10 on Battlefield 1943. It is a great game mind you but I simply haven't had the time to put the effort in. I feel like I am cheating on it when I try out the online mode of some new shooter that everyone is playing this month.
There are a few stalwarts that will always have a vibrant and active online community (Battlefield, Halo, Modern Warfare) realistically however all the other IPs need a solid first person experience because online only works if there are people to play against and for most IPs after the first month or two the fields of battle are lonely places indeed.
Please click here to go back to the index of all Video Game reviews and previews.