Blacklight: Tango Down Hands-On PreviewBy Jake Gaskill - Posted May 28, 2010
Set in the not too distant future, Blacklight: Tango Down, the upcoming downloadable sci-fi shooter from Zombie Studios, looks to make a name for itself by not only offering a deep multiplayer experience, but also by giving players the chance to express themselves in a variety of ways. I and a few fellow G4 folk had a chance to go hands on with the Xbox 360 version of Blacklight earlier in the week to check out one of the game’s co-op missions and one team-based competitive match.
The first things that stood out when Blacklight booted up were the art direction and graphics. For a $15 downloadable game, the visual quality is pretty impressive. Call of Duty certainly has nothing to worry about, but Zombie has definitely made the most of the Unreal Engine 3, and it shows. The maps that were shown were also eye catching, thanks to their peculiar mix of classic, urban architecture with a sort of Blade Runner-ish tech vibe.
This feel carries over into the characters, weapons and gear as well. Since the game doesn’t feature a mini-map, each player must rely on his/her Hyper Reality Visor (aka HRV) to keep track of enemies and allies on the battlefield. The visor lets you see through walls to locate other players, but the effect can only be used in short bursts. Messing with people’s HRVs played heavily into the combat to great effect. For example, tossing a DigiGrenade will cause a pixilated bubble of interference to appear around it that is essentially a digital smokescreen. Stunning someone with an EMP grenade doesn’t just act like a flashbang, it actually causes a blue screen of death to appear in the nearby player’s HRV. Needless to say, this effect is hilarious and quite rad.
The other weapons are your standard fair (machine guns, pistols, shotguns, light machine guns, etc.), but the real kicker are the customization options available for them. Simply put, there are more combinations of scopes, grips, barrels, and so on than you’d ever know what to do with. Cosmetically, this means that each player can let their inner heat-packing Picasso out and truly let their weapon (and armor, since that is fully customizable as well) become an extension of themselves. The weapons also have tags that look like bracelet charms but actually boost key combat skills ever so slightly. There are 101 tags available, but they are randomly assigned to you each time you level up.
Blacklight supports up to 16 players, includes 12 maps and features all the modes that shooter fans are familiar with. It also has co-op, which we were able to try out for all of two minutes before our entire team was wiped out by the rather ruthless enemy AI, which swarmed on us from all directions. You can die individually as much as you want. You just have to wait for your teammates to reach the next checkpoint before you can respawn. However, if you all die, it’s game over.
The controls took some getting used to, mainly because the guns have some serious kickback to them. Also, those players who enjoy using high look sensitivity could be in for trouble, since enemies sometimes don’t stand out that much from the environments so it’s easy to whip-pan past them if you’re not careful.
It will interesting to see how players respond to Blacklight: Tango Down. For a $15 downloadable title, you could do a lot worse, but shooters are one genre that seem to benefit the most from mega production values. And while Zombie has certainly gone out of their way to appeal to gamers who enjoy deep customization features, the game’s success will ultimately come down to how people respond to the controls and design. And that’s something we won’t know until the game is released later this summer on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.