You will never find time for anything. If you want the time, you must make it.

You see things and say 'Why?'; but I dream things that never were and I say 'Why not?'

- George Bernard Shaw

Friday, September 24, 2010

Black Light: Tango Down

First person shooters have always been the Xbox 360’s forte; it’s undeniable. It’s the most successful genre over the last several years for Microsoft’s console; just look at games like Modern Warfare or Halo 3. It’s also the most crowded genre on the 360, thus releasing a new shooter requires a great deal of panache and originality to stand out from the pack. Yet the developer of Blacklight: Tango Down, Zombie, took the opposite approach and released one of the most cut and dry multiplayer first person shooters I’ve played in a while.

There is no single player campaign that comes with this $15 downloadable Xbox Live arcade shooter. It’s strictly adversarial multiplayer and co-op play. There are the standard deathmatch / team deathmatch modes, capture the flag, territory defense and a detonation mode that requires one team to blow up the enemy’s base. Co-op levels allow up to four players to take on 4 different levels with endless groups of enemies attacking you from all angles. Similar to games like Modern Warfare, Blacklight uses a leveling system with your online persona and his equipment. There’s a heavy emphasis on weapon customization and building up the speed, defense and offensive capabilities of your online soldier.

One glaring problem with the character building system is that players that have been playing for a while are matched up with brand new players. One player with upgraded stats and a higher class of weaponry can dominate a deathmatch of brand new players. It can be extremely frustrating to enter a match and get destroyed immediately by a supped up player that’s spending his time spawn camping. The game also reminds me of the early Unreal games in some sense, only because players are bunny hopping around the levels.

There is an interesting gameplay device called the Hyper Reality Visor, basically a way to isolate the enemy positions (as well as weapons / health) by using the visor’s ability to see through walls. But you aren’t allowed to shoot when using the visor and it has a recharge time as well. I liked how it sped up matches, but it almost seemed like cheating at times.

I had a heck of a time attempting to connect to matches, often taking up to 10 to 15 minutes before finding players. This leads be to believe that the amount of players who actually purchased this game is minimal or the developer did a terrible job of tying their multiplayer into Xbox Live. Both are dismal possibilities for an online only FPS. I also had a few dropped connection sessions; again, terrible for a FPS.

The co-op play is somewhat interesting, if not extremely challenging for less than 4 players. The developer didn’t scale the difficulty based on the number of players, thus taking on levels with just 1 or 2 player is a fruitless attempt. The four maps get pretty old though and bring little replay value to the table. The achievement set is geared toward climbing up the ladder in terms of character promotion as well as the standard “get a certain number of kills” tasks. It’s a solid set that requires many hours of play time though.


  • The visuals in Blacklight are pretty phenomenal for an Xbox Live Arcade title, somewhat on par with retail FPS games. The texture work is top notch and the character animations are smooth as well. While the level design caters more to campers that I would like it, there’s plenty of eye candy to look at while mowing down the enemy.

  • There are also cool visual effects that take over the screen based on character actions. Smoke grenades, for instance, create a field of vision that’s very difficult to traverse and often leads to adversaries blindly shooting without hitting a thing. The HRV effect is also well done in regards to lighting effects, even if the mode is tough to use all the time in a fast paced deathmatch.


  • The musical effects match the futuristic design of the game, but I wasn’t a fan. Sound effects are typically to any recent FPS and the light voiceover work is definitely helpful as well as easy to understand.


I’m not sure what Zombie was thinking when releasing this game on Xbox Live without spending time perfecting it. The execution of connecting into an actual match is so mind-numbingly long that you will wonder why the game cost this much. Plus you get the added bonuses of being destroyed by players that have leveled up far beyond your own character or dropped connections during a ranked match; that’s just some awesome programming... In addition, there’s nothing here that FPS players haven’t seen before time and time again since the days of Quake. There’s no reason to buy Blacklight: Tango Down with plenty of earlier, vastly superior FPS games like Battlefield: Bad Company are on the Xbox Live Marketplace for $5 more. 


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