Blacklight: Tango Down is a decent, cheap multiplayer shooter for the budget-minded gamer looking for a change of pace.
- Action-packed multiplayer
- Smart map design with a great deal of cover that rewards tactical thinking
- Customizable weapon and equipment loadouts
- Good price for what you're getting.
- Worthless single-player/co-op mode
- Can't play solo without being connected to Games for Windows Live
- Map architecture is a little generic, and set spawn points can bog down matches
- No dedicated servers or in-game chat
- Can't join a multiplayer game in progress.
Cheap and nasty aren't two words generally used to extol the virtues of anything outside of a red-light district, but they accurately describe Blacklight: Tango Down. Developer Zombie Studios has done a good job with this multiplayer first-person shooter for the PC, delivering a remarkably feature-filled game for just $15. While there are some rough spots, like the worthless single-player/co-op mode, a few grievances over map design, and the absence of dedicated servers, you get a lot of action for the low price. Most of the shooter basics are covered, and the design also incorporates a few twists so that it doesn't feel like you're playing a bargain-basement Call of Duty.
Of course, Blacklight: Tango Down is pretty much exactly that. The game is shooter boilerplate, with quasi-realistic, brutal, and fast-paced action where you can get taken down with just a splattering of shots or a single well-placed bullet to the head. The story is set in a near-future Russia, which has gone all grim and dystopian. City streets have become battlegrounds in a war between Blacklight, a team of elite US commandos, and The Order, a team of US commandos gone rogue who might be turning people into some kind of zombies. Apparently. The plot is completely ignored in the game itself, so you have to read the how-to-play text if you're really curious to know why these gangs of high-tech soldiers in sci-fi suits are shooting each other. Controls are standard for the genre, and you get gadgets like kaboom grenades and special digital pineapples that cause a cloud of pixelated distortion in your suit's funky goggles. You can also activate the hyper-reality visor, a limited-time x-ray-specs deal that lets you spot enemies through walls via their heat signatures and locate health and weapons caches.
Along with the lack of a plot is the lack of a solo mode of play. Single-player and co-op available via the Black Ops option are wastes of time. Taking on four maps full of bad guys either alone or with up to three buddies sounds cool, but the reality is a lot less interesting. Maps are thoroughly linear. You trudge forward, kill the bad guys until they stop spawning, and occasionally open a barrier by playing lame minigames, including a variant on Simon. Firefights can be very tense because just a couple of shots can kill you, and the game ends immediately as soon as you die (there is no save option, even when playing solo). But predictability soon wins out because enemy soldiers do little aside from find cover and hunker down, only peeking out regularly to open fire. Levels quickly turn into creepfests because you have to keep your head down and slink forward until you find a good firing position of your own. Battles are somewhat reminiscent of the gunfights from the Police Squad TV show, where Frank Drebin and the villain of the week would exchange shots from a few feet apart while hiding behind garbage cans. Also, you can't play the game at all without being connected and logged into Games for Windows Live. If your net connection goes down even while playing alone, you're booted back to the main menu.
So adversarial multiplayer is pretty much the only focus here. You get a reasonably full-featured multiplayer shooter, too, with seven modes of play. These modes aren't exactly revolutionary, dealing with tried-and-true game types like Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Last Man Standing, Last Team Standing, Domination, and the usual variations on Capture the Flag (here called Retrieval) and Search and Destroy (here called Detonation). Still, they are more than capable versions of familiar favorites, spiced up a little by varied weapon kits that let you play a number of different roles, from sniping specialist to gung-ho assault-rifle guy. You also get to use gadgets like your visor and the digital grenade, which is a fantastic little helper when you need instant cover to get out of harm's way. With that said, there are some missing features common to full-price shooters. The game has been ported over from the Xbox 360 without taking PC sensibilities into account, which means that there are no dedicated servers, no text chat, and no way to join a game in progress.