When I downloaded Blacklight Tango Down from Xbox Live Arcade, I wasn't certain what to expect. From what I'd heard the game was exclusively online, a first person shooter and rocked a "real future" style and setting. Those are all good things, of course, but in all respects these details left me woefully unprepared for the experience I was about to have.
What wasn't told to me was that Blacklight Tango Down was going to shove me to the ground and kick me for the duration of my review. You see, Blacklight is deathmatch style multiplayer FPS with an experience system, much like the Modern Warfare games are so famously known for. I'm terrible at these types of console games, especially considering my competitive nature sets me up for endless hours of frustration.
Okay, Blacklight Tango Down, you won the first round, but now it's my turn.
Blacklight Tango Down is multiplayer game, nothing more, nothing less. With seven different game modes and twelve different maps there's plenty to keep you busy for hours and hours. Blacklight also includes a cooperative mode titled Black Ops, which is a series of simply objective based missions that you can play solo or cooperatively with a group of three other friends.
The competitive game modes, each 16 players maximum, include all of your old favorites: Deathmatch, Last Man Standing, team versions of the prior two modes, Retrieval, Detonation and Domination. If you're not familiar with these modes, worry not because they're all just variations of killing the opponents, not dying, and supporting your team whenever it pleases you. Sadly, a few of these game modes are disappointingly unpopulated, so if you're excited to jump into the action you'll have to stick to the Deathmatch modes.
Black Ops, the cooperative mode, is simply a joke. From what I could find you are unable to search for a team online, instead you either play solo or add friends to your match. Again, this isn't exactly a popular game so friends are hard to come by. That's all besides the point though, because the actual missions are terrible. Since there's no single player story mode most gamers won't understand the scenario, not that it matters. You start a mission, you go through a few waves of enemies, you grab an objective, rinse and repeat steps two and three. Friends won't even want to play this mode with you.
Also employed is a fairly robust customization system. Thousands of gun variations, skins for your character, emblems to stick on the side of your gun, all of these things are available... as long as you gain the appropriate experience level. Yup, at the start of the game you're stuck with a simple weak SMG, Assault Rifle, Handgun and grenade type. For players like myself, you'll never see most of these customizations. As a result, you'll spend hours floundering online before you can acquire weapons to help you progress.
The first person shooter mechanics in Blacklight are its best selling point, in my opinion. You're much flimsier than in comparable first person shooters; a single headshot is likely to drop you and only a few well placed body shots do the job as well. This creates a very unnerving atmosphere of constantly checking behind you and avoiding corners with low visibility.
Here's where things go wrong. Like Modern Warfare and all Xbox Live games, Blacklight doesn't use dedicated servers. Associated with this is a measurable level of lag, or delay between what you see and what it actually happening. Now, in Modern Warfare the result isn't as noticeable due to the way combat plays out. In Blacklight though, since the action is so unpredictable and quick, you're often dead before you even hear the gunfire, literally.
The second huge problem in Blacklight: spawning locations. Blacklight doesn't have random spawns, it has static locations plotted out. So veterans of the game will know every likely position you're going to be in after you die, which is where you'll likely die again. Similarly, in Team Deathmatch players spawn in a central location guarded by a sentry turret. Veterans will, of course, know the specific locations from where to shoot into the spawn location without attracting the sentry turret. It's ridiculous and ruins the game for new players, but that's what happens.
There's really not much else in Blacklight Tango Down worth mentioning. The graphics look fine, though the game is just your typical gray and brown suburban dystopia. Though the blood spatter and digital grenade effects are quite well done. The sound effects are quality, but not necessarily fresh or noteworthy.
The story is only worth mentioning in that it's disappointing there isn't more of it. You play as either the Order or as the Black Ops team, attempting to sort out some sort of war in the streets of an Eastern European Soviet State. There's also a third faction of 'infected' inhabitants that you'll discover in the in the Black Ops cooperative mode. It all seems intriguing, at least it might if there was any depth to the story.
Perhaps we might find out in the comic-book or movie that are both rumored to be in production, each associated with the game and likely to flesh out the scenario.
What is worth being said here, is that Blacklight Tango Down seems like a perfectly decent niche shooter. I have no doubt that there are a few thousand players who excel at the game, have unlocked most of the customization options, and are thoroughly enjoying everything Blacklight has to offer. Sadly, I am not one of those people; sadly, most people are those people.
Blacklight comes across as a a very clunky, rough around the edges, first person shooter that promises it will play better if you'll just play another hour or so. That hour isn't worth playing when the rewards are so little, unfortunately.
I'm not aiming to devalue Blacklight because I'm terrible at it though. It still provides an exciting experience for players that want some new first person action. It's different enough from Modern Warfare 2 that some of the players that are bored there can try Blacklight out and have fun. That's not most people though. Blacklight simply doesn't have enough to offer new players to keep them interested for an extended period of time.
Blacklight Tango Down is now available on the Xbox Live Marketplace for $15.