Blacklight: Tango Down has been out for about a month now, trying to win the war against a gaming market that is saturated with military shooters. I figured now, would be a good time to drop into it and see how it was holding up and see if it was gaining a community. Developer Zombie Games has a history of making tactical shooters (Spec Ops, Delta Force), so they’re no greenhorns on the battlefield. Will Blacklight’s gameplay be enough to cause loyal COD players to defect, or will this game just be another casualty of war?
Tango Down will feel natural to anyone who’s played any of the Call of Duty series, as it incorporates the same type of peer-down-the-sights gameplay. The action moves at a little brisker pace, but kills still only take a couple of direct hits rather than requiring you to unload clip after clip. All the usual modes you’ve come to expect are included, so you get variations of deathmatch, capture the flag, domination, and last man standing. I spent the majority of the time for this review in team deathmatch, as it was the most populated variation and didn’t require as much time to get a match going. The server for team deathmatch always had plenty of combatants while the other modes are already hit and miss. I managed to get game of each mode in, but the less popular ones required some waiting for lobbies to fill.
This game isn’t for those with a tendency to become impatient, as the standard Quick Match method of finding a game borders on misnomer. On average, it took me five minutes of searching and loading screens before the game would place me in a room and I could start playing. While the wait time isn’t totally unreasonable, it honestly deters me from trying to get a quick round in. Blacklight attempts a single player/co-op mode called Black Ops, but the four levels provided aren’t too enthralling. They all consist of moving from point to point in a linear fashion and dispensing of the groups of enemies that the game throws at you; extremely forgettable.
Thematically, Blacklight is some kind of digital battlefield, a plot that is only vaguely explained in the game itself. The important things to take home are that each player has a high-tech visor that when activated allows for what is essentially X-Ray vision. This allows players to see where all enemies, teammates, and health and ammo dumps are located for a few seconds before needing to be recharged. It’s actually a pretty cool device, and if you have a couple friends coordinating when they are activating their visors, you can essentially keep tabs on the map at all times. Expanding on this technology theme, the grenades in the game are “Digi grenades” that blind the visors and provide a nice derezzing bubble effect. Speaking of graphical flair, the visuals in Tango Down are so crisp, it’s easy to forget that it’s a downloadable title. I’ve played retail first-person shooters with graphics well below what this game brings to the table.
The framework of Blacklight: Tango Down is very much in the same vein of other persistent online shooters. Players not only accumulate points to gain overall rank, but are also awarded for individual goals such as X number of headshots or X number of kills with a specific weapon. Progression opens up more options for your equipment available at load out as well as additional weapon modifications; the more you play, the better gear you’ll acquire. You can also select a single piece of flair to attach to your gun in the form of small tags, which buff your stats. One complaint is that load out weapons are selected pre-match and, unless I’m missing something, can’t be changed mid-game. This is an annoyance as I find that I’d load into a level and realize that I should have went with a sniper rifle rather than the shotgun or vice-versa. This actually led to me sticking almost exclusively to the assault rifle so I’d have a happy medium of close quarter and ranged abilities. Plus, it just makes sense to power up a single weapon type and once I unlocked a scope, my kill count grew exponentially.
Of course the problem with more experienced players having better gear becomes especially tricky when balancing the game. As I dropped in as a level 1 and worked my way up to a level 7 (the game caps at level 70), I was able to enjoy the matches even though I clearly had inferior gear. It’s not exactly an even playing field, but you can pick up dropped weapons, so you can usually find a more advanced weapon lying about. As is the norm for me, I generally finished in the middle of the pack, so the balancing doesn’t seem too far out of whack in most matches. The game does seem to have a difficult time selecting fair teams, though. I occasionally would get paired with an entire team of level 15 and under players and we’d somehow get pitted against a team full of nothing but level 30 and above players. Those fights were massacres, as my team repeatedly lost long distance firefights; their whole team had high-powered scoped rifles, ours did not.
The game includes twelve different maps and most are laid out in a way that remind me of slightly older first-person shooters. Not to say they aren’t good maps, it’s just that their compact, multi-tiered alleyway design doesn’t quite have the intricacies of the top-tier modern shooters. I really dig a couple of the levels, though – particularly a long, narrow train station level that reminds me of Unreal Tournament’s High map. Since the levels all tend to be on the smaller size, spawn camping does become an issue. The game tries to combat this by placing unmanned turrets at each team’s base, but a few skilled snipers managed to take me out several times in a row before I realized what was happening. The turrets do generally succeed in letting you know that there is an enemy close by when you’ve just re-entered the match though.
Honestly, Blacklight: Tango Down is a competent first-person shooter with a lot of replayability due to its persistent features and goals. Whether it’s worth taking time away from your first-person shooter of choice is really the issue. Really, my main gripe is the amount of time required to get in and out of matches. That needs to be remedied for Tango Down to truly capitalize on being an affordable FPS alternative that is just a few button presses away.
Outstanding | Very Good | Fair | Poor | Awful
Recommended Buy Price: $10.00
Current MSRP: $15.00
Blacklight: Tango Down was provided for review by Ignition Entertainment. The game was played for seven hours trying out both the single player and multiplayer modes. I accumulated 2 out of 12 Achievements for 10 GamerScore. Blacklight Tango Down is also available for the PC and coming soon to the PlayStation 3.