Reviews - 21 July 2010
Author:Allen Kim

cboxblacklighttangodown The Digest: If multiplayer FPS games are your M.O., then you won’t get better value than Blacklight: Tango Down.  For 1200 MS Points ($15), you get the graphics of a polished retail release with a reward system to keep you playing for months to come.  While there are high values for this Arcade title, it is littered with several rather large issues and doesn’t do enough to separate itself from the expansive FPS genre.

THE FACT SHEET

RELEASE DATE: July 7, 2010
PUBLISHER: UTV Ignition Entertainment
DEVELOPER: Zombie Studios
ESRB RATING: “T” for TEEN
GENRE: Shooter
PRICE: 1200 MS Points

PRODUCT OVERVIEW:
In Blacklight: Tango Down, experience the bleeding edge of advanced warfare. Fight tomorrow’s conflicts with or against your friends in the gritty Blacklight universe. Make your stand across seven game modes with 12 different maps in intense online battles supporting up to 16 players. Or fight through four intense Black Ops missions co-operatively or alone; all the while gaining experience, collecting stats, and unlocking items. Earn new weapon attachments and items, improve your abilities, and engage your Hyper Reality Visor to locate enemies and take them out. Customize your character and weaponry from among millions of combinations to become the soldier you always wanted to be.

PRODUCT FEATURES:

  • Hyper Reality Visor detects nearby enemy/friendly forces and objectives
  • Over 10 multiplayer maps across seven multiplayer game modes
  • Enhance your skills in four cooperative Black Ops missions
  • Customizable character and weaponry
  • Exciting new weapons and supports systems
  • Deep player award and ranking systems

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Zombie Studios may have caught onto something here with Blacklight: Tango Down (BTD).  Following in the footsteps of Battlefield 1943’s successful multiplayer run on XBLA, Zombie looked to top that same success with an original new game.  Realizing that there are a large majority of FPS gamers who have no interest in single player campaigns, they focused all their efforts on creating a budget, multiplayer FPS.  Using the “Call of Duty formula”, they went with a deep reward system and character/weapon customization to keep the player coming back for more.

Apparently Zombie expects the consumer to be a seasoned FPS gamer with no interest other than racking up high kill counts.  Most of the game is missing any sort of descriptions and notices for a number of different things.  The only way to find out about the story between the warring factions, Blacklight and The Order, is to go through the How To Play section and read up on it.  Blacklight is a covert ops unit armed with the most advanced military technology while The Order is a rebel/mercenary group comprised of ex-soldiers from a number of different factions (US Special Forces, local militia, etc.) supplied by the best technology money can buy.

For a $15 XBLA title, the graphics don’t get any better than this.  Using the extremely popular and powerful Unreal 3 Engine, this game could practically pass for a full retail release.  All of the environments are thoroughly detailed and polished.  This really helps to set the atmosphere and mood of the game.  It thrusts you into post-apocalyptic type environments that have been ravaged by two warring factions using it as a warzone.  Working from a set of 12 maps, you can play Team Deathmatch, Domination, Retrieval, Last Man Standing, and Detonation.  These are your standard FPS online mode fare without any drastic innovations here.  Rather disappointing since the title is focused solely on the multiplayer aspect, I expected some more unique choices.  Other than a few puzzling level design choices, everything is fairly well spread out with enough cover to advance from point to point.

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Ok, so now on to the bread and butter of Blacklight, the multiplayer.  Match making is usually very quick and there always seem to be an abundance of players to play with.  If you’re a fresh faced rook, then some matches will become very daunting for you.  The more experienced players have already had time to level themselves up and get all sorts of weapon upgrades.  This could quickly turn your first experience very sour, but if you’re persistent enough, you’ll be joining their ranks soon enough and hunting down new blood.  Like all other online shooters, you get experience points from doing everything from capturing a control point or killing the opposition.  I was hoping for some sort of killstreak rewards, but alas there are none, which could actually be good due to a rather large problem with the game.  Spawn camping is a noticeable issue due to having fixed spawn locations.  While each area has turrets setup with the purpose of preventing such occurrences, it does little to stop the actual problem.  If the opposition isn’t covering the exits, there is always at least one area an enemy can take advantage of to kill you as soon as you respawn.  A skilled enough spawn camper can pick you off and manage to survive waves of attacks before finally succumbing.  Combine that with multiple campers and you have a real dilemma on your hands.  When a successful box in occurs, don’t be surprised if you see your entire team drop out of the match.  In fact, expect it to happen on a fairly regular occurrence.

In the near-future, the Blacklight: Tango team has been sent to find recently missing Colonel Klein and his personal Blacklight team in the city of Balik.  The country had recently broken out in war after the assassination of its president.  The rebel group that had killed the president, The Order, is thought to have captured or killed the missing Blacklight team.

They prepare to attack the Order’s headquarters when Blacklight Command informs them that the civilians have been infected with an unknown virus, causing them to attack everyone they encounter.  As they engage The Order in combat, both sides are attacked by crazed civilians.  Because the circumstances have changed, they are ordered to stop The Order at all cost.

So it’s not exactly devoid of a single player campaign.  The above description certainly lends itself to something resembling a story, even if this mode doesn’t play out like it actually has one.  The Black Ops mode is a set of 4 co-op missions involving 1-4 players.  I was hoping for more out of these, but these are very straightforward missions and definitely felt tacked on and rushed.  It’s basically move to point A and kill all enemies, move to point B kill more of them and then rinse, wash, repeat.  The only “obstacle”, and I use that term in the loosest way possible, they throw at you is opening up a barrier/door by playing a d-pad rhythm repeat game.  Its really only worth playing if you have 3 friends willing to join you, and even then you can seriously question whether or not this is worth your time.

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Weapon balancing could definitely use some work.  Especially since you only get 1 type of gun for each class.  Most of the guns feel way too overpowered, even without all the add-ons attached.  SMG’s don’t feel that far behind AR’s while Sniper Rifles seem like slower shooting AR’s with longer range.  Throwing grenades could also use some work.  Whether they were delayed throws or just flat out imprecise tosses, they didn’t help much at all.

Speaking of weapons, one of the more attractive features being touted are the absurd amount of combinations you can use to tailor a loadout to your liking.  Each addition has an effect on three different stats: damage/speed/health.  This goes back to the problem of descriptions and information, as you won’t find this anywhere in the game.  You’ll have to scour the internet to figure this out, luckily I’ve already found this information for you.  However, this is far from the full gamut of information.  Many of the add-ons supposedly give you additional boosts, but can only be discovered through testing, rather than a simple description telling you so.  The default set of scopes, stocks and barrels are available along with a rather original idea to use charms to attach to your weapon.  The idea behind the weapon tags are that soldiers claim these trinkets give themselves a boost, but they are most likely just part of a placebo effect.  These in turn imbue the soldier with certain stat boosts.  Not exactly the greatest reason to have these included in the game, but they work fine nonetheless and up the ante on the amount of customization you can do.  You can also unlock several different sets of armor, each with their own unique advantages/disadvantages.

Another feature that is rather prominent for this game are the Hyper Reality Visors.  When you switch these on, a HUD comes up showing the location of enemies, allies, health and ammo stations.  You can counter these with Blacklight’s version of flash and smoke grenades, the EMP and Digi grenade.  The EMP simply blinds you by distorting your vision; not really much of a change there.  The Digi grenades, however, made the game hell for me.  Having to look at the digital artifacting distorting the screen gave me headaches everywhere I looked.  They didn’t really benefit either side and made playing the game unbearable at times.  While you may have a different reaction and/or experience, this is just a fair warning.  It appears as if the HRV’s were implemented to help counter things such as spawn camping, but there’s little you can do when said person has the same equipment and a superior position to your own.

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Conclusion: While not impossible to avoid, the issue of spawn camping is persistent and very frustrating to deal with when you get boxed in.  This is by far the biggest issue with the game.  Not all maps have these poor design choices, but just know that they are present.  Another problem is that FPS games need to differentiate themselves from each other to really stand out.  Blacklight takes the safe route and follows the tried and true principles of your everyday FPS.  However, coming in at the same price as a single COD:MW2 map pack, you can easily argue in favor of Blacklight.  If you’re tired of COD or Battlefield, Blacklight may be a welcome change in scenery, especially to bridge the gap until Medal of Honor and/or Halo: Reach come out.

PROS CONS
- Reward System
- Customization
- Great value at $15
- One of the best looking XBLA titles out
- Spawn campers make the game insufferable at times
- Digi grenade distortion unbearable
- No real innovations in gameplay
- Black Ops is a waste of time

Single Player: 1/5 | Multi-Player: 3/5

Special thanks to UTV Ignition Entertainment for providing us with a copy of the game for review.

Purchase from the Xbox LIVE Marketplace

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Allen Kim

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