Most people that came across the Midway booth seemed to advance on Stranglehold to get a quick play in before its release this just past Tuesday. Upon fulfilment of gameplay and questions alike, they would advance on to the next booth either quickly glancing at BlackSite or simply not glancing at all. We thought that was a little crazy.
For those unaware of this sequel to Area 51, BlackSite is a first-person tactical shooter coming out November 5th on Xbox 360, PS3, and PC. You'll play as Aeron Pierce, commander of Delta Force, a four person squad engineered to kill. You'll start the game over in Iraq on a mission to search and recover hidden WMD's. You quickly discover the supposed weapons are far from standard missiles, but massive hybrid alien baddies. You then return to Rachel, Nevada, the root of the problem, in all its destroyed and evacuated glory based on events from the prequel. You then find out that the US government is to blame as they have been conducting experimental research on humans to produce a set of super-human soldiers. Of course, the super-soldiers have lashed out against the society that created them and stripped them from their human form. You and the rest of Delta Force are the ones responsible for taking out the trash.
Once commenced, BlackSite turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. It was seemingly uninspired in all aspects ranging all the way from the vibrancy of colours (even on the nice Sony 32" HDTV), to story, weapon selection, and feature list. Personally, I've always felt that as long as it's fun, it doesn't have to be a developmental achievement. So, was it fun? Not really. The single button action system they've been boasting about didn't work for the first door, thus planting my character behind a renegade piece of wood for a couple minutes before my team decided to open it. In the down time I took to the streets, walking around and gazing at my surroundings. The level was midway through the game and positioned at a base in a desert in Nevada, although quite detailed it was really boring. The select destructible items like glass signs and metal chairs crashed down to the ground or dinged and bounced around nicely based on the fact that BlackSite uses the Unreal Engine 3. The fighting in game and cut-scenes both produced a very arcade style, and thus came across less smooth and unintelligent alike. Boss fights were bland as well, with a very basic spray-and-pray attitude. Gas tanks spread randomly throughout made some nice explosions, killing nearby enemies. As far as weapon selection goes, you'll be carrying an automatic assault rifle, a secondary pistol, and a couple of frag grenades. That's the whole kit and caboodle.
Being stationary within a moving vehicle with some form of kick ass gun is always fun, and BlackSite is no exception. You'll be the proud operator of a automatic rail gun in the form of a Gatling gun. With infinite ammo and overheating being few and far between, it's really all about levelling everything that moves. That kind of satisfaction is missed in some shooters, so we're glad to see it's not missed here. The aforementioned boss scene does add some variability by having the giant alien squid-like creature throwing phlegm-fireballs at your Black Hawk much like the Seeders shot Nemacysts in Gears of War. You'll frantically decide whether to play defensive and take out the exploding projectiles or go for the things that's launching them at you. The characters also personify characters from Gears as well, having one squad member be the likable African-american quarterback, and another being a previous jailbird (much like Cole Train and Marcus Fenix). All of these similarities don't come as much of a shock to us for several reasons. A big one being the fact that Gears of War is now the most popular game for the Xbox 360, but the primary one being Susan O'Connor, writer for Gears of War, Bioshock, and now, you guessed it, BlackSite: Area 51. Hopefully the retail version will blow us away and Susan can add another best-seller title to her trophy list.
BlackSite does offer up sixteen player multiplayer online which should be a perfect match for a shooter like this. It's also featuring online co-op play, which will also be a guaranteed hit. Looking at a broader scope, these aspects alone will not be enough to grab infamy for BlackSite like Gears did, but it's still shaping up to be a somewhat average shooter. We'll see if Midway can pull a few tricks out of their sleeves before this one ships November 5th.