Blacklight: Retribution Review

Blacklight: Retribution doesn't stand out from the crowd, but this free-to-play shooter offers a decent amount of bang for your non-buck.

It's the future, that grim era some years ahead of us in which skies are almost always overcast, giant holograms of corporate mascots compete with each other for our attention, and opposing teams of agents shoot at each other in urban and industrial zones for reasons that no longer matter. If you choose to cast your lot with the fighters of Blacklight: Retribution, you'll experience competitive first-person shooting that, for all its gun customization mechanics and other marquee features, feels standard and commonplace. Still, it's competent and, like all competent shooters, it's sometimes thrilling. It's also free to play, so you can get your shooter fix in Retribution without making yourself a penny poorer, though the game certainly makes spending money tough to resist after you've sunk a few hours into it.

Whereas its predecessor, Blacklight: Tango Down, was introduced as a $15 team-based multiplayer shooter for PC and consoles, Retribution does away with the cost of entry. After creating your account and downloading the game for free, you can dive right into Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, King of the Hill, and Domination competitions. Servers called proving grounds are limited to players at level 10 and below, giving you a chance to familiarize yourself with the maps and controls while competing against other relatively new players. But if you've played just about any competitive first-person shooter in the past five years, you'll probably feel less like you need to get acclimated to Retribution, and more like it's a game you've already played.

The maps are well designed, with plenty of open areas and cramped corridors. The controls are responsive, and your agent moves about the battlefield at a pace that suggests he or she is actually inhabiting the world and not just gliding through it. You have enough health to withstand a few hits before you go down, but a single shot to the head means lights out, so you always feel vulnerable. Sprinting down hallways in pursuit of human quarry is exhilarating, and taking down a distant foe with a sniper rifle is as satisfying as you'd expect. And that's the problem; it's all very expected. Retribution doesn't have a strong sense of identity to help it stand out from the numerous other games of the same type.

Hardsuits are strong, but even they can't withstand a few Stinger missiles.

That's not to say that it's wholly generic. There are a few elements that give Retribution a touch of personality. The environments borrow heavily from the Blade Runner vision of the future, but the steam hissing from pipes, the neon signs on city streets, and the cool blue color tones of industrial facilities create a sense of a grim, emotionally cold era. Sound effects pull you into this world; bullets whiz convincingly past your head, and the sounds of your footsteps on different surfaces lend your movements a feeling of weight. Your hyper-reality visor, or HRV, also differentiates Retribution just a bit from all the other shooters on the market. Returning from Tango Down, the HRV lets you see through walls for a moment, enabling you to spot approaching enemies or figure out where that pesky enemy sniper is hiding. The visor's effect doesn't last long before it needs time to recharge, so you can't rely on it too often; it's a tactical tool that, if used well, can give you an edge in certain situations.

One such situation arises when an enemy soldier summons a hardsuit out of the sky. You earn combat points for your actions during a match, and these points (called CP) can be spent at weapon depots scattered across the map to purchase ammo and health refills, heavy weapons, and the mechanized, heavily armed and armored hardsuits. Facing one of these with an assault rifle or other standard weapon is typically suicide--the minigun and railgun on the suit can make mincemeat out of agents--but a quick glance at the hardsuit with an HRV reveals a randomly generated weak point, so at least you can try to do some significant damage before you go down.

Hacking nodes by matching numbers. Apparently, network security is not a priority in the future.

Hardsuits often start appearing several minutes into matches of any type, once players have earned enough CP to start purchasing them. They can be tremendously effective on the battlefield--using one to defend a node during a King of the Hill match, for instance, can make life much more difficult for the opposing team--but the contraptions have their drawbacks. In addition to the aforementioned weak point, they're susceptible to heavy weapon fire, like the Stinger missiles that can be purchased from the depot. You might opt to purchase a flamethrower, run up to a hardsuit, and cook the driver, which doesn't take long and which then lets you snag the hardsuit for yourself. The hardsuits are slow and unwieldy, so for all their power, they're quite vulnerable without swift agents on foot fending off such attacks.

This lack of speed and maneuverability is a sensible trade-off for the tremendous firepower of the hardsuit, and it encourages teams to work well together to make the most of these assets. But it also prevents the hardsuit from being enjoyable to use. Making your way from one part of the battlefield to another often involves fidgeting to squeeze the suit through corridors, and if agents are attacking you from behind, turning around to get a shot at them is a laborious process. The result is that rather than serving as an enjoyable reward for your hard-earned CP, the hardsuit feels more like a responsibility some agents need to take on to help their team remain competitive in the later stages of a match.

In addition to the combat points you earn during a match, you accumulate experience points across all of your matches, and gradually level up your agent. Each time you level up, you get a bundle of trial items. These can include anything from body armor to gun scopes to devastating heavy weapons you can stock depots with--but they're only temporary. After three days, the items expire. If you got attached to that spiffy helmet or deployable turret while it was lent to you, you have two options. You can spend an in-game currency called GP, which is slowly earned; permanently adding an item to your inventory typically costs thousands of GP, the result of many hours spent in-game. Or you can use ZEN, publisher Perfect World's cross-game currency that you purchase with real money.

A decent scope for your gun might cost 350 ZEN ($3.50), while body armor might run you 750 ZEN or so. If you limit yourself to buying new gear with GP, the rate at which you can purchase items is slow indeed, which makes spending money an attractive option. And whereas GP can only be used to purchase items at or below your character's level--the deployable turret is a level 16 item, for instance--ZEN purchases are free of such shackles. If you kick in the cash, you can outfit your agent with any gear at any level. There are also some items, and even a few "hero" characters with distinct appearances and predetermined loadouts, that can be purchased only with ZEN.

Don't get too attached to this handy scope. You'll have to give it up, or pay up.

Naturally, the items you acquire with GP or ZEN can come in handy in combat. A good scope can make landing a shot that much easier, and the extra health afforded you by a specific type of body armor could save your life. But most equipment has a flip side to any benefit it offers; that body armor that increases your health might also reduce your speed, and that muzzle that boosts your gun's damage may also cripple its range. So you're not at a tremendous disadvantage if you opt not to spend money. But once you get a chance to use a specific type of gun or some other nifty piece of equipment after receiving it for a three-day trial, you may find it hard to part with, and eventually, relying on the same old weapons and accoutrements grows tiresome. With the prices of gear being what they are, once you start spending money, it's very easy to quickly spend far more than the $10 or $15 you might expect to pay for a game like Retribution if it weren't free to play.

Weapon customization runs deep in Retribution. You can outfit your guns with different muzzles, barrels, magazines, scopes, and stocks, all of which have an impact on various facets of a weapon's performance, such as recoil, range, damage, and spread--the angle at which a bullet might exit the barrel. If you enjoy tinkering, the statistical minutiae of things like spread variance may inspire you to try all sorts of combinations to design a gun that's to your liking, but you can also largely ignore that stuff and dive right into the action if you prefer. You also acquire nodes as you play that you can activate for minor bonuses such as a 1 percent increase to your ammo damage or a 2 percent increase to your CP earnings.

Even the little tchotchkes you hang off of your gun can affect its performance in small ways.

But none of this customization changes the fact that, when it comes time to fight, Retribution feels a lot like any number of other shooters you've probably already played. The HRV is a useful tool, but far from a game changer, and the hardsuit, for all its power, isn't fun to use. Additional game modes called Siege and Netwar are in the works, and may help Retribution stand out a bit more from the pack, but as it stands, this is just another shooter. Still, it's solid and often exciting; if you've got a craving for standard shooter thrills, Retribution may satisfy those cravings without costing you a dime.

The Good
Solid shooting mechanics
Item balance keeps non-paying players competitive
The Bad
Hardsuits are clunky and awkward
New weapons and gear are costly
6.5
Fair
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Discussion

35 comments
the_lazy_cookie
the_lazy_cookie

way better multiplayer than cod yet its gettign lower score

sometimes i really do believe company's pay for reviews

Romi001
Romi001

Whats her problem with shooters, i just dont frikkin understand. 65 for the best f2p game outhere!? issues

spikepigeo
spikepigeo

Best f2p shooter out there. One of, anyway. Don't listen to GS on this one. Better yet, just don't listen to Carolyn. I've found that's the best way to go about things of late.

RussellGorall
RussellGorall

Seems like Gamespot really doesn't like F2P, in general.

Xlyger74
Xlyger74

Extremely well crafted F2P shooter. I hate pay to win games and I can say with confidence that this is not one of them. Try the game out before you write it off.

Warmuro
Warmuro

This game reminds me "Syndicate".

TheDesignerDude
TheDesignerDude

However, after reading the comments, I think I am beginning to see the many different ways people view a game should be rated. In this case, I defer to Ben 'Yahtzee' Croshaw's suggested way of reviewing a game, each category (essentially, 'aspect') of the game is reviewed and laid out in a simple but easy to understand format, without the mumbo jumbo of a lump score for rating games.

TheDesignerDude
TheDesignerDude

All in all, you can tell that the developers behind this game had a good vision all the way through and thought of most of the balancing issues beforehand (such as the need for clunky hardsuits, which is a smart design choice as I haven't heard of many  small man sized mechs that have been able to outmaneuver people as well as deliver more punch than a tank)

TheDesignerDude
TheDesignerDude

The Hyper Reality Visor evens gameplay for all players and it really only takes a couple matches to get your first permanent receiver (the stock weapon of your choice) which all cost the same no matter what. Hardsuits must be clunky or risk being the go to strategy for every game because they can move fast, one hit kill, and mow down squads. They needed to be slow. If some people have paid a lot to get everything unlocked, their is a list of premades (extremely cheap, only cost one matches worth of currency) that give you a great edge if you find the right gun. Playing the game well means using your HRV well and being prepared for others to use it to hunt you down, as well as finding the gun that's best for you. I only started coming in first in most of my games when I found an smg with a balance between accuracy and maneuverability. 

ashfieldhammer
ashfieldhammer

got this on xbox and pc enjoying them both.a good solid shooter.

Ollie_Williams_
Ollie_Williams_

Such an unfair score.   The game has very smooth running servers,  it is well balanced,  it isn't pay2win,  it controls beautifully,  and is very well optimized.   Max settings on a 560Ti with a constant 80+ FPS?   How often does that happen with AAA titles?   Maybe one in ten.Don't get me wrong - I like the big AAA shooters like MW3 and BF3,  but in my opinion,  this game is easily more enjoyable than either of them,  and it has less lag than either of them,  and it is free.   It deserves at least an 8/10.   I,  personally,  would give it a 9.

Absalomx
Absalomx

I have only been able to play 1 game in more than a week.  The rooms are either full or the match is just ending and won't let you join.  I sat there for 3 hours one night just clicking on servers trying to join.  This game needs more servers.  However, the 1 game I did play, the mechanics were pretty fricken horrible.  The combat was stiff and chunky, like you see in those other free games.  Typical low-quality free game for sure.

BuzzLiteBeer
BuzzLiteBeer

The game seemed like fun and a great new distraction after quitting the disaster that was never fixed (Diablo 3). However, the second I tried buying an equipment upgrade and realized that the price to buy PERMANENTLY was insane, I uninstalled it swiftly. F2P is just as sleazy and greedy if not more than P2P.

ymegzari
ymegzari

WTF, a 6.5? IGN gave this a 8.5, which is a much fairer rating as anyone who's actually played the game knows... I've never played something of this calibre FOR FREE. This is miles beyond most of the free-to-play stuff out there, it's well balanced and the graphics are amazing, not to mention the sci-fi atmosphere reminiscent of Ghost in the Shell. If the hardsuits are clunky it's for balance issues, and Carolyn points out the fact they're supposed to act as support with lighter troops near them And you can use in-game money (like gold in diablo) to easily acquire new gear. This review is complete BS, just look at the metacritic score...

aryeec
aryeec

I think too much was docked b/c of the hardsuits. A mech suit WOULD be clunky and awkward I think.... but I like sci-fi realism if there is such a thing. Also, though I don't know how much has changed since the time of review, the prices are definitely not costly unless you were referring to the "Zen" real-money nonsense. The in-game currency (GP) builds very rapidly and you get lvl packs with new gear as you level in the beginning, which help very much with the early game. Once you've got the hang of how Blacklight flows, regardless if you suck or not, you'll never run out of gp.

 

My rating? 8.0

SY_shoot
SY_shoot

im gonna try this one. looks fun. is there still people playing fear combat ?

danieleva
danieleva

This game is  underated. Like most of the viewers, I point to the fact that the game is very well balanced. Maps are large and full interesting touches. Its good looking, sounds great, and its fast paced. Bugs will be fixed over time. Oh... I almost forgot... and its Free... No Halo reaches this level of fun.  It's not even a choice, it's almost common sens to play this game if you like online FPS. 

IHateMMOs
IHateMMOs

 @TheDesignerDude I love how reviewers complain about clunky hardsuits, its like, how come they don't complain about the Heavy from TF2 for being slow. REVIEWERS, the clunkiness is there for balance. They just don't understand that.

Aleksa8
Aleksa8

 @Absalomx I disagree. The bullets may feel like they're hitting metal instead of flesh, which is what I assume you meant by stiff and clunky, but there is probably not a single more tactical free to play game on the market aside from TF2. 

Aleksa8
Aleksa8

 @BuzzLiteBeer Part of the rush, really, is getting your hands on a permanent weapon after accumulating the right amount of due. And it has a bit of a counter-strikeish feel of temporarily buying weapons and upgrades. You will almost ALWAYS get 200GP by the end of each round, so you will always be able to renew your weapons and make profit, regardless of your skill.

Give it a chance.

IHateMMOs
IHateMMOs

 @BuzzLiteBeer OMG, the game actually requires you to play in order to buy permanent items, that you can rent for so cheaply. SUE THEM! If you get nothing about the purchase system in that game, don't insult it, it's far better than the one in Tribes Ascend. 

bigcrusha
bigcrusha

 @BuzzLiteBeer  an hour of gameplay gets you almost 2000 gp, single day rentals only cost a fraction of that, I re-rent my items for 1 day everytime I play and now I have more gp than i know what to do with. So the permanent thing is really no argument.

Aleksa8
Aleksa8

 @ymegzari I agree, they shot down a lot of points for non-existant errors. For example, the clunky controls for the hardsuit? It's a hardsuit, not a flexible ballerina. It feels fantastic just the way it is, and oh so powerful. If it went any smoother, than the machine would be utterly indestructible, and everybody would be running around the map flaunting it about and mowing down anybody, even if they were equipped with a flamethrower or a rocketlauncher. The clunkiness isn't only realistic, but it also makes you feel much heavier and powerful, as well as balance the game overall. Not to mention that new weapons and gear are actually generally affordable when you consider you can rent what you want at 200 GP per day.

Absalomx
Absalomx

 @danieleva Maybe if the game's combat mechanics were a bit better, a lot better, then it would be an ok game.

BuzzLiteBeer
BuzzLiteBeer

 @bigcrusha Sorry, but I'm no pro at FPS. An hour only nets 2000 GP if you are earning MVP with high kill and skill counts everytime. I earn about 150 GP per round.  Even if there were 10 rounds in a match, that's still not 2000 GP. Buying a Lvl 1 upgrade costs 5000 GP to buy permanently. I feel like a L2P comment coming so I'll pre-empt it by stating again that I'm not good at FPS and this keeps me from enjoying it as as a casual gamer. 

 

@ IHateMMOs Nice, we need more internet douches that feel the need to be assholes without provocation.

IHateMMOs
IHateMMOs

 @Gerrelli Prices can be changed at any time, but I was actually talking about in game currency. Reviewers keep on saying that buying a new gun is pricey, but I build my permanent gun in less then a week. You just have to work for it. Or again, invest in a premade.

Gerrelli
Gerrelli

 @IHateMMOs Absolutely agree they have to make money, but compared to other F2P games the kit is overpriced, and every commercial review has picked up on this. That's not to say it isn't a great game, personally I think the mechanics come together perfectly, the weapon physics are authentic and the game play is fantastically paced, I spend more time on this game then BF3 nowadays. The reason the prices bug me is I really really really want to put my hand in my pocket but the prices are so high I feel like I would be supporting an unfair pricing model on consumers. The Viper suit is now available for $20, are we honestly happy with that price?

IHateMMOs
IHateMMOs

 @BuzzLiteBeer Again, the game is only being fair. They have to make money somehow. The Prices you have to work for, or hell, just buy a premade gun. There's really no way to sulk about the customization in that game.

Gerrelli
Gerrelli

 @TheDesignerDude I'm ranking in the top 3 almost every game I play, usually 1st place in every 3 games and I'm only taking about 160GP on average, 60 minutes of roughly 10 minute rounds comes to less then 1000GP, which is approximately what I'm seeing. By the time I've bought armour, weapon and helmet I'm back down to around 250GP, so I never have any useful surplus GP at the end of a gaming session to save up for permanent items. The ZEN prices are seriously over the top, around $10 for a gun. I think the GP system works, as obviously they need to make profit, but the ZEN prices are just plain wrong, look at Mass Effect 3 for example, around $3 - $4 for a crate of goodies including a weapon and other items.

TheDesignerDude
TheDesignerDude

 @BuzzLiteBeer Actually that is incorrect, no matter how low you are in a large game, most of the gp is actually earned from participating not combat, combat at most (this was a game where I had achieved 'godlike' status before dying) has given me 30 gp, whilst the rest is just for victory/defeat (a 20 gp difference, being 40 gp or 60gp), a nice bonus usually above 30 gp, a team score gp award, and some more. This comes to an average of 200 gp per game for ALL players. 

Blacklight: Retribution More Info

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  • First Released
    • PC
    • PlayStation 4
    Blacklight: Retribution is a first-person shooter based in a futuristic urban war zone.
    7.6
    Average User RatingOut of 392 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Blacklight: Retribution
    Developed by:
    Zombie Studios
    Published by:
    Perfect World Entertainment, Zombie Studios
    Genres:
    Shooter, Action, Team-Based, 3D, First-Person
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Teen
    All Platforms
    Blood, Violence