As a result, the idea is that you'll find all of the content that you'd normally expect from a full-fat title you'd normally grab from your trusty local games retailer, and even a few little extra tricks to boot. Positioned more towards the Trials HD and Castle Crashers end of the download market in terms of pricing, it's Blacklight's multiplayer aspects that'll likely carry it upon release. Comprised of a mix of twelve small, medium and large maps designed for between 2v2 and 8v8 multiplayer matches across seven different game types, Blacklight is almost as rich with features as the majority of FPS multiplayer titles you could care to think of. Gerritsen credits Battlefield 1943 as the template for Blacklight, taking the basic multiplayer tenets and building from there.
Blacklight's FPS fundamentals are pretty sound, although the visuals are a tad unimaginative
Going hands-on with Blacklight: Tango Down at a London press event, the first thing to note about the game is its pick up and play simplicity, with default controls lifted straight from Call of Duty if you're using a controller and all of the usual control customisation options you'd normally expect for mouse and keys. Obviously. Gerritsen stated that the main remit in developing Blacklight was “great old school fun, which I think has been lost with a lot of shooters,” and that shows in how nice and uncomplicated the game is to get into. And maintaining a constant frenetic pace is top of Blacklight's agenda, helped in no small part by some rapid running speed and the 'Hyper Reality Visor' (HRV) which upon use temporarily transforms the screen luminous yellow, highlighting enemies through walls and other obstacles. You seldom feel like you're out of the action as a result, because you can always switch on the HRV and scope out someone to track down and shoot, although you'll need to use it sparingly as it can only be activated in sporadic, rechargeable bursts.
And for all the cheating, campers out there, each team's base is flanked by sentry miniguns that keep the spawning area safe from cheap players looking to score easy kills from people blindly materialising into the game. It's a good idea and neat touch that combats one of the frustrations associated with playing a multiplayer FPS. Similarly, the single player campaign will incorporate such features as support for 4-player co-op and even dynamic AI a bit like Left 4 Dead's, spawning enemies at varying junctures in a level to make playing through the 4 mission campaign different enough each time to encourage revisits.
Back to the multiplayer hands-on though, where we jump into some straightforward team deathmatch and Blacklight proves not only accessible and immediate, but it's also quite visually solid, if a little uninspired at present. Graphical fidelity – which is still in the process of being refined – proves to be the least of your worries as soon as the compulsive and fast-moving game takes hold however, and short respawn times ensure that you're engaged, even if you're not performing too well.
There's a slew of weapon customisation options promised with colours and attachments
Customisable weapons and load outs also allow you to experiment, and although we only had a basic arsenal of assault rifle, shotgun and sniper rifle to choose from, a steady delivery of XP for dispatching enemies and completing special objectives like headshots create enough incentive to continue playing. XP leads to rank promotions and equipment unlocks, and each weapon has up to 25 different parts available for customisation, presenting thousands of different bespoke combinations for each gun. Additional colours, patterns, tags and special perks mean that there's a whole bunch of options at your fingertips for creating your very own distinctive weapon to take into battle. Then there's heavy and light armour types, which enable you to carry more gear and move slower or move faster but carry less respectively. With all of these options to tweak and adjust, you have a more than ample amount to play around with to help define your own multiplayer game experience.
We're not entirely sure that the same variation extends to Blacklight's multiplayer maps however, as the theme rarely seems to stray too far from masonry strewn streets, crumbling houses and general urban decay. Maps like 'Slumlord' are largely drab and unappealing, but then this is a near-future world in which most of mankind has been wiped out by a deadly strain of virus, so maybe grassy plains, trees and rainbows wouldn't really fit with the vibe. Playing a game of control point capture on the 'Shadowmarket' map is a little easier on the eyes however, with its eerie, littered streets hemmed in by flashy neon billboards.
Domination, as it's known, is Blacklight's game of control point capture, pitting two teams against one another in a frantic rush to grasp control of four command posts dotted around the map. Hacking the control points isn't as straightforward as protecting a flag as it's slowly raised to display your team's colour. Instead, you have to beat a quick simple-Simon mini-game on the D-pad or arrow keys, which tests your reactions, putting a neat twist on an established game type.
Tango Down's favourite colour is concrete grey it seems, but then this is a virus-plagued future
Blacklight gently toys with other FPS genre conventions in a similar way, particularly in its HUD and user interface, which is manifested as an internal system installed in your helmet. As such you see your surroundings framed by the peripheral vision of your helmet's interior, so smoke grenades explode in vision-obscuring clusters of glitchy pixels and flashbangs wipe out your view with a bluescreen crash, a bit like Windows Vista.
Blacklight: Tango Down is looking a little unfinished in its current build, but then that could be because it is unfinished. Here's hoping that Zombie is able to apply the required spit and polish before it's proposed July 2010 release then, although on the merits of its gameplay alone, things look fairly promising for Blacklight. Take into account that possible, unconfirmed £10/€15/$20/1200 Microsoft Points price point too, and Tango Down could be a bargainous multiplayer title well worth a look.