2007 Reviews

Blacksite: Area 51

  • Review Date: 2011-06
  • Release Date: 2007-11
  • Developer: Midway Studios
  • Rating: 6.5

Last year I played 2005's Area 51 by Midway Studios. It was a decent effort for 2005 which led to expectations for Blacksite that it could only be even better. Strangely, despite the title this isn't related to the first game at all. It's a complete standalone title and mostly a different setting. Not for the better and expectations were not met.

Firstly the game runs Unreal Engine 3, so it's going to be hard to make a game that doesn't look good. Levels are occassionally well-detailed, although sometimes it can get bland. Textures and art is average and there aren't very many set-pieces throughout this rather linear game. The main pro is that the settings are a little different to a lot of recent shooters - you spend a lot of time in the American desert where Area 51 is located. Large canyons and roads, deserted caravan parks and a massive Area 51 base. The highlight of the game for me was battling a giant octopus-like creature that's straddilng a bridge while your helicopter circles around it with you firing furiously to take it out. Other helicopters are doing the same. I normally hate on-rails levels, but this was very epic, possibly the best on-rails battle to date. Of course once you get to control vehicles it's the normal bad-handling rubbish.

So overall the game is helped a lot by the Unreal Engine 3 and some of the different settings, but from a purely artistic viewpoint, it looks pretty average for 2007.

Gameplay is where Blacksite really struggles though. You only get two weapons at once, of which there's only really one weapon you'll use throughout the entire game because the rest are rubbish (apart from the mandatory rocket launcher battles); and that's your standard machine gun. You'll also spend most of your time zooming in and attempting headshots, because there's no quicksave and checkpoints don't appear very often. Enemies go down quick if you can make headshots. I only actually died in the game a few times on the middle difficulty (which they call hard). Even the final episode of three levels I didn't die at all. The final boss is possibly the easiest final boss in the history of shooters. What I'm getting at is that Blacksite is a fairly easy game. This isn't helped by enemies that just stand around getting shot at, which will be by you not your team-mates since their AI is just as bad.

Just one main weapon, no quicksave and only 4-5 different regular enemies (not including bosses) make this a game you won't be playing for it's gameplay. Nor will you play it for it's visuals unless you're running out of shooters as there's better looking game's around.

Perhaps in this respect the very short length of around six hours is a good thing.

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