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It seems like this year has been terrible for games so far — at least those that interest gun nerds. Sure, Diablo III completed a trilogy I’ve been waiting for since I was still in grade school, but it didn’t quite slake my bloodlust in the same way that the new Battlefield 3 or Crysis 2 did last year. I mean, Mass Effect 3 was nice but it didn’t have the multiplayer element I was looking for, and Tom Clancy’s franchise is wearing a bit thin. Which is why I was pleasantly surprised when my initial skepticism about Blacklight: Retribution was proven wrong…

My first introduction to the first person shooter genre was Quake III Arena (yes, I am actually young enough to only have played DOOM out of curiosity about the history of video games), and I loved it. The thrill of having a live opponent and a futuristic arsenal at my disposal was enough to keep my attention for as long as I could keep everyone else off my phone line. Other games have come close, but none have the same level of fun and enjoyment I felt back then.

When I picked up Blacklight: Retribution I wasn’t expecting much. Steam was advertising it, and since I wanted to take a break from Kerbal Space Program for a bit I figured a crappy shoot-em-up would let me relax and give my brain a break from orbital mechanics. Plus it was free, and who can argue with that? Turns out that crappy shoot-em-up was more than I bargained for.

What I expected was another poorly executed FPS, but what I got was a highly polished and extremely addictive shooter. Other free-to-play games look like they were created in someone’s parent’s basement, but this one looks and feels right. It takes full advantage of the Unreal engine, rendering a rather beautiful futuristic arena in which to slaughter your enemies.

While the game is technically free to play, that doesn’t mean they don’t want your money. You are issued a standard machine gun when you start out, but you can purchase upgrades using either points you earn in the game or cold hard cash. The catch is that only upgrades purchased with actual dollars last more than a day, but if you keep playing and keep paying for the upgrades in earned points, you can keep them as long as you want.

The parts upgrades are actually really well done. You have your choice of sights, barrels, even flash suppressors, and can customize your gun to fit your playing style. Its something that has been done before (like most recently in BF3) but here there are no classes and no platforms — even the receiver is interchangeable.

The price and the customizable guns are nice, but the gameplay itself is what sold me. As soon as I jumped into a deathmatch game, it felt like the first time I played Q3A, but without the suck. It’s a futuristic shooter done right: no plot whatsoever except the bits you can piece together from the scenery, fast respawning, and maps that don’t seem to benefit one particular “class” over the other. There isn’t enough room to be a dedicated sniper, but just enough that you need some accuracy thrown into your gat. “Balanced” is the word I would use to describe it.

The only thing I didn’t really like about the game is the “hardsuits” — mini-Gundams that made me feel like I was in an anime fanfic instead of a futuristic gun battle. They’re slow and clunky enough to be able to avoid easily so I’m not that unhappy about them, I just could have lived without them is all.

If you’re looking for a good way to burn a weekend, this would be it. It’s just a fun shooter where the score is made up and the points don’t matter. All that does matters is having fun, and its pretty darned fun.

Blacklight: Retribution
Price: FREE

Overall rating: * * * *
The graphics are good, but not the best. The game play is near perfect, but the low maximum number of players for such large maps means up to a minute before contact. And I would appreciate it if I could spend a ridiculous number of experience points to have the items I buy with EXP not disappear on me after a day.

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  1. You weren’t much on the co-op play included in ME3? I found it a nice break from the MW/Battlefield-style deathmatch stuff.

    • Same. I actually have enjoyed Horde-mode type gameplay since Gears2 introduced.

      Besides ME3 has gun modifications! You just got to earn them to “unlock” them.

  2. Diablo III was a blasphemy. A constant internet connection should not be required for a dungeon-crawler.

    • I agree. I got the digital download free through the WoW annual pass. I bought two copies of the collector’s edition when it came out, and sold one on eBay just a couple days ago, which covered the cost of upgrading my account, plus a little bit. So I effectively got the CE free, which is good, because if I’d actually been out of pocket, I’d be really disappointed right now.

  3. Uhhh… yeah, ME3 had multiplayer. O_o

    Good shooters that came out this year:

    Spec Ops: The Line
    Max Payne 3
    The Darkness 2

  4. AH, Blacklight. I was trying this one out for my own review, and the best way to describe it is pay to win. All the really good stuff costs real money, not earned for free credits, so if you want to do really good, just break out your credit card. You’ll get the good guns, accessories, characters, and armor items right away, or you could wait until you are level 30 or whatever to unlock them. Or just buy them and have a huge advantage for 30 levels.
    Plus, it munches computers.

    Microvolt is pretty good, though. You might want to try that one.

    • Western Free-to-Play games work on a “$ = shortcut” model. Gamers here do not like when the good gear is purely for paying players, so games like Tribes Ascend will make gear very slow to earn and many people will still throw money at them to get the gear faster.

      Asian Free-to-Play games are usually Pay to Win. Only paying players can receive certain things which usually heavily tilt game balance to those players. That does not anger their player base, it is for them a widely accepted model.

      Perfect World Entertainment is a Malaysian based company. Most of their games start in Asia before being ported to Western countries and some changes are made to the model after the American and European gamers get angry at them. It’s happened to almost every game they’ve made.

  5. I’m a little older and first person shooters generally make me queasy. So I usually play Diablo 3. But am actually pissed that I have (like others) constant connection issues with it, forcing me to wait for every other patch so I can play. I found Sniper Elite 2 in between patches. I’ve been able to play with no problems, and I really enjoy it. How does it compare to some of the other FPS games out there? Or can someone recommend a similar game, style and quality, to SE2? TIA

  6. Max Payne 3 is the best shooter of the year thus far, I absolutely LOVED it, if you like firearms and PC games, you should pick up that game but there was very little customization but the shooting, shooting, the **shooting** was the best ever.

  7. Yea, this game is pretty good, I dig it, it’s better than all other F2P shooters. Is there a TTAG Steam group?

  8. Nick, if you haven’t tried it I’d give War, Inc. a look. It’s slightly less polished, but the gameplay’s actually a little faster, the customization is about as extensive, and you can choose between first and third person.

    I probably would have enjoyed Blacklight more, but for whatever reason it does *not* get along with my computer.

  9. Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is pretty good. You get a lot of bonuses for good teamwork, like getting intel on the enemy or supressive fire. There aren’t a whole lot of weapons, but the Gunsmith feature lets you do some customization.

  10. I know many of us may like games, but imo keep game reviews off TTAG. It’s more of a stretch than knife reviews were.

    Especially a buggy/exploit ridden pay to play/win type. At very least should be kept to military sims/modern current setting. Otherwise you might as well throw Star Trek and Warcraft in there because they have “guns” too…

  11. I love Blacklight, it’s a fun game and I have been playing for a few weeks too. I sent them 20$ their way for little extra here and there.


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