Blacklight: Tango Down Preview

We tango down with Zombie Studios’ Jared Gerritzen for intel on their low-cost, high production FPS.

By Rupert Higham, May 31, 2010


The two maps we played were well designed and varied. One vertically orientated roof top level and one on street level, filled with cover.

It’s all well and good to play in the relatively uncrowded DLC market but quite another to provide all the trimmings at a quarter of the cost. Just how are do Zombie Studios intend to do more with less? “As it started to work out, I saw the pluses of doing DLC only. You don’t have to have a single player campaign. It goes back to Battlefield 1942 – you didn’t need a story. This is a world and you’re playing a game. A lot of companies are kind of messed up because it’s ‘We know that this is the biggest multiplayer game in the world, but we need to give you a single player experience, but we’re only going to give you a six hour single player experience,’ and then people bring up ‘Yeah it’s a great game but…’”.


As well as modding the stats of your gun, your favourite weapon can be aesthetically altered too for the personal touch.

Zombie Studios’ reluctance to get bogged down in costly story telling isn’t indicative of an unwillingness to explore Blacklight’s universe – quite the opposite in fact, as the team have designs on a cross-media barrage of Blacklight productions, from the comic due in July to the recently-green lit movie. Your exposure to this in-game is kept to a minimum however, placing you in a conflict some 30 years into the future in an undisclosed location (“we’re not picking on anyone,” assures Gerritzen), your equipment is one of the few things to identify your near-future surroundings.

Blacklight’s principal attempt at advancing FPS gameplay is Hyper Reality Vision, or HRV. Much like Perfect Dark’s Eraser-like Farsight gun many years before it, the x-ray-like HRV is designed to root out campers and promote more aggressive play, but unlike Rare’s effort this is strictly a visor and you can’t fire weapons while it’s active. Your grenade load-out has seen a touch of tomorrow’s technology too, with smoke grenades censoring your vision with a cluster of distorted pixels and the flash bang causing interference with your visor’s computer. In further bad news for campers, respawn bases are protected by turrets, demonstrating Zombie Studios’ commitment to addressing the most reviled FPS exploits.


Digitally presented in-game adverts pop up around the levels. The world may be collapsing, but there's still time for consumerism.

Weapon customisation is an element left surprisingly untouched by the big players in the genre, and with Army of Two: 40th Day recently misfiring in that department, the door is still wide open for gun tuning possibilities. Your six core weapons (handgun, shotgun, sniper rifle, assault rifle, sub machine gun and heavy support weapon) can be modded in five areas (barrel, muzzle, optic, magazine and butt stock) and equipped with up to 25 unique items that change a weapon’s perks, leading to a perversely wide selection of gun combinations. Perceptible variation and measured balance will be the key to success, and no doubt this will need a great degree post-release supervision to avoid any game-breaking combinations.

Zombie Studios is once again avoiding contact with the big-hitters by positioning themselves in the comparatively quiet summer release period, giving them a good three month jump on people’s spare time before November happens and Black Ops steamrollers into town. In side-stepping the pomp and circumstance of the single-player campaign, Blacklight hopes to offer an economic alternative to its full-price disc-based rivals, and from what we’ve played so far, it does a more than adequate job of masquerading as one of them too.

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