Blacklight: Tango Down Review: Doing Your Duty
It isn’t uncommon in the game industry to mimic other game’s successes. For example, when “Street Fighter 2″ was released in the arcade, many companies jumped into the fighting genre bandwagon in hopes to mimic that game’s success. “Blacklight: Tango Down” follows this concept by using the “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” series as the source of their influence. The major difference being is that “B:TD” is an Xbox Live Arcade game for $15 and it is strictly focused on online play, whereas “Modern Warfare” was a retail priced game with a single player campaign attached to the package. While all of this sounds like a decent idea in terms of gaming, is it really worth the bargain price tag?
“Blacklight: Tango Down” is an online-only first person shooter game that contains persistant elements often seen in many free online RPG-lite shooters on the PC and the “Modern Warfare” series. As you might have guessed, you start at a low level and gain experience by defeating other players, getting a kiling spree, and completing objectives. As you gain more experience and level up, you unlock equipment such as more guns, modifications to those guns, and different sets of armor.
While this isn’t a recipe for originality, “B:TD” does introduce a few things that helps it stand out from the rest, the most obvious one being the numerous weapon modifications for each weapon. The modifications work by allowing the player to select a “base gun” and then choose which parts to customize your stats. For example, you can increase your defense, or increase your damage. Each modification also changes how the gun looks, including the barrel, the camo, or a “tag” (think of those things that you hang in your rear-view mirror, only on a gun). The customization options are quite endless and it’s fun to experiment just to see what you can come up with.
However, all this customization comes at a price. Since you get these upgrades via leveling, you can tell within the first few minutes of play that you are going to be outclassed by other players. Why? Because while their guns can finish off people in literally less than a second or two, your starter gun might require several bullets to finish off the enemy or even make a dent of damage. It doesn’t help that headshots aren’t as devasting as they should be, especially in a game that tries to portray itself as a tactical shooter as opposed to a twitch-based ones like “Quake.”
Besides the weapon customization, “B:TD” doesn’t offer much else in terms of game modes. You have the typical deathmatch, team deathmatch, retrieval (CTF), domination, last man standing, and detonate. Detonate is the only unique game mode where the object is to carry a bomb from the middle of the map and detonate it at the enemy’s base. Besides these competitive game modes, there is also a co-op mode called “Covert Ops” which features four maps where you will need to hack into terminals, defend key areas while you repair, and attacking specific enemy points.
With all these features, “B:TD” sounds like a reasonably priced game. As an XBLA game, you are getting a meaty package. However, a bulletpoint of features can be deceiving if the game fails at game design, and “B:TD” fails in many important aspects, up to the point where spending thirty or fourty dollars seems jusitified for a more polished experienced.
First and foremost, every map has a fixed spawn point. Instead of a large general area where you can respawn like modern shooters of today, “B:TD” forces players to spawn in this small box area with gun turrets to “protect” you. The problem being that these spawn points only have one entrance to get out, which means respawn camping comes into play. Be prepared to step outside only to be introduced to a primed grenade thrown at your general direction.
The other problem is the Hyper Reality Visor (HRV). This device can be used to see through the map and pinpoint where the enemy, health packs, and ammo stations are. It seems like this device was placed in the game to prevent players from camping, however, the execution just isn’t there.
For starters, the enemy display in HRV doesn’t tell you the distance of your targets, therefore you won’t know if you are looking at someone from a across the board or if they are ten feet away from you. The other issue is that while these things are used, you can’t fire or throw your grenades. A balance design was needed for this, but it is annoying to turn on the visor only to see the guy who happens to be turning around the corner just instantly kills you without retaliation.
Finally, there’s the balance itself. As mentioned before, your first few levels is just a test of patience and tolerance because your weapon is useless. Players start out with well over 100 health, which might sound a lot until you realize their guns can deal well over one hundred damage from bullet. Considering that these are fully automatic weapons, fights can literally last in a split second. It doesn’t help that sniper rifles are borderline useless while SMGs are overpowered.
Visually, “B:TD” is a mixed bag. On the one hand, the level design is surprisingly decent for small, tight frag fests. Because the setting is based on a dystopian future, you’ll be bombarded with neon lights and advertisements. It certainly nails the setting down in terms of a dark technological-based world. However, the colors appear to be completely washed out and the player models from both sides are pretty damn identical. The only way you can tell from friend or foe is by the name above their head.
While “Blacklight: Tango Down” is a notable effort, one must question the purpose of this game’s existence. It is quite clear the game is influenced by the grind-fest progression that are common nowadays. But with poor game design elements of the past, such as fixed spawn points, “B:TD” doesn’t justify this by simply having a small price tag. It is a game that doesn’t present anything special to the table and for what it has, it isn’t much to write home about. It is just a generic rendition of the modern FPS and there are far more polished options out there.