In the current era of gaming, there's no lack of competitive shooting action. Gamers can walk into any store and pick up Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Modern Warfare 2, M.A.G., Halo: ODST, or Killzone 2, and those are just games released in the past few years. When it comes to downloadable games on consoles, however, the choices are more limited, and there's definitely a little room to stand out, as the only real competition is Battlefield 1943. It's here that Blacklight: Tango Down had a chance to shine.
Tango Down comes packed with many of the elements expected of first-person shooters in the current generation. Kills earn players experience, experience gains levels, and levels unlock additional weapons and upgrades. Players can customize their own load-out, and jump into any one of game's 12 maps and compete in seven different game modes. It also comes with a few levels that can be played either alone or with four players cooperatively, with the added incentive of experience gain extending to these alternative missions. It sounds like a package that has everything, and manages to come with all of these features while still looking fairly decent, something made even more impressive considering the fact that it's a downloadable title. At a glance, it looks like Blacklight: Tango Down has everything FPS fans could want.
Looks can be deceiving, however, and while it has all of the bullet-points of a good shooter, Blacklight: Tango Down lacks any semblance of originality or, for that matter, entertainment value. The fault can't be pointed towards any one element specifically, but, instead, the fact that the shooting isn't especially fun, and there's simply no reason to play this over any of its competitors. Every element of the game shows the scars of being a budgeted title, an issue that could have been overcome if Zombie Studios had attempted to do anything unique with their shooter. Instead, it takes some of the elements of Modern Warfare and plugs them into a game that's different for the sake of being slightly different. That could have worked if the developers would have embraced this chance and made something unique but, instead, they settled for less.
The only area of the game in which Zombie attempted to create something different is the ability to use the HRV (Hyper Reality Visor) to show where every ally, enemy, and objective are on the map. There's no denying that it's a helpful tool on the battlefield, but it has no real use beyond that. If feels like more needed to be added to the game to take advantage of this tool, but, instead, it's simply there, like another gun or a special grenade. It could be added into just about any first-person shooter and it would have the same effect. It doesn't add some new strategies to the gameplay, nor does it actually improve anything. Instead, it does little more than add frustration to the mix. For whatever reason, players can't fire their weapons while using this view, and it takes a moment to turn off, meaning seeing an opponent around the corner will often lead to annoying deaths.
On the technical side, Blacklight is a mixed bag. It hasn't many glitches to speak of, and many of the problems are likely design oversights, not actual bugs. Spawn points in the Deathmatch levels often drop players in clear view of opponents, and the game's digi-grenades, which scramble enemies' vision temporarily, create such a distracting area of effect that they're nearly impossible to use offensively. Even the Black-Ops cooperative levels, which seem like they could be great for learning the game, suffer from poor pacing and a lack of checkpoints, as well as the missed opportunity to teach players the way the game works before entering the competitive side. Players are forced to figure everything out on their own, and though things aren't really complicated by any means, some instruction goes a long way.
Beyond that, the initial surprise of a good looking game falls apart after some time. Everything looks bland, and the game's 12 maps all look like different parts of one giant level. The design is uninspired, too, with characters that look like the Helghast from Killzone 2 mistakenly grabbed the armor from the enemy soldiers in F.E.A.R. 2 when they left in the morning. It might sound like a strange complaint, considering the price, but even at $15 players will expect more from a shooter, or at least a visually appealing style.
Looking at a fact sheet, Tango Down appears to have everything it needs to succeed. There are 12 maps, seven game modes, a healthy number of unlockable weapons, some customization options, and even a few cooperative modes. The graphics, too, are passable for a downloadable game, even if they're not all that inspired. The problem is, despite having everything it sounds like it needs, it's missing what might be the most important element: fun. It's an often joyless experience, and there's absolutely no reason to pick it up over the dozens of other options on the market, even with the low price factored in. While it's 1/4 the price of a retail product, it offers far less than 1/4 the quality, and will likely leave most wishing they had spent their money elsewhere.