BlackSite: Area 51 Multiplayer Hands-On

We take on the developers from Midway's Austin studio at their own game.


Currently scheduled for release in November, BlackSite: Area 51 is a contemporary squad-based first-person shooter with a sci-fi twist befitting the titular location in and around which much of its action takes place. We've had plenty of opportunities to see BlackSite's campaign during its development, but it wasn't until last week that we were afforded an opportunity to check out any of the game's multiplayer features. BlackSite: Area 51 supports up to 10 players online, and boasts capture-the-flag and "abduction" modes of play, in addition to the requisite deathmatch and team deathmatch options.

Before jumping into any multiplayer contests proper, we were given a guided tour of one of BlackSite's multiplayer maps, where we had an opportunity to try out all of the different weapons and power-ups in the game's arsenal. There will be a total of 10 multiplayer maps available, consisting of eight that are taken from the campaign and two that are designed specifically for capture the flag but which can also be used in other modes. The arsenal includes a good assortment of conventional and unusual weapons, so in addition to a pistol, an assault rifle, a sniper rifle, and a rocket launcher, you'll be playing with (presumably alien or experimental) plasma rifles and scatter guns. You can carry only two weapons at a time, and your movement speed will vary quite considerably depending on which one you're actually using. Power-ups positioned in strategic locations on each map include 100 extra armor points, a damage magnifier, and a stealth pickup that--based on our experiences of it to date--doesn't make you nearly as invisible as you might expect.

Warm-up time before each multiplayer game gives you a chance to reacquaint yourself with the map, and each other.
Warm-up time before each multiplayer game gives you a chance to reacquaint yourself with the map, and each other.

Assuming you've ever played a game with guns in it, you'll already have a pretty good idea of the capabilities of each of the aforementioned weapons. Nevertheless, there are a few that warrant some further explanation. The javelin rocket launcher comes with only two rockets, it takes ages to reload, and it slows down your movement to something like crawling speed. However, it's a great weapon because if you zoom in on an enemy and manage to acquire a target lock, it's a more-or-less guaranteed kill once you squeeze the trigger. BlackSite's scatter gun is, in a word, great; the weapon's numerous projectiles can be fired in a tight cone or more scattered according to whether or not you're using the zoom function, and they can bounce off a wall or two en route to your target without losing any of their potency. This makes the scatter gun a great choice for taking out enemies who are trying to hide around a corner or who are in the kind of range for which you might normally use a shotgun. Also deserving of a mention is the plasma rifle, which launches a ball of green energy that explodes and causes splash damage upon impact with an enemy or environmental object. The really neat thing about the plasma rifle is that the aforementioned projectile can also be manually detonated in midair, perhaps to hit another of those guys hiding around a corner.

The first map that we played on was set in and around Rachel's gas station, which you'll be familiar with if you've been following our previous coverage of BlackSite or have played through the teaser demo that was released earlier this year. The map was small enough that any more than 10 players might have made it feel crowded, but not so small that there weren't plenty of places for long-range weapons such as the rocket launcher and the sniper rifle to be useful. Grenades are also a lot of fun in BlackSite, and it's possible to "cook" them in your hand for a moment if you're feeling brave, so that they explode more quickly when you toss them. All of the weapons in multiplayer games spawn over highlighted areas on the ground, and the same weapons will always spawn in the same places, so you'll be at a distinct advantage once you know your way around any given map. With that said, the spawn points for each weapon look slight different, so once you figure out which spawn-point shapes correspond to which weapons, it shouldn't be too difficult for you to adjust to new maps.

After familiarizing ourselves with BlackSite's controls and weapons in a couple of deathmatch games, we jumped into the abduction mode, which is similar to the infection modes that you might have played in other shooters. At the start of an abduction game, one player is randomly selected to play as a reborn (the enemies in the campaign mode) and tasked with abducting all of the other players by killing them. Players who are killed by the reborn player respawn as reborn characters themselves, and must then assist with the abduction of the remaining survivors. Points are awarded to players on both sides for killing members of the opposing faction, and survival bonuses are awarded to the humans who survive for the longest time without being abducted. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the abduction mode is that, because you can talk only to the players on the same side of you, you might be discussing strategies with other human players one minute and then hunting down those same players the next. The map that we played abduction on was designed to look like a partially destroyed mosque, and it incorporated underground areas as well as two-storey buildings, which made being aware of things above and below you every bit as important as looking around to your left and right.

The rocket launcher is devastating, particularly if you can lock onto an enemy before firing it.
The rocket launcher is devastating, particularly if you can lock onto an enemy before firing it.

BlackSite: Area 51's take on capture the flag doesn't do anything radically different from "two flag" modes in other games. Each team has a base, each base has a flag, and you need to return the enemy's flag to your base without losing your own to score a point. The flag counts as a weapon when you carry it but, like the pistol, it doesn't really hinder your speed at all. Furthermore, the flag is actually the most powerful melee weapon in the game and will one-hit kill anyone who gets too close to you. As the flag carrier, you have the option to drop the flag at any time if you need to use your ranged weapon, but if you don't pick it up again within 10 seconds, it'll automatically return to the enemy base. Any enemy who manages to make contact with the flag in those 10 seconds will also instantly score a flag return.

We had an opportunity to check out both of BlackSite's CTF maps during our session. The first, set in Iraq, is L-shaped with bases at both ends and another large building in the middle. Certain vantage points in the map afforded a great view of both bases for anyone looking to score a long-range kill without moving on either offense or defense, but those areas were invariably very exposed and consequently not anywhere that you'd want to camp for any period of time. The second map, titled Roughneck, is set in Nevada and features two oil derricks that serve as bases, as well as large rock formations in the middle of the map that obscure the line of sight between the two. Abandoned trailers and pickup trucks give the map a great lived-in feel, and the lack of much meaningful cover really makes you feel as if you're fighting in the desert.

One feature that all of BlackSite's team-based multiplayer modes have in common is that, regardless of which faction you're playing, all of your enemies will be highlighted in red, whereas all of your colleagues will have their names appear above their heads in blue text. This helps to avoid any confusion, given that the character models for the two factions aren't radically different, and is especially useful in abduction mode because you'll inevitably be switching from one faction to the other at some point. We look forward to bringing you a full review of BlackSite: Area 51 next month.

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Avatar image for TheFragcat

This game has it's moments, but it's nothing too special.

Avatar image for NukeU

omg. they blew it. @$%!

Avatar image for blacksun_gregg

I played the demo and didn't think it was too bad. Two big thumbs down however. First is the no look around corners option. They could at least do the MOH style, without it, it's hard to get stealthy on any level. Second, a no lay down option is just lame down. The last one is the retarded crouch option that you can't just click down but have to hold it. You can do it with the directional, but that's a pain. Besides that I love the graphics and the beasts!

Avatar image for swift1981

i cant wait for this game, been looking forward to it since playing the awesome demo months back. Only 6 more days!!!

Avatar image for stuey-griffin

this is a top game will definatly pre-order

Avatar image for zang989

definatly gonna get this game

Avatar image for madmike1515

Anyone really exited for this game? I played to demo and thought it was pretty good, but I don't really know what the hype on it is. Good Idea with the warm up period though, it sucks when you get destroyed on live cause your in a map you don't know.

Avatar image for vahid_xbox_360

well working with "Gears of war",s producing team has a result.

Avatar image for nappan

I really like the innovate "around the corner" weapon types. It sounds to me like combat balence and tactics were taken into account first and foremost, and that is what makes a great MP experience.

Avatar image for thanatose

This game looks good, I'll have to see how it fairs with the reviewers.

Avatar image for Whiteghost09

Right on! Sounds like Halo, with less courses and weapons! Let's hope the gameplay is as good.

Avatar image for csatrad

Seems the hardware (multi-core) or/and software (directX10) jumps draws a lot of First person shoter game on the market. I hope when the best of FPS game comes out other game developers turn theire attention to other type of games.

Avatar image for ski11buzz

This game gets a big fat "MEH" from me so far

Avatar image for jblaze5000

this game looks good,i reseve this at gamestop

Avatar image for dutch777

i really do believe that games with this amount of action should be designed as third-person shooters, or at least have the option to change between first and third person. Designers, please take note. There is just not enough third person shooters out there.

Avatar image for alcari

Looks like it could be a solid shooter. Doesn't sound to great and innovative, but a game doesn't have to be innovatie to be good. I always fear for console games. I really hope they won't dumb it down to much. Console game on the PC always feel slow and have low mobility. I really hope they adjusted the invironment to compenstate for that. Of course, Blacksite can't possibly be as bad as Jericho, the only FPS without a jump button... They've allready beat one of their immediate competitors. LOL @ mat-30 When making comparisions, do it with the original.

Avatar image for rulo_rezn0r

its looking good! lets wait for the review and then i may think about getting it

Avatar image for imperial_agent

looks pretty good. too bad it comes out on the same day as COD4

Avatar image for alistica

MAT30 you obviously dont play many sci-fi shooters they all pretty much have those functions items what ever you want to call them. quake 3 arena had the same stuff doom has alot of the same stuff hell even old school doom and castle wolfenstien had some of that stuff

Avatar image for Armalite1016

Paulo1 do you even know what immense means? Because according to your comment you don't.

Avatar image for ddashboy242

Makin me wanna buy this game even more!!

Avatar image for Paulo1

looks good, sounds good and hopefully should be good. abduction mode sounds great like halos zombie style matches which were immense!

Avatar image for starmanuk50

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Avatar image for erkin6666

this game reminds me 'thing' the most underrated game ever

Avatar image for playa42018

This is gonna be the big game for the PS3.

Avatar image for MAT30-

Men this is a BIG COPY of unreal tournament, extra armor points, a damage magnifier, and a stealth pickup that--based, and guns are almost exactly the same of UT

Avatar image for memesmugy

looks good

Avatar image for KratosAurion7

Looks lame.

Avatar image for GamingThief

Wow alot of people dontl like this game.

Avatar image for Craft2299

i donnu, my rate ing is above avrage.

Avatar image for Exostenza

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Avatar image for Armarest

the regular area-51 was very disappointing, if you ask me, i have a hunch that this game isn't that much point in getting this game

Avatar image for GeigerdolylWodd


Avatar image for Syliss

I'm not too interested in this game, considering several good games are coming out soon, however, this could turn out to be a surprise game

Avatar image for Netsurfer733

No coop? ...again!?

Avatar image for Chaos_Bladez

Game still looks unappealing to me.

Avatar image for Crash_FOX

Area 51 sounds better

Avatar image for Lylesburg

Yea I'm intersted in this but wont buy it just rent it. if the MP is good might buy.

Avatar image for DrDazzle

Did anyone else think that the description "this game looks intense" was a gross overstatement for the gameplay video? All that happens is they walk to a door and blow it up. Even worse is the guy just stands in front of it ducked down so when someone on the other side has a gun he gets shot.

Avatar image for vindesil01

Johnnyneat, One game that will own all is grand theft auto 4 That will be the best game for a long time.

Avatar image for gusfacer

cod3 sucked but cod4 and cod2 are awesome

Avatar image for deepakash05

nice game..............

Avatar image for bodylotion

I liked the movies especially with the huge monsters / aliens , maybe it just looks good...

Avatar image for StegrShmil

Looks sweet! probably will just rent it, but it could be worth buying. Multiplayer sounds like most games which is good. I want a new demo though, the other was way to short. Stupid teaser demos.

Avatar image for mooseman721

Actually, just had a look at the latest vid trailer, looks pretty nice tbh. That massive tentacle thing looks awesome.

Avatar image for mooseman721

Demo was ok, multiplayer looks to be the same old, same old. Not high on my purchase list.

Avatar image for FraserAlexander

yeah the demo was very 'meh'. Especially if you're like me and like human vs human shooter (or at least humanoid that aren't zombie-like such as HL2). Johnny, how was Gears poorly programmed? It had great graphics, tight controls, barely any loading times, less lag than any other shooter i've played except halo3. anyway I agree about COD4 and i'm buying it only because i played the demo, personally i thought COD3 sucked!, but 4 really is amazing, you have to play it to believe it. -- watching someone run through rubble alley while watching through a zoomed scope looks photo realistic ...untill the +10 score is posted above their head when you 187 the sucka.

Avatar image for kamicolo

Seems to me that $60 is best spent on Halo 3, which have aliens vs. humans warfare and great multiplayer maps and FUN

Avatar image for JohnnyNeat

killzone_gamer - COD:4 is going to kill any game that tries (a shooter) multiplayer. If IW drops the rumored online campaign co-op DLC over LIVE in the near future after release, COD:4 it will be untouchable. A repeat of "Game of the Year" honors possible? Very likely if Mass Effect slips. Very very likely in the minds of anyone who played the BETA. What other BETA has played as good or better than games that have gone GOLD before? Beginning arguments are closed your honor.

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