Sunday, April 15, 2012
PC Game Review: Blacklight: Retribution Review
Blacklight: Retribution developer Zombie Studios isn't trying to reinvent the first-person shooter genre. Instead, it is taken familiar modes and combined them with high profile pictures and some of the tightest shooting controls since Call of Duty. But the team smartly realized that even good shooting isn't enough to draw entrenched players away from their favorite games, and made Blacklight even more worth keeping in mind with a free-to-play systems that pairs well with Blacklight's powerful and slick character and weapon customization. The end result: a premier competitive shooter that's funny enough that its flaws are easy to overlook.
While Blacklight is a shooter first and foremost, its robust customization system gives it an almost RPG-like quality. You can customize your character's appearance, changing out their armor to give them more health or faster running speed. Additional equipment slots aid you flesh out your character's capabilities, tailoring them to your particular playstyle. But all of these bits of customization pale in comparison to the star of the show: your weapon. You start with a basic framework like an assault rifle or shotgun, and then change its clip, barrel, stock, sight and more. Every piece you add affects a number of statistics such stamina, how long it takes to scope-in, and your bullet spread, giving you plenty of room to fine tune your loadout to your requirements. it's fun to tinker around with items, and makes the savvy grind more exciting since you're always on the hunt for the next best piece of gear.
Character customization is vital, but giving you and your friends the guns and battlegrounds to kill each other in remains the focus for the Blacklight series, so you won't find any single player campaign here. Instead, you build a free account and hop right into modes taken straight from any number of other games, such as capture the flag, king of the hill and team deathmatch. These modes offer something for everyone: blood thirsty players can slay one another in deathmatch, while support and team-focused players can jump into modes that encourage cooperation. With the exception of king of the hill, Blacklight's modes present good versions on timeless classics. King of the hill suffers due to poor spawning of the control points. Matches end up being a matter of who spawned closest to the random location of the next point very than who has the better team.
Blacklight's game modes may not be all that original at this point, but they are engrossing thanks to the game's ultimate controls. It doesn't matter how good the rest of a FPS is if the shooting isn't just right, but Blacklight succeeds; what's here feels fast and responsive, empowering for a skilled player regardless of whether or not they're spending boatloads of cash on new fancy items.
A few twists like a unique visual mode and refreshing take on killstreak rewards aid Blacklight stand out regardless of its unoriginal modes. Every player in Blacklight has what's called a Hyper Reality Visor, or HRV. This enables you to temporarily see through the entire environment, picking out enemies, allies and their ordinance. It completely changes the pacing, giving you pause before turning a corner or making another head-on assault on an enemy's flag. Now you enable your HRV, assess the predicament and then scheme out your attack. It gives Blacklight a layer of tactics not present in generally any of its competition. And it also feels utterly fair, because while it is basically a game-enabled wall hack, every person is using it and attempting to counter the other side's moves. It also takes time to recharge, and you can't fire while it is on so using it becomes a liability.
The HRV also helps you better scheme what loadout or equipment to use for a given situation. In Blacklight you don't earn killstreak rewards by taking out a number of opponents all in one life (a la Call of Duty), but instead earn points you can spend for doing generally anything that helps your team. The points accumulate across the entire match, enabling even the worst players to afford some of the more expensive items from depots scattered around the map. The set of items you take is customizable; meaning you can tailor your rewards to compliment your playstyle. For instance you might make your affordable ones something like an instant health recharge, while your most expensive one is a mech that smashes down from space. The mech in particular can fully change the direction of a match, since it gives a team a portable heavy weapons platform. Still, like most things in Blacklight, it is easily countered, though it does seem a bit too affordable at this point, resulting in matches that end with several mechs on the field at once. Regardless of the mech price, this method for rewarding player performance across several spawns is refreshing, and gives everyone a chance to earn something cool.
Earning is something you do lots of in Blacklight. Like most free-to-play games, Blacklight awards players with in-game money after each match. With the exception of a couple of things like additional loadout slots -- you get two at no cost whatsoever -- most everything can be picked up just by playing. a lot of it is excessively expensive, though, so expect to either rent it or spend many hours playing to acquire it permanently. Or, of course, you can toss down real money. Real money translates into Zen, which can be used on a host of items and weapons in the store, as well as unlock items earlier than your current level. there is always the concern that this could break the balance, giving paid players a distinct advantage, but Blacklight relies more on skill than gear. Sure, a premier player with a lot of money and the best gear might have a slight advantage, but they die all identical from a new player's headshot.
Blacklight's only been out for a brief time, but it didn't launch without hiccups. Occasional lag issues plagued it during its opening, and annoying bugs such as busted HUDs, disappearing weapons and mechs getting stuck in geometry want to be fleshed out. Also a worrying inconvenience is Blacklight's friend statistic roll, which constantly tells me my buddies are offline when they're not. They aren't egregious enough to make Blacklight unplayable, and it's clear from their forum presence that Zombie staff members are taking the issues seriously, but they are still aggravating.
While not without flaws, Blacklight is a good option for anyone looking for a new competitive shooter. great shooting mechanics and deep customization options make for an addictive combination, and its free-to-play model makes it easy to jump into with no upfront cost.