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Blacklight: Tango Down

22:4126/07/2010Posted by Sean EvansOne Comment

In a post-Modern Warfare world, unique progression and unlocks have become a ubiquitous practice for multi-player games of all kinds. Even racing games like Blur are getting in on the action; and XBLA downloadable shooter Blacklight: Tango Down is also no exception to this continuing trend.

So clearly, it’s vital to mention that there is no real single-player component on offer here, which is largely due to the core of the game’s focus being about playing competitively online. As soon as the main menu hits, you’ve got not much to choice but to either configure your character’s attributes or join a game. As is to be expected, the now-familiar trappings for player configuration are all here, including different sights for weapons and optional choice of grenade types, etc. Pretty much everything you’ve come to become accustomed to from an online FPS at this point – there’s really nothing that breaks convention from the usual fare.

One interesting part to Blacklight, however, is that its pacing is very sporadic and antithetical to that of Modern Warfare’s. By comparison, Blacklight very lightly hearkens back to the days of Quake and Unreal, albeit with the necessary precision and fluidity of the controls removed. If anything, it just comes across as a sloppily put together FPS with the speed dialled up a few notches. Interesting, then, but not really successful either.

And that’s really where the main problem lies – there’s a sheer lack of satisfaction involved in the game’s general mechanics. It feels shamefully weightless to play and gaining a kill tends to feel more like the result of random luck as opposed to direct skill. Plus, when you do try to apply considerate aim with iron sights, it still isn’t precise enough to make the mark feel satisfying. While it certainly isn’t broken beyond repair, it simply doesn’t match up to the finely-tuned calibre of more accomplished competition.

Some might say that isn’t a fair comparison on the basis of Blacklight being a downloadable game, but I refute any belief that this makes for an acceptable excuse, because an ‘excuse’ is really all that would be. In admittance, such a claim may appear overly cynical, but all the same, for a little more financial investment you could buy a pre-owned copy of Call Of Duty 4 and enjoy the crafting of a much better game that is still enjoyed by a wide audience, and one that ultimately carries more long-lasting appeal than Blacklight by a distinctly large margin.

On a good note, I do appreciate the game’s look. The neon glimmer and poor static reception look does actually make for an especially inspired art style. What I also found to be really pleasing was the mosaic texture that has been draped over what works towards the basic functions of a smoke grenade; distorting the view and creating confusion to great effect. That said, it’s not not entirely unjust to label this look as a re-tread of Ghost Recon’s recent future soldier vibe, but it still works well enough to let it stand out on some level nevertheless.

It’s probably worth mentioning that I also had some consistent problems when actually trying to connect to games online, as well. This issue maintained throughout several unique attempts to connect on different days and times, which is obviously a big frustration with a game made with online multi-player in mind. Sometimes it was easy to connect to a game, but other times painfully difficult.

Being able to predict the popularity of the game in the future is also anyone’s guess. If the rate of play for most XBLA games is anything to go by – even those heavy on adversarial modes – Blacklight may become an entirely redundant purchase without a dedicated community to keep it alive in a few months from now. That’s definitely a disappointing caveat to have to attach to any game like this, but it’s one that deserves to be brought up regardless.

Overall, it’s not that Blacklight can’t be enjoyed on its own merits, because it can in the most basic sense. But when held up to scrutiny and measured against those gunning for the same lucrative audience, it’s hard to recommend Blacklight: Tango Down with an absolute guarantee that you’ll be completely entertained. There are certainly moments of faint sparkle in Blacklight’s dim and unexceptional glow, but unfortunately none of it is ever put to good enough use and instead the game’s mediocrity shines through with harsh reality.

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One Comment »

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