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Available on

Xbox Live

 

Platform

Xbox 360

 

Genre

Shooter

 

Publisher

Ignition Entertainment

 

Developer

Zombie

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

July 7, 2010

 

 

- Excellent use of the Unreal engine
- Good degree of character customization
- Budget price is attractive

 

 

- Cumbersome game matching
- Balance issues
- Obscured information hinders character optimization
- Seemingly small player population inhibits actual gameplay
- Lack of single player game

 

 

Review: Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (360)

Review: TimeShift (360)

Review: MAG (PS3)

 

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Blacklight: Tango Down

Score: 6.0 / 10

 

blacklight tango down          blacklight tango down

 

While games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare suck up all the big press buzz, it's not like that's the only game in town when it comes to good shooters, and no, I'm not talking about Medal of Honor. There are other shooters out there, and some of them can be had for cheap if not free. One of these titles is Blacklight: Tango Down. After getting some time with it, I'm finding that if you're going to do a budget title, compromises really are inevitable, and rarely to the good health of the game.

The bright spot of Blacklight is unquestionably the use of the Unreal engine for the visuals. A great deal of attention was clearly lavished on making the game look good, which in turn makes the game fun to run around in. This may be a shooter, but it's light-years from “ugly.” Character models move smoothly, weapons have a

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level of detail that give them a sense of realism, and buildings feel like they've been bearing mute witness to the strange war being fought in the streets. As the game is set in Eastern Europe, there's a lot of Cyrillic signage and narrow streets which help the player feel like they're in the back streets of Belarus rather than the nice safe avenues of America. Lighting in the game is

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excellently done. There are few maps where the sun is shining, and even those have a cloudy cast to them, while the others are bathed in harsh floodlights and softer neon lights to better create the shadows from which players can strike without warning. On top of this, the game goes the extra mile to help sell the idea that you're fighting tomorrow's war with not merely guns and grenades, but full information and cybernetic support as well. Certain grenades act as a sort of digital smokescreen to help conceal a position while others force your avatar's computer driven-helmet display to show a “blue screen” and reboot itself, and it's visual touches like that that help sell the player on the environment they're playing in. Additionally, the “Hyper Reality Visor” effect is not only interesting, but useful from a gameplay standpoint, as it points out the positions of friends, enemies, and the lockers used to restore health and ammo. However, it should be pointed out that the copious in-game advertising for NBC's upcoming show The Event, the impending Resident Evil: Afterlife, and various computer component manufacturers tends to diminish that sense of immersion. Bluntly, they overdid that aspect of it. When it's all said and done, though, the game looks great.

The audio on the game is kind of a mixed bag. The musical score is decent, a semi-techno that suggests cyberized warfare where Europe meets Asia, but it's nothing particularly exciting. The sound effects are clear enough, but for some reason most of the weapon sounds feel like variations on a theme, almost like they took one sound for the assault rifle, tweaked it for the submachinegun, then tweaked it again for the light machine gun. The obvious exceptions are the shotgun and the grenades, and even those don't sound quite as authoritative as they could. There is some small amount of voice acting in the game, but as one might imagine, it's pretty spartan for a predominantly multiplayer offering. Moreover, it's not terribly impressive. In the game's co-op missions, the voice acting gets a little more exposure, but it's still nothing to write home about.

 

blacklight tango down          blacklight tango down


In the field of gameplay, Blacklight compounds fast run-n-gun shooter mechanics with highly questionable design choices, fatally compromising the entire game. The game boasts multiple game modes including domination, a themed CTF mode called “Retrieval,” and a mode called “Detonate” which demands you defuse a bomb and then reset it inside your enemy's base. I would have liked to have played some of those game modes. However, it is difficult to play a game when there are no players around and you do not have the option to deploy bots. There are no dedicated servers for Blacklight, and as a consequence, there is no browser to see what games are available. In point of fact, the only games I was ever able to find were Team Deathmatch games. Not even regular deathmatch, which absolutely boggles the mind. When you're spending more time waiting to play the game than actually playing it, you know you've got a problem on your hands. On top of this, there seems to be some horrible game balancing issues which can turn a match into either a tight race for supremacy or an abject slaughter. I can't speak to whether or not there's cheating going on in the game, but the impression I got was more along the lines of bad balance than bad behavior. As a final insult, given the difficulty with which you can actually get into a game, the claim of 16 man matches rings hollow. However technically feasible it is, it's not happening in a practical sense. Even more troublesome is the lack of a genuine single player game. Yeah, yeah, it's supposed to be multiplayer. The problem is that, with the lack of human players around, you've got to do something to start moving up the ranks. While players can try to go solo through the four co-op maps, any semblance of fun that might have survived the interminable wait for more warm bodies in multiplayer is summarily dispatched after about the third playthrough.

The game has a good bit of customization for a player's look and his weapons. Playing mix-n-match with various parts to come up with a firearm that truly suits your style of gameplay is certainly an interesting little exercise, though occasionally frustrating, as some of the weapon mods you get at the start of your career appear to be better mechanically than some of the mods you get later on. Adding to the frustration is an unhealthy level of obscurity insofar as the mechanics of the game are concerned. One weapon customization that is seemingly independent of level is the weapon tag, a small charm that hangs off the left side of your primary weapon (apparently, nobody is left handed in the Blacklight universe) which not only gives the weapon a little visual flair, but also bestows certain benefits to the player. The problem is that none of those benefits are listed beyond the obvious bumps to the three listed yet unlabelled stats in the game. Would it truly have killed the developers to spend the effort to add text to their cryptic symbols so the players might have a better understanding of what was going on? Would it have ravaged the budget to put in pop-up text boxes over the mods and weapon tags to see just what is being modified and by how much? For a game that is premised on the idea of manipulating and denying information to the opponent, the lack of useful information for your own purposes feels too much like a friendly fire casualty.

For all it's faults, Blacklight certainly has the potential to be a great little game. If it can overcome the shortcomings of its design by adding on to it, and if it can get a much larger and more active player base, it could be a viable contender to Modern Warfare 2. Until that happens, however, it's not quite good enough to outright recommend, nor bad enough to outright dismiss.

 

- Axel Cushing

(September 21, 2010)

 

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