|Dev: Zombie Studios|
|Pub: Perfect Worlds|
|Release: TBA 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Josh Wirtanen
The free-to-play game model has been something MMORPG game studios have been taking quite seriously lately. Blacklight: Retribution, the sequel to Blacklight: Tango Down, is looking to apply this F2P model to the first-person shooter genre. I got to spend a little time chatting with the folks at Perfect World about it, as well as getting a brief play session with the game.
Blacklight: Retribution is a futuristic urban shooter with a visual style that's strongly inspired by films like Blade Runner and The Fifth Element, as well as many anime titles. This means that instead of the gritty hyper-realistic look that a lot of shooters aim for, we're given something a bit more colorful and stylized. Now, the game doesn't try to be cartoony like Brink or Team Fortress 2, but, when appropriate, it incorporates details that give it its own vibe. With its neon-lit back alleys strung with Christmas lights, it's definitely fun to look at. In fact, one neat little detail I noticed was a cartoony devil's head (the Zombie Studios logo) weapon tag attached to the gun I was lugging around.
Since the game runs on the Unreal 3 engine and takes advantage of DirectX 11 technology, it looks great. Visually, it's very crisp and detailed, standing up to many of the other mid-range shooters on the market.
The Retribution team is very familiar with the FPS scene, and they have even admitted to drawing influence from games like Half-Life, Counter-Strike, and Call of Duty: Black Ops. Of course, this means these guys are intimately familiar with what works and what doesn't work in a shooter. With that in mind, Retribution does some fun things with its gameplay. Shooter fans will tell you that one of the most annoying things about online shooters is the campers (people who "set up camp" and spend the entire round hiding in one place.) Blacklight Retribution makes camping near-impossible. By pressing v on the keyboard, players activate their HRV (Hyper Reality Visor) and can see through walls. The folks at Perfect World explained it as basically a legalized wall hack. With HRV—as the saying goes—you can run but you can't hide, and the pace of battle is a lot quicker as a result.
Players will get to pilot mechs called Hardsuits after earning enough credits by scoring kills in the game. These are powerful and can deal massive damage, yet each one has a weak point. If you activate the HRV, the weak point on a Hardsuit will glow orange. The Hardsuit that I was asked to take down during my play session had a weak point on its leg, though it managed to take me out before I had a chance to shoot it where it counts. This keeps gameplay balanced, as even Hardsuits can be taken down if you know where to shoot, yet it still requires a bit of strategy.
Speaking of strategy, Retribution allows players to customize their soldier as they see fit. There are no restrictive class options: players will have full access to advance their skill trees however they see fit. Whichever type of strategy you prefer, it's likely that there will be a setup that appeals to you.
But it doesn't end with skill customization. Retribution draws influence from the extremely flexible customization systems of racing sims. It seeks to provide a very detailed weapon customization scheme to give players exactly what they want from their guns, including barrel, scope, magazine, and even cosmetic tweaks. In fact, you can even upgrade your Hardsuit with various weapon additions and things.
While the only mode I got to play was team deathmatch, the final build of the game will contain other gameplay modes as well. However, the details of these are still being worked out. The amount of players supported on a map is also still up in the air. I'm sure this will depend on how smoothly the game runs with different amounts of players during beta.
With the free-to-play model, it can be assumed that there will be some sort of microtransaction-based game shop, but we don't have a lot of information on this yet. At this point, it's hard to say how much access free players will get, and how much of the content will need to be paid for, but I'm sure more details will emerge as the game enters beta later this year.
Blacklight: Retribution carves a comfortable niche in a shooter market filled with Call of Duty clones. With its unique sci-fi visual style and strategic HRV-based gameplay, Retribution has a shot at appealing to both hardcore and casual shooter fans. Since it will be free to play, it will definitely be worth checking out when it goes into beta next year.
CCC Editor/Contributing Writer