Blue Grenade of Death

The visor idea does at least open up some interesting new takes on existing game mechanics and Zombie seems to have done well when it comes to fitting the conventions of other multiplayer FPS games around their visor feature. They’ve had to though – smoke grenades aren’t going to do much against someone who can see through walls, are they?

Zombie’s solution to this has been to give grenades a digital twist, explaining that flashbangs and smoke bombs now give out a type of electronic chaff that crashes nearby visors, literally. If you’re near a grenade when it goes off then it’ll frazzle your screen with bursts of static. If you’re standing right on top of it then your visor will actually blue screen and you’ll have to watch it POST until you recover.

Granted, it’s an interesting idea and it makes a change from watching the usual flash of white that you see in other games, like Modern Warfare 2…for the first few times at least. Eventually the novelty wears off and you’re back to the question which Blacklight: Tango Down never manages to answer – why can’t I take that stupid bloody visor off? If I was wearing a virtual reality helmet and it started to not work in the middle of a gunfight then that'd be the first thing I'd do.

*Blacklight: Tango Down Hands-on Preview Blue Grenade of Death
The scale of that gun looks a bit wrong - it's nearly as tall as a bus!

Really, it makes no sense – especially considering that Blacklight lets you customise pretty much every other part of your loadout. Just like with nearly every other multiplayer shooter at the moment, you unlock new weapons over time and gradually get your hands on more advanced kit. You can never take the helmet off though. Apparently people in the shooty-shooty future just can’t function without them.

To be fair to Blacklight, it’s worth mentioning that the weapon customisation options do go a lot deeper than most other shooters though. Not only can you customise your loadout, but you can also tinker with your guns on an intimate level by swapping out certain barrels, buttstocks and magazines for others that give you a more appreciable advantage. There are also ‘weapon tags’, basically little badges, which are randomly unlocked and give extra bonuses too.

To take that fairness further though, it’s worth also mentioning that we didn’t get to have a go with this feature ourselves, that there are just six weapons on offer in the game and that there are still some things about them which we take issue with. Switching to iron sights, for example, doesn’t give you a proper zoomed in sight along your gun barrel as you’d expect. It zooms in a bit and it puts the gun in the middle of the screen, but the sights for your weapon are always an inch or two below the on-screen crosshair provided by your HUD. It’s a small thing, but we found it interfered enough with our gameplay to make us again question if the visor was really worth the effort.

*Blacklight: Tango Down Hands-on Preview Blue Grenade of Death

Going further into the details, more issues show up too. Dedicated servers are an obviously thorny issue and Blacklight won’t be supporting them which can be reason enough to dissuade some people from playing (or at least to say as much). More of a pressing issue for us though was that Zombie has already decided it isn’t going to do any DLC or post-release content which, for a multiplayer-focused, digital-only, budget release (€15 was the price we were given) strikes us as odd – there’s obvious opportunity for expansion here and that the developer has chosen to avoid it is a bit worrying.

To be brutally honest though, we can’t say we’re too upset by Zombie's comment that there’ll be no DLC after the initial release. All we’ve seen of Blacklight: Tango Down backs up our initial impression; that it’s yet another multiplayer shooter made in Unreal Engine 3 and set around boring, beige buildings. Granted, it’s got wallhacks and blue screens – but on the PC we can emulate those in any shooter we felt like, so there's nothing to really make us recommend it over anything else.

Blacklight: Tango Down will be released in Summer 2010 exclusively through PSN, Xbox Live Arcade and PC digital distribution channels.
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