Blackwater Kinect First Look Preview

We duck and weave through the lounge room minefield with our first look at the upcoming Kinect shooter Blackwater.

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You don't have to be American to have heard about private military contractor Blackwater and its exploits abroad. Branded video games are the latest path of exploration for the group, and while the company has rebranded to Xe, this game still bears the Blackwater brand used for the company's military training services and accessories. During the 2011 Electronic Entertainment Expo, we had a chance to try out the title for the Kinect, forgoing light guns for bullet-shooting hands as we bobbed and ducked through the on-rails experience.

Essentially, it works like a Kinect-enabled version of House of the Dead, Virtua Cop, or any Time Crisis game, but rather than press and hold a button or stomp on a foot pedal to snap to cover, you'll need to move your body to slide into the game's safe hiding places, or lean to avoid gunfire. It's a physical experience, and if you're hoping to be able to coast through with the odd wave to shush your targets away, this isn't the title for you.

Set in a fictional North African country as a UN convoy comes under attack, Blackwater features a slightly branching path to the story, and at times during our demo we were given events such as avoiding hitting red barrels with stray rounds while shooting baddies for a certain amount of time. Doing so successfully gave us access to an alternative and faster route to the end of the level. Leaderboards will track your clearance speed and weapon accuracy at the end of each scenario, and the development team hopes that it will also foster a community of competitive players eager to best each others' times. Summaries will also show the path you took to victory.

Reticle assist helps snap targeting to enemies standing in front of you, but you'll need to get your hand pretty close to the mark for it to help. Although originally prototyped with finger trigger pulls, gunfire is achieved by simply hovering your sights over the thing that you want to kill long enough for a burst of bullets. Grenades work similarly: you leave your shooting hand pointed out in front and use your other arm to lob munitions forward. Movement and firing need to be controlled simultaneously, and while initially it was a bit of a mental hurdle after playing games that required either whole-body movement or standing still and guiding with the hands, after a few minutes it became much more natural. It wasn't long before we were poking our face out of cover far enough to spot our mark, firing off a few shots, and then jumping back and compensating for the movement.

Developer Zombie Studios refers to the game as a "zero-person shooter" on account of the inclusion of a squad element. While all the action takes place from a first-person perspective, and no gun is visible during play, the game does switch between characters at set intervals. During the game, you will play the part of soldiers armed with assault rifles, submachine guns, shotguns, and sniper rifles--the switches are apparently important to convey the squad dynamic of real military operatives.

The title will ship with 15 missions on the disc, which the studio envisages should take around 20 hours to complete. A basic upgrade system lets you purchase larger ammo capacity and higher accuracy for your weapons with virtual currency, helping to further shave time off your run. Because of the level of physicality required for this game, the title won't support multiplayer, but if you get too tired of waving your arms, you do have the option of plugging in a controller and playing it that way instead.

Blackwater is deceptively physical even for a Kinect title, and while it's not designed primarily as a fitness game, it could be a good way to shed a few extra kilos and get your shooter fix at the same time. Couch warriors need not apply. And remember to move the coffee table and lamp out of the way first, for fear of a man down on the digital battlefield. The game is currently only confirmed to be coming to the Xbox 360. Watch out for Blackwater late in 2011.

Discussion

9 comments
advanracer
advanracer

"Early Training" for the Future Generation of Private Military Contract workers. Gahd I hope its better than the other CODependent MoronWarfare games out there.

LegionsAssassin
LegionsAssassin

@hotmerchandice Hey man, everything you said has been in the works for the future. There are plenty of games, ranging from racing to shooting, that will be using the controller and kinect simultaneously. Hell Fortza Motorsport 4 is coming out soon and it does that. I agree with you but I cannot complain about it because, as I said, their working on it.

donalbane
donalbane

I can't believe this game exists. The left should counter with a motion game based on Acorn.

mer1in79
mer1in79

i defo think there should be two packages like the Guitar Hero game's they came with or without a Guitar then you should be able to pay extra for a gun which would enhance the game even more.

hotmerchandice
hotmerchandice

When I first viewed the Natal/Kinect tech demos I immediately thought about the Konami arcade games that used infrared sensing. I actually had high hopes that they would have updated those games (2 police and 1 boxing) for Kinect, but they never materialized. Now they have a Blackwater game that is using motion sensing tech in a similar manner. Look friends I know MS sold the Kinect on the "YOU ARE THE CONTROLLER" idea, but they need to allow the standard controller to interact at the same time. Also they have the ability to track head motions, so I say let us have a shooter that will allow us to look left and right (even if only a little bit) as we move in any direction; while using the standard controller or a gun controller. They could also implement in a shooter (or other genres)the ability to use hand gestures to command or communicate with other players via in game ques and so forth. Why have studios not figured this out yet? Sony has their sharp shooter or what ever it is called and it apparently works well in games such as Killzone3. Come on 360/Kinect developers get on the ball! Keep gaming friends!

Phil-teh-Pirate
Phil-teh-Pirate

This has been done already. Way back in 2001 infact. Kinect is 10 years behind the fantastic Police 24/7 arcade shooter by konami. You held a lightgun and the camera built into the machine detected where you was moving as you had to physically move behind cover. Kinect is late to the party only to find the party has already been held, finished, cleaned up and the hall turned back into a fitness club for pensioners.

m4a5
m4a5

I wonder if any developer has tried to incorporate holding a physical "gun" while using the Kinect. That would definitely help out the more hardcore gamer experience (if it was smooth and accurate enough...)

Sirbobislost
Sirbobislost

Sounds like a great advancement for the on rails shooter but I would rather have a gun to aim with and a trigger so i control when it fires