Blacklight: Tango Down is the latest first person shooter to hit the online marketplace. Developers Zombie Studios have taken a sizable risk with this game because at first glance Blacklight has a suspicious number of similarities to a very well known, billion dollar shattering videogame franchise. Yes Blacklight is a bonified ‘Call of Duty’ clone. Importantly however it doesn’t shy away from its obvious roots. Instead it embraces the best parts of the COD experience and runs with them. Not only is it one of the few games that is able to emulate the brilliance of the Modern Warfare series on a smaller scale but it’s also one of the best bargains available in the marketplace today.
Blacklight is heavy on some fronts but woefully light on others, the single player is relatively lightweight but this is balanced by a shining multiplayer. In fact it’s a tender love letter to the online ‘Call of Duty’-esque experience. It’s a disturbingly violent love letter admittedly, a love letter that contains explosions, bullet wounds and more than one heroic tale of dismantling a futuristic bomb under heavy enemy fire. In fact love letter may have not been the most appropriate metaphor but as we all know imitation is the most sincere form of flattery and Blacklight flatters the hell out of Call of Duty. Everything down to the ranks, gun types and controls are all directly lifted from the famous franchise and that is certainly not a bad thing.
The single player story itself is practically non-existent, it appears briefly in the frustratingly limited single player campaign which consists of four separate missions, code named Black Ops. Each mission is set in a different stage and the goals are largely similar to what you’ll end up doing in the online arena, dismantle this, hack into that, shoot this in the face, eliminate, kill, shoot, and so on and so forth. There’s nothing new here and quite frankly there doesn’t need to be because Blacklight: Tango Down does exactly what it says on the tin/ box/ screen.
That isn’t to say that the single player campaign is without its faults. The goals are much too generic and similar for any sort of consistent enjoyment throughout the campaign, enemies are ultra cautious which results in annoyingly repetitive ‘hide and shoot’ tactics and despite an interesting take on the FPS shooter setting the environments lacks any real aesthetic interest or personality. All this make the single player portion of the game largely pointless, the game would in fact have been much better off without it.
With the scingle player out of the way, let’s explore the real nuts and bolts of the game, the online experience. As you can hopefully already tell this is precisely where your £10 (or equivalent) will feel well spent. The game shines in many departments but none shine more brightly than the gameplay. In Blacklight everything works as it should thanks to the COD inspired first person shooter control system. In fact the basics are delightfully simple to master which is a good thing as the lack of a tutorial system could have crippled the initial enjoyment.
This game is simply a whole lot of fun to play, in the same way that the COD series has managed to fuse interesting settings and enjoyable gameplay Blacklight takes the best part of this formula, the gameplay, and uses it to craft something new. All you really need to know is that if you enjoyed the Modern Warfare series as a genuine gaming experience then you’ll enjoy Blacklight, likewise if you didn’t enjoy it then you won’t enjoy this and if you didn’t play Modern Warfare then… Really??!!
As usual there are a variety of different online game modes such as: Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Last Man Standing, Last Team Standing, Domination, and the usual variations on the Capture the Flag formula (which here is called Retrieval) and Search and Destroy (Detonation). All these are fairly standard and only deviate from your usual online forays in how they are visually presented.
Unfortunately with only half a dozen to choose from the variety of maps isn’t a strength of the game. The environments which you will be exploring aren’t exactly diversified either, most come under the theme of ‘futuristic dystopia’ which means that there’s little room for creativity in the art department, in other words: you’ll be seeing a lot of metallic corridors.
That aside the levels themselves are very intelligently designed and allow for some incredibly intense shoot-outs and battles. It’s abundantly clear that those in charge of level design were people who themselves love first person shooter games. Whether it’s the huge amount of hiding (camping) places or the combination of enclosed areas and wide open spaces in each map you can be sure that no one kill will be the same.
At the outset of the game you’ll be kitted out with your usual array of weaponry and their subsequent categories, assault, sniper and the rest. Players can combine various perks and upgrades to their weapons which can really make the difference in the battlefield and it’s refreshing to witness a marketplace game that allows such experimentation in this area.
Experience is key, like most if not all first person shooters today there is a level up system in which you upgrade as long as you keep killing and winning games. The range of upgrades is again impressive and serves to fuel the desire to keep playing a little bit longer to unlock that last perk.
There are plenty of players online and this is further proof that the game has surpassed all expectations of an online marketplace title. In my experiences the players have a pleasant range of abilities from honed, skilled pro players all the way down to players like me. Yet I was pleasantly surprised by the ease at which I gained a mastery of the maps and the intricacies of the game. I would even go as far to say that for those new to world of online multiplayer FPS games, this is a perfect starting point. Apart from anything else the cliental aren’t nearly as: annoyingly immature / incredibly gifted / racist / buck daft bananas. (Delete as appropriate to your various experiences)
There are a few, very small issues that most will perceive as nitpicking. There are a couple of noticeable flaws that certainly detract from this enjoyment. Firstly it can be hard to distinguish between enemy types whilst playing online as the futuristic visual design of the soldiers is a tad too similar. Another issue is the loading times, which are frequently slow and frustratingly inconsistent. At times I waited up to 10 minutes on some matches to begin and many simply timed out after a while but this can of course depend on your connection. Finally the lamentably short and limited single player campaign would have been better replaced with some sort of introduction or tutorial system.
- Almost perfect online multiplayer experience for a fraction of the normal cost
- Intelligent level design allow for excellent battles
- The perfect introduction for players new to FPS experience or the world of online multiplayer
- Boring visuals for such an interesting setting
- Single player mode is lamentably short and not really worth your time
- Not much in the way of extra game modes, levels or missions
Yes, it could be more visually stimulating and it’s basically just an online game but it is damn good value for money and one of the more consistent titles available on the online marketplace. Check your funds, if you’ve £10 to spare then you’ve really no excuse not picking this up.