Blacksite: Area 51 is a first person shooter set in modern times. As part of a special forces unit sent to Iraq, you play as Pierce, a likely hero who alongside a team of two others is tasked with saving America. What starts out as a run of the mill operation turns into a fully fledged living nightmare, as things aren’t what they seem. As Pierce, it’s your job to command the unit, get the job done and be home in time for breakfast!
Blacksite plays like any other first person shooter, and will instantly be easily playable from the offset for those of you who live and breathe shooting games. However, there are a few differences along the way, in the form of some basic squad commands. With the right bumper you can point your crosshair and order your allies to a specific location, or to perform specific tasks, such as opening doors. This feature proves handy for flanking manouvres at times, and with a little imagination can give you the upper hand in a firefight. What is more, you are also able to order your allies to focus fire on specific targets for more damage, and a quicker way of getting rid of troublesome enemies. Blacksite also features a squad morale system, whereby if you are doing well as their commander, the AI will perform better also. I found that by performing neat headshots and melee take downs, this would increase their morale greatly, and thus making the entire team far more effective. If the squad morale is low, then obviously things get a bit tougher, and sometimes this can result in your teammates being out of action for a while.
As mentioned earlier, the game begins in a typical fashion in Iraq, however as the story progresses, you and the team uncover some weird happenings. Rather unoriginal, you uncover a plot which seems a little cliche, but I guess helps drive the relentless killing along. Throughout the game, you’ll encounter a weird and wonderful bunch of adversaries, ranging from unarmed mutants to giant beasts that take a fair pounding to get rid of. Luckily there are a number of conventional, and not so conventional firearms to unleash carnage with. These range from a standard pistol, assault rifle to the more flamboyant, plasma rifle and rocket launcher; the latter being very handy for taking down the overgrown boss like enemies.
Everything seems to gel pretty well throughout the game, and although you can ignore the squad element, it does have its rewards. The game thrusts you into a variety of scenarios across the United States, and with your character being military based means there’s a fair amount of interaction with your superiors and fellow soldiers. Blacksite also features some driving sections where you’ll take control of a vehicle and drive, or perhaps man a mounted gun while the AI drives. I found the driving to be a little mundane, and although its inclusion adds some scale to proceedings, I felt that these sections lacked action. One thing that did annoy me, was the fact that when driving, your teammates man the mounted gun which is fine and dandy. However there was one type of enemy that would spit fireballs at you. What made this frustrating was the fact that the AI wasn’t able to shoot these fireballs, even though they were very easy to shoot down if you were using the mounted gun. Obviously this would result in unnecessary deaths and a long loading screen.
Blacksite uses the Unreal Engine 3, which for the most part looks decent enough. However I must say the graphics aren’t perfect, and seem to have been scaled down from the first demo that was released. Actually I was surprised to see this, and in particular I noticed the water effects have been removed from the game. The finished product does not look as good as the demo did, and I wonder why the developers scaled them down? Based on what is available, I would say everything looks rather functional.
The audio is another area that to me felt functional rather than compelling. Sure, you get some banter between your teammates and various other soldiers, but on the whole there’s nothing worth really shouting about. The voice actors have done a reasonable job, but you shouldn’t expect award winning performances here. Everything else audio wise in the game is as you would expect, and there’s really not much more I can say.
Blacksite isn’t the longest of games to complete, and can probably be beaten in around 6 hours on the default difficulty. There are some hidden items to find throughout each level, and of course additional difficulties to try. For achievement hunters, there’s probably enough reason to go back and play the game again. However, for those of you less inclined to replay games for points, then I see little reason to return. There is an option to choose a completed level for replay, and this is great for those of you wishing to relive your favourite moments.
Blacksite also features an online component, which allows for the usual Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag and an Infection game type. This reminded me of the old Unreal Tournament/ Quake games, and to be honest felt like a tacked on feature. With giants such as Gears of War, COD 4 and Halo 3 readily available, the online mode in Blacksite, simply felt very old school.
Blacksite: Area 51 is a decent game overall, however it feels like a game that is a shooter by numbers; offering very little that we’ve not seen before in other games. I’m confident that you’ll find enjoyment within the first play through, but beyond this I doubt anyone other than gamerscore hunters will want to carry on with subsequent plays. The multiplayer feels tired, and is something not many people are playing (at least when I was online). I would think carefully before parting with cash for this game; and would probably advise to rent it beforehand, to see if you really would want to keep it in the long term.