Blacklight Retribution Review
7 Overall Score
Excellent gunplay / nice maps /good customization system
intrusive cash shop / there aren't many players
Blacklight Retribution is the free-to-play MMO First Person Shooter developed by Zombie Studios and published by Perfect World Entertainment through their Arc platform and Steam. The game has been around for PC and PS4 for a while now, and we thought it was about time to check it out.
In order to play the game, you can find it on Steam or you can create an Arc account, (PWE's "Steam-like" multi-game platform where you will also be able to download and play all their other games) and download the actual game. Once the game is downloaded and fully patched, you will be asked to create your character, by choosing a name and selecting the gender (no customization options here) and if you want to play the game's tutorial. Being a very classic and quick FPS tutorial, if you have every played any other FPS game, you may want to skip it, as you will almost certainly be well familiar with the control system. The only really useful information that is given to you during the tutorial is the use of the HRV (Hyper Reality Visor), a very unique feature of Blacklight Retribution, and how to use your depot to summon health/ammo packs and the hardsuit, a giant bipedal power-armor/mech.
Even if you play the quick training session and carefully read the several in-game advice pop-ups, it will take a while to get used to navigating through the game's complex lobby interface and menu. There are a lot of tabs and pages and it could be very easy to get lost during your first matches; moreover, it's not always clear how to do basic stuff that should be very intuitive, like claiming reward items earned with activities such as levelling up and completing certain achievements.
After a little interface exploration we decided it was time to try the quick match feature; we were matched with other random players and joined a Team Deathmatch. As we have already said, the control system is the same already seen in any other shooters, mouse to aim, shoot and enter the iron sight/scope view, WASD + space + ctrl to move, jump and crouch, etc. The interesting thing is that you can also press the V key to use the HVR, a sort of scanner that will let you see your enemies and your allies through walls and any surface for a limited amount of time, and will need to recharge before being available again. Despite being basically a legal wall hack, this interesting tool is available to everyone from the beginning, so it's not unfair at all, will make life impossible to campers and at the same time will spice things up by forcing you to adopt different strategies than the ones used in your usual FPS.
The controls are very responsive and the gunplay is excellent, which are probably the most important elements in a competitive shooter. Moreover, skill matters in Blacklight Retribution, and we managed to kill a lot of higher level players with our starting weapon. The general gameplay is quite balanced between fast paced action and a more tactical approach, where just running around with your brain turned off shooting here and there will only get you killed. There are several modes available in the game, however, through the automatic matchmaking we only managed to try the regular team deathmatch and a team deathmatch/last man standing with no respawn. We wanted to try the other modes as well, but even when we tried to manually find specific matches, nobody was playing them as it seems that players play almost only Team Deathmatch or regular Deathmatch. The game's maps are big and well designed, with a lot of different kinds of areas that allow several different tactics.
One of the most interesting elements of the game is the customization system. By advancing and levelling up through the game, you will earn XP and currency to buy new gear, weapons and accessories for your character. Speaking about gear, each piece will give you different stats, so you can adapt it to your play-style. Weapons are totally customizable as well and you can change every single part of your rifle, such as muzzle, magazine, scope, etc. totally changing your gameplay experience. Sure, you can buy premade weapons, but the real fun is to try different weapon setups and experiment with them. You can also buy new characters, each one with its strengths and weaknesses (although based on what we've seen, they are only available through premium currency). We have to say that despite being cool and interesting, this item/gear customization system ends up being penalized by a maybe too intrusive cash shop; what we mean is that although the equipment pieces and weapon parts can be bought with regular currency, the prices are so high and the currency earned with matches so low that it take a very long time before being able to permanently unlock a single piece, and we had the impression that this was made with the intent to push players to spend money in the cash shop.
Graphics and animation, despite not being the best around, are perfectly enjoyable, smooth and clean, and looks way better than many other similar games in the genre. Same thing goes with the sound effects, which are polished and convincing.
Blacklight Retribution maybe doesn't try to re-invent the genre, but offers a solid and convincing gameplay experience for all the fans of this type of game. However the game has its flaws and the whole experience is affected by an intrusive cash shop and a not so wide playerbase. Despite these little spots though, if you like online FPSs and are looking something interesting to play with your friends, the game is absolutely worth a try.