Blacksite: Area 51 Preview

Written by Joe Martin

August 15, 2007 | 08:53

Tags: #51 #alien #area #blacksite #deus-ex #grey #harvey-smith #preview #stranglehold #ue3

Companies: #midway

They feel for you...

By now, you’ve probably had a chance to get a good look at the first two pages of screenshots and you’ve come to the same conclusion as we have; Blacksite looks gorgeous. Better than gorgeous, it looks utterly fantastic.

The reason for this is all in the engine, a modified and updated version of the UE3 engine developed by Epic Games. The modifications and updates made by Midway were actually originally made for Stranglehold, but the engine is now being shared by Blacksite: Area 51 too.

There are a few details that still aren’t cleared up – such as whether the game will see any optimisation for Ageia’s PhysX hardware, as Unreal Tournament 3 will. Bear in mind though that just because UT3 uses the UE3 engine and also has Ageia support, it doesn’t mean that all games using the engine will. Bioshock is proof of that.

The graphics however are looking to be pretty astonishing, with some subtle and interesting effects such as the way rainfall bounces off of the player’s weapon which gives a nice touch of realism to the anti-alien campaign.

Blacksite: Area 51 Preview Keeping morale highClick to enlarge

Squad tactics form a backbone of the gaming experience in Blacksite, with a number of inventive and simple additions to the usual pathfinding and AI techniques which really help to round out the experience. The simplicity of the interface is one of the best things about the squad, as players can use a simple one-click system to redirect their fellow soldiers to move, use or attack certain areas and item. Storming doorways, working around environmental problems like barricaded doors by smashing nearby windows, providing cover – the A.I of the squad is more than capable of keeping up with the player.

In fact, squad members can keep up with player emotions as well as player actions. Using a cool new morale system, squad members have emotional states that they form based on the players actions. If you’re low on health and are hanging back behind cover, firing blindly forward into the thick of the action or simply retreating from the conflict altogether then the A.I. can pick up on this. In response to the player's fear, the squad will become more cautious and wary themselves, regularly hanging back and firing blind from behind cover.

This system works vice-versa too and if players are regularly tanking their way to the fore, dishing out massively effective attacks then the squad teammates will get a bonus to damage and accuracy, showing a preference for the front lines and melee attacks.

Blacksite: Area 51 Preview Keeping morale high Blacksite: Area 51 Preview Keeping morale highClick to enlarge

The system cleverly encourages the player to use the squad constantly and, while experienced players could probably handle the game alone, doing so will leave the squad suffering from accuracy penalties and will make combat that much harder when you do need some squad support.

Multiplayer is another area of the game that is seeing some love, with the singleplayer campaign being playable in co-op with the second player able to drop in and out of the game by taking over allies from the lead player’s squad. Co-op is something all gamers, of all ages and divisions can appreciate, so it’s addition here is a boon to an otherwise great looking game.

The remaining multiplayer modes cover the usual fare; deathmatch, capture the flag and two unique team games, Siege and Human vs. Reborn, both of which promise to be interesting and fast paced if not exactly groundbreaking in design.
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