Last year, Zombie Studios gave the world Blacklight Tango Down. A competent FPS focused on multiplayer, it released for Xbox Live, Playstation Network and PC. The title provided all we’ve come to expect from the genre. And although it wasn’t the most unique game out there, the title managed to surprise many with its depth and production value, especially since it was released at a price point of $15.
Zombie aims to surprise us again with its sequel Blacklight Retribution. Top of the surprise list – it’s going to be strictly a PC game. Coming in at close second – it will be free to play. While the latter may be off putting to some, our hands-on with the game at E3 proved that there is much to be excited about.
While most shooters are focused on going bigger – bigger set pieces, bigger explosions, bigger f’ing guns – hardcore FPS fans will be content to know that Blacklight Retribution will be focused on getting better.
One of the stand-out features that made Tango Down a favorite was its in-depth customization feature. Players were able to choose from hundreds of customizations to tailor their weapons and character, instead of choosing between classes. The Armory in Retribution runs with this aspect, offering even more customizability; and this is where our private demo began.
A cursory glance of The Armory offers the typical weapon selection screen. Your gun hovers there as you begin to click through the options. The difference becomes clear, however, once you dig in.
I was able to spend several contemplative minutes going through every aspect of my pistol, swapping out the standard barrel for an elite silencer, attaching a red dot open sight, cycling through several buttstocks before making my choice, and so on. When I was done, it didn’t even look like a pistol, but more like a monster engine of death.
Zombie Studios really took a play from simulation racing games like Gran Turismo for their level of customization and tuning, and it showed right off the bat. I went through the same customizations for my rifle, but players would do well to note that the game also offers an auto-custom feature if they want to go straight into major p’wnage.
The mode of the day was team deathmatch, four-on-four, which had an even pace. The featured map was a gritty, dystopic city center full of alleyways and balconies, enough space to run around but not enough to dilute the action. Once the game is released, it will have all the multiplayer modes we’ve grown to love in a FPS, and Zombie plans on dropping new, free maps approximately every two months.
Several people from Zombie Studios and publisher Perfect World sat in and played against us. While it seems like an unfair advantage to play against people who have been with the game day in and day out for who knows how long, I thought I held my own, especially when one of them gave out a frustrated sigh and said, “goddamit Francisco,” after a clean headshot. Then came the hard suits.
Hard suits in Blacklight Retribution can be described as light mechs. Imagine how you’d feel after a beautiful kill streak, turning the corner to be greeted by one of these armored vehicles hammering bullets into you like a nail gun drives nails into cheap wood. That’s how I felt.
New to the Blacklight world are weapon depots, where you can purchase these hard suits and other heavy artillery like rail guns, based on the amount of kills you get, objectives achieves, etc. So instead of preset perks, you can make a strategic purchase based on the current state of play to turn the tide of the battle. That also means your enemies can do the same.
Another tactical feature of the game carries over from Tango Down – the Hyper Reality Visor, or HRV. It allows you to peer through walls and see all nearby enemies and friends. The trade off is that you cannot wield your weapon when it is activated, forcing you to use it more in a reconnaissance capacity.
On the software side, the game is powered by the latest Unreal 3 Engine and DirectX 11. Recall GDC ? Yes, that engine. With how crisp the demo was, there is no doubt the finished product is going to be one of the most visually sharp FPSs out there.
Care for the minimum specs?
- OS: Windows XP / Vista / Windows 7
- Processor: Dual Core Processor
- Memory: 1GB RAM
- Graphics: ATI x1800+ / Nvidia 6800+
- DirectX: 9.0c
- Hard Drive: 2 GB Space Free
- Sound: DirectX 9.0c compliant sound card
Put it all together and you have one hearty FPS. For the price of free and things are sweeter yet. I’m personally looking forward to Blacklight Retribution going live.