Aliens have become the target of many first person shooters over the years. The Covenant in Halo, the zombies and other creatures from Half Life, the many races in Mass Effect – they’ve provided lovely cannon fodder for those gamers with itchy gaming fingers. Now they’re back again invading our beloved planet in BlackSite: Area 51
Two years ago, Midway took a light gun arcade game and turned it into a decent FPS, called Area 51, which focused around a HazMat team investigating a virus outbreak within Area 51. Now Midway have created Blacksite, which is set around the not so secret government base.
BlackSite follows Aeran Pierce, a member of Delta Force, and his squad of men. You start the game in Iraq, on a mission to search for WMDs within a military bunker. However, not everything goes to plan and instead of WMDs you find a mysterious crystal. One of your team members, Summers, is lost as you try to escape the creatures emerging from the crystal. Two years later, the team are in Rachel, Nevada where they have been told that a rebel militia are trying to take over Area 51. Rachel, as conspiracy buffs will know, is a town just outside of Area 51. Obviously, nothing is going to go right since they are near that famous mysterious area. While there, they find Summers again, who was experimented on by the US government. It is then your mission to contain an experiment funded by the government and stop it going out of hand. The story is pretty good. The twists and conspiracies will keep you attention focused. A lot of political messages are thrown at you in the game. Chapter names are usually small snippets from speeches made by George Bush.
The game plays very well. It is a squad based FPS, however the squad controls are not all that exciting and only cover the range of, “go there, do this, attack them”. Although not very deep, these controls are enough to keep you easily commanding your team. However, a nice addition to the team structure is morale. It’s not often in games you see a morale function, your performance affects the team for better or for worse. In Blacksite, this system is used a lot. If you are doing well and your teams morale is high, then they will be taking enemies down left, right and centre. They’ll follow your commands and shoot any thing they see. On the other hand, if you perform badly and your team’s morale is low, they won’t be able to hit the side of a barn. They’ll also start running around, like lost sheep. This can be extremely irritating, if you find yourself taking down a huge beast on your own.
As well as fighting on foot, there are vehicle sections to the game. You can take the wheel of the vehicle, the gunner position or ride shotgun. The vehicles control well and you can find yourself doing leaps over rocks in no time, dodging giant ground worms and explosive bugs with ease. The gunner position is the most fun, especially in the helicopters.
Once you have finished the surprisingly good single player game, you have the online features. For online, you have all the modes you’d expect; Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Capture The Flag. The extra mode in Blacksite is very similar to the Virus mode in Perfect Dark. It is called Abduction. One player is the Reborn, while the rest are all humans. The Reborn’s job is to take out all of the humans and convert them to the Reborn side. Players earn points as their human teammates are killed off while they stay alive. Once the last human is killed, the game starts again until time runs out or someone reaches the target points. Although not exactly ground breaking, it is still very fun.
The graphics for the game are simply stunning. Normally, Midway games have pretty average graphics, but the graphics in BlackSite are very crisp and detailed. There are a few minor problems here and there however. Flying around in the helicopters provide glorious views over the sunny Nevada desert. The interactive environments in the game are also very good. As you crouch behind cover, enemy fire will dwindle away at the cover, leaving you crouched behind a small mass of stone. This means you will have to move from cover to cover a lot. Also the many explosions provide satisfying viewing, unless you are on the receiving end of the explosion. The music for the game is very atmospheric and suits the game well. The audio is top notch too, with some good voice actors in the game
Overall, Blacksite isn’t a bad shooter at all. I was surprised when I started playing as I thought it would be pretty bad, but I enjoyed it very much. BlackSite seems to be a pretty under rated game, but it is a very good game for when you get bored of Halo 3 or COD4.