Review

Blacklight: Tango Down Review (Xbox360)

Blacklight: Tango Down is probably one of the most ambitious downloadable games to date. With it Zombie Studios has aimed to produce a triple-A quality shooter for games downloads services in a world where Bad Company 2 and Call of Duty rule the roost. It is a challenge that they have taken to very well as it turns out.

Blacklight is set in a war-ravaged near-future where two forces, Blacklight and The Order battle for the world’s resources to cure a mysterious disease that threatens the worldwide population. To be honest this setting is not very important as there is little in the way of a narrative structure to the game but it does provide an interesting backdrop.

The future is definitely bleak

The game does even have a single-player element. The Black Ops missions can be tackled either alone or co-operatively and allow players to pit their wits against The Order in a handful of fairly tough mission scenarios. These are fairly entertaining and provide a moderate challenge to even more skilled FPS players on normal difficulty settings. The four Black Ops are all set on modular adaptations of the multiplayer maps so it can also help you get a feel for the lie of the land before you take on the multiplayer modes. The only disappointment is that they don’t really follow any proper narrative structure and can be played in any order, but it is nice to have an option to play solo if you don’t feel like taking on other people or you just want to get a bit of practice in.

The actual content of these missions involves shooting your way through waves of computer-controlled Order soldiers, hacking various points along the mission route and securing mission-critical items. Despite their rudimentary nature they are fairly entertaining even if the AI tends towards a fairly basic ‘hail of bullets’ approach. The hacking elements of the game are pretty simple either requiring you to re-centre a sequence of flashing icons in the correct timing or following a sequence of button presses similar to the hacking system used in the first Mass Effect.

One of the game’s selling points is the weapon customisation system. Zombie has introduced a system that takes a lot of cues for the customisation system EA Montreal used in Army of Two: the 40th Day. It allows players to swap in and out different components of weapons to tailor them to their individual playing styles. It also allows players to add tags to their weapons, which will alter the weapon’s attributes further enhancing their performance. The tags and customisation options are unlocked by levelling up in the multiplayer modes.

Which brings us on to the main event. In Blacklight: Tango Down the main focus is on the multiplayer and that is where the game really shines. There are seven multiplayer modes all of which are themed around the main storyline. There is enough diversity here to keep most FPS veterans happy and still give virgin online FPS players an easy introduction to the main types of multiplayer play.

As well as the standards, deathmatch and team deathmatch, there are five other modes which are Blacklight-flavoured variations on FPS staples. There is Retrieval, which is the capture-the-flag style mode. Players have to collect canisters of material and return them to their base with the team collecting the most in the allotted time winning. Dominate invites two teams to hold specific points on the map which have to be hacked to gain control, the team holding the most points by the end of the game wins. Detonate is another interesting mode with teams needing to secure a bomb from a point on the map and then deploy it in the opposing team’s base. Again the team that succeeds in doing this the most times wins the round. The final two modes are Last Man Standing and Team Last Man Standing and they do exactly what they say on the tin.

Shootiness ensues

All the modes are fun and fairly fast paced. All the maps are well designed and leave the minimum of opportunity for campers eliminating what is one of the main spoilers of online play. In fact, spawn points in the team modes are protected by extremely powerful automatic turrets, which keep spawn point camping to a bare minimum. Rookies are best to avoid the Last Man Standing modes as it will usually involve a large amount of spectating while the game waits for all the players to be killed and declares a round winner.

By far the best moments to be had in Blacklight: Tango Down are in the deathmatch modes. All the levels are designed to keep players on the move at all times and this makes for some of the fastest-flowing action available. With no possibility for camping this levels the playing field somewhat allowing rookies to score kills even on the most experienced of snipers and it won’t be long before new players find that they have even managed to tuck a few killing streaks under their belt.

There is another toy that Zombie Studios has placed at the player’s disposal and is the Hyper Reality Visor. This allows players to locate threats across the map by seeing through walls. It only works in short bursts and takes a while to recharge so can only be used sparingly. You also cannot shoot while using the HRV so its uses are really limited to finding where your opponents are in order to take them down after you respawn. It’s a nice little toy to have but it’s not the game-changer that it could have been.

Defence is the best form of attack?

Now for the problems. Given that Blacklight: Tango Down is an online game and on XBLA it has access to the best matchmaking systems available the game does suffer from one unexpected problem. The matchmaking regularly seems to take too long. Frequently players will leave a lobby because they’ve been waiting too long for that final player to be added to the party so that the game can begin. This usually results in extending the waits and it is often quicker to come back out and search for another game again rather than wait for the party to be complete. Also, while it is understandable for an XBLA game to avoid using dedicated servers, if the host decides to jump ship mid-game there is another delay while the game migrates to another host. To its credit the host migration switches host and puts player right back in where they left off but the waits can be frustrating especially when you are in the middle of a fire fight.

Blacklight: Tango Down turns out to be too much fun for the slowness of the matchmaking system to prove too much of an obstacle. The clever level design, quick pace of play and good variety of play modes will prove to be enough to get most FPS fans hooked. With rumours that multiplayer subscriptions for Call of Duty are on the horizon, at just 1200 MS Points Blacklight: Tango Down might just have arrived at the perfect time for fans of the online FPS.

Top Game Moment: That first kill streak is a sweet moment although there’s usually not much time to savour it.

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Videos

Comments

By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Aug 05, 2010
Wowerine
I think this was only planed to be a MP project. Glad it has a SP component as well.
By BoneArc (SI Elite) on Aug 06, 2010
BoneArc
ime Glad too , it would have been stupid not to make a SIngle player for such a well made game .
i just hope its really good
By RaviL (SI Core Member) on Aug 06, 2010
RaviL
Nice post apocaliptical story just like S.T.A.L.K.E.R., hope the story is as captivating and full of twists like Stalker, as for the MP looks very nice and well balanced.
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Aug 06, 2010
Wowerine
Surely this game can not be compared to the epic greatness of STALKER games :) Even the worst STALKER game is better than this one :)
By BoneArc (SI Elite) on Aug 06, 2010
BoneArc
Of Course it is , though i honestly never played Stalker ..
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Aug 06, 2010
Wowerine
Really? Then you missed an awesome game dude. One of the best FPS RPGs out there. Free roam was never better on any FPS game out there - maybe Fallout 3 :)

And then the mods. There are so many mods for the STALKER franchise I cant count them...
By RaviL (SI Core Member) on Aug 07, 2010
RaviL
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. RULEZ as Wowerine said the best FPS/RPG out on the market, one of many things that made it so great was the huge playable area, to bad you couldn't drive any vehicle T_T , not even Fallout 3 could beat it, in my opinion.
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Aug 07, 2010
Wowerine
Fallout 3 was a more polished and less buggy game. Better graphics too. I can't compare those two games because I'm a great fan of both of them, so I can't eliminate either of them ;)
By RaviL (SI Core Member) on Aug 07, 2010
RaviL
Yeah you are right everybody with their likes and dislikes, but in general Blacklight:Tango Down has the makings of a nice FPS/RPG.
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Aug 07, 2010
Wowerine
Geez! I didn't know my comment got double posted back there... I deleted one just after I saw it. They should fix that - makes people confusing.
Yeah I just watched the HRV mode trailer. Man there is some sick action there :) Check it out for yourself :)
By stuntkid (SI Elite) on Aug 08, 2010
stuntkid
I have yet to start stalker. Something to look forward to :)
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Aug 08, 2010
Wowerine
Honestly, you don't know what you are missing man :)
By RaviL (SI Core Member) on Aug 11, 2010
RaviL
If you didn't start STALKER you are missing the most important part of existence. :P
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Aug 11, 2010
Wowerine
I can't wait for a new STALKER game... I just want to see them use a new engine, something that will make the game even better. They used the same engine for more that 5 years lol
By stuntkid (SI Elite) on Aug 14, 2010
stuntkid
Got too many games to play and not enough time to play them! Think Stalker is next on my to-play list.
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Aug 14, 2010
Wowerine
You mean Call of Pripyat? Yeah thats a good game man :) I played it as soon as a few patches got out, yo know just in case. You never know with those guys, they tend to release very buggy games all the time.