Blacklight: Retribution First Impressions

March 1, 2012

A screenshot of a victory screen from Blacklight: Retributions

So I jumped into the open beta for this game tonight. It plays like a sci-fi version of Alliance of Valiant Arms, with its customizable (cash shop) equipment and multiple game modes. The GUI is a lot slicker though, with lots of flashy effects and smooth transitions that make it feel more polished. I enjoy it more. With that said, it's definitely a beta. The gameplay feels faster and like less of a meat grinder than Alliance of Valiant Arms. Where AVA focuses a lot on high body count and small maps, Blacklight is primarily a "maze" game, with many pathways to any given point. Many times I was able to get around an enemy trying to take a point and hit them from a side passage.

The game modes that I encountered were Domination, Team Deathmatch, and Team King of the Hill. Domination is a standard take-and-hold affair, but it's made slicker by having two ways to capture a point - the slow but safer method of just sitting around the point until it becomes yours, or the faster method of doing a quick "combination lock" minigame that completely prevents any other action until you complete it, fail it, or get killed. The minigame doesn't take but a few seconds, but you're defenseless until it finishes. Team Deathmatch was straightforward and bog standard for the mode. Team King of the Hill was interesting and the most unique of the bunch - a beacon will spawn randomly around the map, and the two teams try to capture it first by standing around it until a meter fills up. Once it's captured, a new beacon spawns elsewhere in the map. It's very much a heated battle between big groups of sprinting players. Headshots deserve a special mention here, because they're particularly gory. Any headshot will cleave the top half of a player's head off with a fountain of blood, leaving the esophagus's ragged edge hanging above the ruins of his jaw. Not a game to share with young kids.

A screenshot of a headshot from Blacklight: Retributions
Headshots are... brutal

The game includes its share of interesting weapons, including a flamethrower with about triple the range of the TF2 Pyro's flamethrower, a rocket launcher, the standard array of assault rifle, sniper rifle, and pistols, and so on. It also includes a small mecha you can pilot called a Hardsuit, which is equipped with a railgun and a minigun. The mecha is not overpowered, though, because while it's heavily armed and armored, it's ridiculously slow. The safest way I found to take one out was to just run up to melee range and circle around it, always keeping behind it. The most interesting mechanic related to the weapons is the depot system, whereby you can stop by a depot station in game to purchase things like the Hardsuit deployer, the flamethrower, and such. It takes a second to get them, and you must accumulate an in-game currency to buy them with, but the depot equipment is usually worth the effort and danger to acquire them.

The beta problems I spoke of were minor - my primary complaint in this regard was the occasional spots of server lag that caused magic damage and Matrix-like evasion. Nothing to make the game unplayable by any means. I haven't yet played long enough to determine whether the equipment upgrades you can buy with in-game or real currency have any unbalancing effect, but in the few rounds I played, I was able to hold my own against players over ten levels above me with much better gear.