August 19, 2012

/ by Tin Salamunic

Developer(s): Zombie Studios
Platform(s): PC
Release Date: April 3, 2012

I found Zombie Studios’ Blacklight: Retribution while scouring Steam for something to carry me out of my recent JRPG stint. Something far away from turns and tiles, but that I can still earn XP in, as is my addiction. How happy I was to discover that Blacklight was exactly the scratch I needed for my Call of Duty itch.

The Good
- Tons of weapons and gear
- You can see through walls!
- Maps are all well laid out and fun to play
- Calling down pilotable mechs from space

The Bad
- Progression can feel a bit slow
- There are currently only 9 maps to play on
- Free-to-play model encourages a pay-to-win mentality that'll aggravate some players   
Anyone familiar with the multiplayer FPS genre will immediately feel at home with Blacklight. It has all of your staple game modes - Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Domination, and King of the Hill - with a few extras thrown in for good measure. With just the vanilla loadout the game provided me, I decided I would cut my teeth on some Team Deathmatch to familiarize myself with what Blacklight has to offer.

The most immediate change to the usual FPS formula is Blacklight’s HRV, a toggleable HUD option that allows any player to see through walls, with enemy and allied players highlighted in red and blue respectively. I found HRV to be finely balanced, with the entire system running on a stamina bar that depleted while HRV was active and refilled when it was turned off - activation only being possible from a full bar. In addition to the limiting stamina bar, you can’t fire any of your weapons while HRV is active. This means that if a player rounds a corner while you’re watching people duke it out in the other room, you have no means of defending yourself in the seconds it takes to switch out of HRV. Used properly, HRV is best for quick scans of the map before you head out in search of a target.

Having learned the dos and don’ts of HRV in the nostalgic haven of Team Deathmatch, I was determined to try something new. But not before I stopped in at the Customization window to spend some of my cash. Currency in Blacklight is divided into GP, which you earn in-game, and Zen, which equates to real-world money. As is the norm with free-to-play models, you are essentially weighing time versus money. Do you want to take the time to earn the substantial amount of GP necessary to deck out your character? Or do you want to drop some actual cash on the game and get right into the thick of things? Being of the frugal persuasion, I opted for spending GP.

When purchasing items with GP you have the option of buying them outright or renting them for either one, seven, or thirty days, depending on how much you want to spend. With the extensive selection of items - from fully customized pre-made guns to individual parts for the more min/max minded - the option to try something out for a day or two without wasting all your hard earned GP was a really nice touch.

In addition to weapons and armor, you also have Gear and Depot slots you can customize. Gear ranges from the basic - your knife and grenade slots - to the more devious items like HRV Decoys, which set up a static hologram of yourself that is visible on the enemies’ HRV. This is also where you’re going to find your backpacks which allow for things like reviving downed allies, momentary invisibility, and repairing Hardsuits. Have I mentioned Hardsuits? Perhaps I should mention Hardsuits.

While in-game you can access different Depots found throughout the maps which will allow you to purchase items from your customizable Depot inventory using points earned for things like kills and capturing flags/nodes during the match. In the Depot you are going to find all of your heavy weapons, such as the flamethrower, grenade launcher, and, of course, Hardsuits -  mechs which you can call down from space and pilot around the map.

Hardsuits are a great addition to the multiplayer FPS monotony. Essentially a mobile tank with a gatling gun, railgun, and booster jets, Hardsuits are an alluring pickup. I bought one immediately and was just as quick to regret it. Hardsuits are that item you’re either very good with, or very bad with. I am the latter, but by a twist of fate I just happen to be very good at destroying them. Although they are unarguably killing machines called down to deliver bullets to the chests of all evildoers, Hardsuits do have their limitations:

      You can’t activate HRV in a Hardsuit.
      Your range of vision is limited.
      Hardsuits turn very slowly.
      There are random weak points on Hardsuits that enemy players can view through HRV (In opposition to this, players can purchase and equip a piece of Gear that removes their Hardsuit’s weak points if they are really bent on mastering the mechs).
      Hardsuits are vulnerable to certain heavy weapons like the Armor Stinger (an anti-armor missile launcher) and the flamethrower.

I get a little tingly whenever an enemy player calls down a Hardsuit, because it’s a cue that it’s time for me to grab a flamethrower and begin the most dangerous game of trying to sneak up on the enemy Hardsuit and set it ablaze. This is a welcome change to the usual run and gun of Team Deathmatch and a fun addition to other modes such as Domination, or the often hectic NetWar - one of Blacklight’s twists on multiplayer FPS gameplay.

Blacklight currently has a total of eight modes, including the bread and butter of Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, King of the Hill and Dominaton. With the addition of the new Siege mode, there are three other modes you may want to familiarize yourself with.


NetWar is the lovechild of Capture the Flag and Domination. There are nodes to capture  on each of the four corners of the map, with a flag in the middle. Capturing and holding nodes will earn your team points per second, while bringing the flag to a captured node will earn your team a set chunk of points. The team with the most points at the end of the match wins.

Kill Confirmed

In Kill Confirmed you are essentially playing Team Deathmatch, but every player drops a token when they die. The player who got the kill will get points when they or someone on their team collects the token. However, enemy players can collect tokens from their fallen allies to deny the enemy team points. It’s pretty fun and it discourages snipers, which I think is wonderful because I’ve got nothing of the sniper gene in me.


Siege is much like Team Fortress 2’s Payload mode, except instead of a handcart, you have a tank. The defending team must escort their tank along a predetermined path while the attacking team tries to blow it up. Matches are timed, meaning that if the defending team reaches the finish line before time is up, they win. Otherwise, if the attacking team manages to blow up the tank or keep it from reaching its destination, they lose.

With plenty of game modes to keep you busy, a huge roster of customizable parts and gear, some fun additions to the usual FPS gun-toting, and an unarguable price point, Blacklight is a game that any action-hungry shooter fan should to try out.

Review by Jeff Ellis

Final Score “FPS action with x-ray specs” 7.5
Everything looks top-of-the-line and some of the armor and tech designs are really nice. I only wish that they were a little more creative with their environments.
Your average multiplayer FPS experience with a few fun twists thrown in. Likely to hook the FPS advocates, but no distractions for the more casual FPS player.
With so many people out there paying top dollar just to get at an AAA title’s multiplayer mode, Blacklight offers a similarly polished experience at an affordable price.
Nothing sticks out, but with audio this isn’t always a bad thing. Everything felt right and I was able to tell what was going on in my surroundings just by the proximity of gunfire and footsteps.

Are any of you playing Blacklight right now? How do you like it so far? Feel free to share your thoughts on the game in the comments section below.

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  1. Awesome game. In some ways I prefer it to COD.

  2. Great review. I'll have to give this one a try. Let's just hope my computer specs can handle it.

  3. This looks really cool! Nice graphics for a free-to-play game.

  4. Are there controllable vehicles like in Battelfield, or just the robot mech things?

  5. Currently the only controllable vehicles are the Hardsuits mentioned in the review, Dustin. Maps in Blacklight are going to be much smaller than the sort you would find in a Battlefield game.


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