Blacklight: Tango Down

Blacklight faces the problem that all budding online titles face: it needs a significant player base in order to realise its full potential

Some pretty divisive reviews about Blacklight: Tango Down have been posted since its release. Some gaming critics think it's a great effort from Zombie Studios, while others are calling it "frustrating" and "pretty damn miserable." I've been fluctuating between the two extremes during this time, and finally, I've decided which side I'm on: neither. I'm going straight down the middle here: Blacklight isn't as terrible as some critics have said, but it isn't without its faults. Still, I think the game has some merit.

While it's a given that a download-only game isn't going to be anywhere near as robust as a full retail first-person shooters like Modern Warfare, Bad Company, or Halo, the main point of contention surrounding Blacklight seems to be whether or not it gives FPS fans enough reasons to spend US$15 (1200 Microsoft Points). Personally, I'm impressed enough by Blacklight's multiplayer game that I think it's appropriately priced, although there are some caveats.

But first, here's what the game does right: the pace and simplicity of the combat is actually refreshing. Whether you choose to moonlight as part of the Blacklight army or the Order, you'll start with a bare bones soldier and basic weaponry. As you earn experience points through the game, you'll eventually unlock dozens of armoury upgrades that you can add on to the basic skeleton of your SMG or assault rifle. This also extends to your soldier's armour and camouflage, but these changes are largely cosmetic, as a Level 45 player takes a few rounds to the chest as well as a Level 1 rookie. However, this element helped keep matches going at a fun, breakneck pace, and it also helps level the playing field if some players are blatantly better than the rest.

Unfortunately, finding an online match isn't as easy as it should be, with long wait times while the game tries to find a session for you to hop into. Blacklight also faces the same Catch-22 problem that all budding online titles face: it needs a significant player base in order to realise its full potential, but gamers won't be enticed to play it unless the game's running at its optimum level. I'm also sad to report that the game's "Black Ops" missions just aren't worth the trouble. Instead of smartly designed maps and loads of playtime, these solo (or co-op) sessions just have waves of enemies swarming at you in narrow corridors while you hit switches to gain access to the rest of the level-and that's pretty much it. There is no plot to speak of, the chaotic pace which makes the multiplayer so fun translates poorly to Black Ops, and the lack of save points is almost criminal.

Still, even with these glaring flaws, I think the game has something to offer shooter fans looking for a fun diversion until the next Call of Duty or Halo comes out. Sure, finding matches on Xbox Live takes too long, but when the team deathmatches actually get going, there is plenty of fun to be had. Whether or not it's worth $15 to you depends on what kind of a FPS fan you are. If you demand a fulfilling, big budget experience and a butter smooth matchmaking experience, then you should probably stick to the big brand names. If, however, you're just looking for a little down and dirty online action and you don't mind waiting a little between rounds, then Blacklight: Tango Down just might be your huckleberry.

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