Blacklight: Tango Down was a fast-paced console-style shooter where life was cheap and headshots were fatal. The next game from Tango Down's developer, Blacklight: Retribution, will be just as brutal, but it will have a very different price tag. This time around, developer Zombie Studios is teaming up with publisher Perfect World Entertainment to offer a free-to-play pricing model. Alongside some of the Zombie Studio devs, we dove in to see how this shooter is coming together.
In Retribution, we were not restricted by a specific character class. Instead, our character's abilities were determined by the items and equipment we brought into battle. And like many of Perfect World's games, Retribution's suite of character customization options were extensive. However, the game's selection was a bit more practical, which meant we were no longer just buying lavish outfits and new hairstyles. Nearly every item worn by our avatar influenced his performance. A bulky chest piece granted additional health and armor, while a new leg enhancement increased the number of weapons we could carry.
Gun modifications were just as important as the Kevlar on our back. Similar to the modification options in Brink, Retribution's gun customizations included magazine sizes, ammunition types, and even different muzzle flashes. After the guns, the next most important tool at our disposal was the Hyper Reality Vision system. Described as "legalized wall-hacking," the HRV system allowed us to look through the geometry to see our enemies and allies. It only lasted for about three seconds with each use and had to recharge between uses. If we formulated a plan to flank our enemies, they could use the HRV to spy our approach and set up for a counterattack. However, we could see them repositioning and then reposition ourselves accordingly. This gave the action a distinct cat-and-mouse feel--provided all the animals also carried firearms.
Guns and goggles are nice, but for the truly outlandish armaments, we turned to the numerous weapon depots conveniently scattered throughout every map. As we fought, our character earned currency, which he could spend at one of these stations to unlock a devastating new weapon. Zombie Studios has plenty of ideas for these destructive tools, but what it had to show off included a flamethrower, rocket launcher, and a robotic hard suit. The flamethrower worked great at close range, whereas the rocket launcher seemed best suited for dispatching enemy hard suits. Extremely durable and armed with twin machine guns, these hard suits were worth saving up for and could turn the tide of almost any fight.
Combat in Retribution was brutally fast. These weren't the protracted battles found in Team Fortress 2. Instead, they had more of the twitch-based, kill-or-be-killed style of Counter-Strike. With two or three chest shots or a single headshot, we were done. All this killing was set against an urban, futuristic backdrop powered by the Unreal Engine 3 and supported DirectX 11 visuals--a combination the developer claims "will cripple big machines." Zombie Studios also hinted at its post-release schedule, which is set to include new guns, gear, and game modes a year a half after launch. When that launch is going to take place exactly, the developer wasn't ready to say, but we'll be sure to keep you informed.