Blacklight: Retribution – PC
Developer: Zombie Studios
Publisher: Perfect World Entertainment
Release Date: April 3, 2012
Nerd Rating: 8 out of 10
Reviewed by Proto Joe
Remember the 2010 first-person shooter Blacklight: Tango Down? I don’t blame you if you didn’t. While the game was decent, it was completely overshadowed by other big hits of the year like Fallout: New Vegas and Mass Effect 2. That didn’t discourage development team Zombie Studios, though; two years later, they gave the Blacklight series another go with the PC/PS4 free-to-play Blacklight Retribution. Does their second son fare better than the first? Let’s take a look.
Blacklight: Retribution takes place in a cyberpunk dystopia ripped right out of popular science fiction works such as Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell. Huge skyscrapers are all over the place, shadowy corporations control the world behind the scenes, and everything is covered in useless but oh so stylish neon lights. You play as an “Agent,” a hi-tech soldier armed with the latest in combat gear and bucket helmets. Your mission: Fight against other Agents for… reasons. The game doesn’t take any time to explain anything at all, which is a shame considering its cool sci-fi setting. Apparently there’s a (badly voice-acted) digital comic and even a movie in the works that attempt to develop the story and lore, but if the game itself doesn’t bother why should the player?
Instead, Blacklight: Retribution focuses completely on online multiplayer gameplay. It plays very much like those modern warfare twitch shooters that are ridiculously common nowadays; enemies die in only a few hits, guns are relatively easy to control and straightforward to use, and maps are on the small side. The game modes are also typical: there’s Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Domination, and so on. Blacklight does have some unique modes such as Siege, where one team needs to escort a mech tank while the other attacks it, and Onslaught, in which your team must defend itself against waves of infected, but otherwise the game is a fairly standard shooter that comes with the standard trimmings. If you’re hoping for a genre-changing innovator, you’re looking at the wrong place.
There are about three things that help Blacklight: Retribution stand out from the hundreds of other first-person shooters out on the market. The first is Hyper Reality Vision (HRV), an in-game tool that allows you to look through walls and see other players on the map. It’s basically wall hacks except everyone has it and you won’t be banned angry admins if you use it. As you can expect, HRV makes games much more frantic and fun, with everyone trying to outfox one another with their x-ray goggles.
The second are Depots, mini-shops scattered through the maps that allow players to get items using points gained by killing enemies. There are mundane little items to buy like health and ammo refills, and then there’s potential game-changers like turret guns, katanas, and even pilotable mechs called “Hardsuits.” If you haven’t drawn the connection already, Blacklight’s Depots are essentially like the killstreaks from Call of Duty, though you can’t simply call down your depot items anywhere on the map. Theoretically, this should add some more strategy to the game since the team with access to more Depots will logically have access to more firepower, but in practice the majority of players I observed simply used Depots for refills and nothing more. I guess most people are more comfortable with their assault rifle than a mini-gun?
The third is the customization. You can choose what kind of armor and gear you want to bring out to the field, but you can also build your gun from the ground up. Every part of your gun, from the muzzle to the stock, can be changed to suit your own personal play style. You can only unlock these parts by playing the game for a while or paying real money, of course, but they still add a whole new level of depth that not many other first-person shooters have.
So, is Blacklight: Retribution worth your time? I’d say yes. While the game doesn’t stray far from the conventions of modern first-person shooters, what it does differently it does quite well. Just don’t expect something that’s too futuristic.
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