Pros: Good customisation system, nice maps, excellent gunplay.
Cons: Lack of players, intrusive cash shop.
Developed by Zombie Studios, Blacklight Retribution is an F2P first-person shooter MMO that has been around for PC and PS4 for quite some now, and we therefore decided that it was high time to give it a shot. The title is published by Perfect World Entertainment and available via Steam and their Arc platform.
To start playing the game, it can be found on Steam or players are alternatively able to register for an Arc account, (PWE's "Steam-like" multi-game platform that allows them to download and play all their other games) to download the game client. Once the download is completed and the game completely patched, players will be asked to choose a name and their gender in order to create their character (any customisation options whatsoever at this point) and then are able to decide whether to play through the FPS tutorial, which is a pretty quick and classic one. Those familiar with other first-person shooters will surely be fine when skipping it, as they indeed won’t find anything about the control system they’re unfamiliar with. The sole actually helpful information provided by the tutorial is how to use your depot to summon health/ ammo packs as well as the use of the hardsuit, a colossal bipedal power-armour/ mech, and the HRV (Hyper Reality Visor), a very unique feature of Blacklight Retribution.
Even when carefully reading the various pieces of advice popping up in the game and playing the quick training session, it will take some getting used to the navigation of the complex menu and lobby interface in Blacklight Retribution, since there are overwhelmingly many pages and tabs, which could easily lead to getting lost throughout your initial matches. We also didn’t find it always that evident how fundamental things that should actually be pretty intuitive are to be done, e.g. claiming the reward items we gained through activities like levelling up or accomplishing certain achievements.
Having explored the interface a bit, we thought it a good idea to check out the quick match feature, which matched us with other randomly selected players and together we joined a Team Deathmatch. As already mentioned before, the control system is identical to those incorporated in any of its competitors in the shooter genre; the mouse is used for aiming, shooting and entering the iron sight/ scope view, the W, A, S, D plus space and ctrl keys for moving, jumping, crouching, and so on. What’s interesting is that you are also able to press the V key in order to use the HVR, which is kind of a scanner that allows players for a limited period of time to perceive their allies and enemies through walls and any other surface, but needs to be recharged before being able to use it again. Whilst essentially being a legal wall hack, this fascinating tool is available to every player right from the start, meaning that it isn’t unfair at all, but makes life impossible to campers and simultaneously spices things up by forcing players to adopt other strategies than those used in a common first-person shooter.
The gunplay is excellent and the controls pretty responsive, which are most likely the most important elements in a competitive shooter. We were able to eliminate many higher level players with our starting gun, which emphasises that it’s skill what matters in Blacklight Retribution. Gameplay is generally a pretty nice blend of a rather tactical approach and fast-paced action, with the result that simply dashing across the scene without thinking and just occasionally firing aimlessly will just get the player killed.
Although the game actually offers multiple game modes, we were only able to check out a regular team deathmatch as well as a last man standing version of a team deathmatch without respawning because of the automatic matchmaking. Interested in also trying out some of the other game modes, we attempted to manually look for particular matches, but even then weren’t successful in this matter as obviously other than us no one was interested in playing other modes, seemingly almost everyone was exclusively looking for regular deathmatches and team deathmatches. Regarding the maps in the game, those are well crafted and large; thanks to being comprised of a variety of areas of different types, they allow for multiple distinct tactics.
The customisation system is one of the most intriguing aspects of Blacklight Retribution. Players earn EXP and in-game currency by progressing through the game and levelling up, which enables them to purchase new weapons, gear and accessories for their character. In regards to gear, every single piece provides the character with various stats, allowing players to adjust it to their preferred style of play. They are moreover able to alter each particular part of their completely customisable weapons, including scope, magazine, muzzle, and so on, which entirely changes their gameplay experience. Of course, it’s also possible to purchase pre-fabricated weapons, the actual fun, however, is in trying out and experimenting with distinct weapon setups. Blacklight Retribution also offers additional characters for purchase, each of which comes with their won strong and weak spots (according to what we were able to find out, these are available with premium currency only though).
We unfortunately have to establish that in spite of being pretty intriguing and cool, the game’s item and gear customisation system is ultimately penalised by a perhaps too intrusive cash shop, meaning that even though available through the regular in-game currency, weapon part and equipment pieces are extremely expensive while the currency is earned in ridiculously low sums after matches that it will inevitably take a particularly long period of time before players will be able to unlock an individual piece. We also could help the feeling that this was an intentional decision in order to seduces players to spend real-world money in the cash shop.
In spite of not being top-notch, visuals and animations are absolutely clean, smooth and enjoyable, looking much better in comparison to those of a lot of other similar titles in the genre. Similarly, the sound effects left an impression of being refined and compelling.
Blacklight Retribution possibly isn't an attempt of re-inventing the genre, but delivers a solid and compelling gameplay experience for all enthusiasts of this kind of game. Nevertheless, the title has its weaknesses and the intrusive cash shop as well as a rather limited player base affect the entire gaming experience. In spite of these small things, it’s perfectly worth giving it a shot in case you’re into online FPS games and are searching for something attractive to enjoy together with your friends.