Blacklight: Tango Down Review
When you start off in Blacklight, things can be grueling. It’s not exactly that people with higher rank have an advantage over you, in that they’ve unlocked a variety of guns, attachments and charms–though this is a part of it. You can still do decently well, not great, even with the first few guns. The big issue for newcomers is that the maps in Blacklight are small and jam-packed. Matches move fast and you will be dying a lot. Some players may be taken aback by this, without realizing that matches last long enough that dying a couple of dozen times isn’t actually as bad as it might seem.
The second that you move out of spawn, there will be people around you–it’s not spawn camping, really, since the maps are so small. So, this is something you need to be ready for: and you have a variety of tools to deal with this. Your HRV visor is an absolute essential. You need to be using it whenever possible (by pressing up on your D-pad), but also when smart to do so as well. The balancing tweak, which makes it impossible to shoot or melee while in the mode, may teach you when it’s best to use the hard way. I cannot count the number of times I’ve been an idiot, turning it on in the worst possible location. While initially frustrating, it’s also a good learning experience.
Now that I’ve spent about 11ish hours in Blacklight, I’ve come to realize that the HRV visor is a revelation–not unlike destructible environments in Bad Company. It’s one of those features that totally changes the game, and life without it seems almost impossible. There is no guessing about where everyone is. You know that. And so do they. I cannot express how deliciously intense that is. This, in turn, calls for mindgames: do I lay a mine down and stay still, so that they think I’m not paying attention? Should I move first? Does he know I’m here yet?
When you couple the small maps with the HRV visors, you should start getting an idea of why I would say the game can be grueling for newcomers. There is little room for error if you’re playing against more experienced players with better equipment. If you stick with it, though, and learn how and when to best use the HRV visor, as well as learn the ins-and-outs of the maps, you should start playing a lot better. Enough to start levelling up and getting the unlocks: and the unlocks may just be one of the best parts of the game.
There a million things for you to unlock in Blacklight–mods, attachments, charms, what have you. Once you’ve got a few unlocks going, you may just be spending an hour or so every sitting configuring your guns and equipment. Do I want more power? More health? More ammo? Each gun attachment changes the statistics of your weapon, and you have to find the right balance to fit your playstyle. Balance is the key word here, since they’ve made it so that you cannot have an overpowered weapon. If you’re going for a gun with a ton of damage, for example, you may just be sacrificing some health or accuracy to do so. Unfortunately, almost none of this is explained in-game, and so you may find yourself a bit lost when going through the customization menus. This is compounded by the fact that sometimes, charms affect things outside of damage, speed and health–the only three things denoted in the customization menu. Expect to feel a bit confused, but, really, you should start understanding how all of it works if you play around with what’s available to you. Another reason you should play around and try different configurations out is that not only are those stat bars in the customization screens deceiving, but there are a handful of factors which they do not measure–like spread, recoil, what have you. These are still being calculated, they’re just not being shown to you for some strange reason.
The HRV isn’t the only thing unique to Blacklight–you’ve also got EMP and digi grenades. One produces the bluescreen of death, and the other pixellizes your view–both, essentially, serve the purpose of blinding and disorienting you. You may be tempted to think that this is really no different from a flashbang grenade–but this isn’t true. Yes, being blinded/disoriented is bad in any FPS you can name. But Blacklight is a game about information, about knowing, about seeing–this is why your HRV is so essential. You’re probably using your HRV within seconds of a match starting. And so, being blind may just be the worst thing that can happen to you…you may not be able to see, but everyone else sure as hell can see you!
Part of the appeal of these unique weapons and tools is their great aesthetic. The UI and visuals both lend themselves nicely to the game’s futuristic approach, from the DOS-styled font, to the blue screen of death, and to how you seem to just…digitize on the field whenever you spawn. Small details which really set it apart from the rest of the FPS market, and I hope they take it one step further in the sequel.
At first, I was skeptical about how I’d feel “attached” to my guns. They’re…guns, not a teddy bear or something. While I will say I don’t feel attachment to my guns still, I do feel that they’re “mine.” I built this thing, I picked its specifications, its charm keychain, hell, I even picked its color. The charms sound silly, but they’re fantastic: they serve a purpose, in that they change your stats, but they also further personalize what you’re carrying around. Expect to spend a good deal of time choosing your charms, since you’ll want to put on something you like, but also something that’s useful, too. There’s a little over a hundred of them, and while that’s a lot, I can’t help but wish there were more! Nonetheless it’s interesting to pick up someone else’s gun, and look at how they’ve personalized their own weapons.
And let me tell you, the things you can make are pretty damn cool. They’ve done a great job of scifi-ing up the FPS genre, and the variety of optics available to you really illustrate that. Red dot is so yesterday–gimme my hologram sights! The starting guns are only just “okay,” they work, they get the job done, but there’s nothing like having a customized piece of futuristic equipment that works exactly how you want it to work. Once you get to this point, you may look at the starting weapons with disdain: how did I ever hit anyone with that piece of junk? This other thing is so much better, so much cooler!
The unlocks requirements, coupled with how much work is required to level up, makes Blacklight a game you will find yourself coming back to for a while–barring that you have gotten past the initial difficulty hump. 11 hours in, at level 22, I’ve still got quite a bit to unlock, see and configure–not to mention, there’s 12 maps right off the bat, so matches always feel fresh. I expect to be playing Blacklight for a long while yet, and, the level of customization available to you coupled with how intense it is makes the 15 dollar pricetag worth it. And, remember, if you’re unsure, there’s always a 1-hour trial at your disposal. *
* Not the actual ending of this review. Notice how I didn’t mention the single player? That’s because it sucks. Don’t even waste your time with it, trust me on this one. All it is, are endless waves of enemies coming to you on one map, and you have to press a sequence of buttons on like 3 terminals, and then it just ends. You don’t know why you’re there, there’s no challenge, and nothing really happens. And there’s a weird lady that says stuff to you in a weird Chinese/Russian accent. I don’t even know why they included this.