Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Blacksite = Blackshite

This review contains spoilers, If you've not played this game and for some reason you want to; then stop now before reading this! You have been warned!

It’s not often I make a mistake about buying a substandard game as usually I only have time for a half dozen or so in the space of 12 months and I'm extremely picky. Even if I'm considering buying a game, I usually read a lot about it and if possible, sample a demo before paying out the dough for the full version. I've been this cautious since I got burned by the hopeless Star Trek: Generations game in 1997, (an experience I will never share with anyone). My tactics have allowed me to avoid such crap as Starship Troopers, Rainbow Six: Lockdown, Doom 3 and as recently as this blog has been around there was Turning Point: Fall Of Liberty, Soldier Of Fortune III: Payback and even this year: a game based on the Iron Man movie. Unfortunately this year I bought one, I let my guard down, 10 years with a flawless record and I fell off the wagon: I purchased Midway's Blacksite.

Assuming you’ve read my initial report and game preview posts from 2007, you’ll know that I was pretty psyched about Blacksite - or as it was called back then Blacksite: Area 51, (but I've now redubbed it Blackshite). This was because it begins with the discovery of aliens instead of WMDs in Iraq (just like it happened in reality) and spawns into an anti-alien shooter, that brings you back stateside to Nevada and engages you in a predictable battle with aliens that have escaped or were they created? in Area 51 (I was paying more attention to shooting them than finding out their origin – and that’s pretty much what I do in real-life too). I'll admit that my excitement of playing a game that I've to some extent - "lived", was most appealing. I guess it's a bit like the way a racing driver would play an F1 game or a pro-footballer would try out this year's FIFA game. And that's what clouded my judgment.

In anticipation about the game I made the fatal error of imposing a sort of media blackout on myself so as not to reveal details I didn't want to know. This was a mistake because I missed the fact that in November, Blacksite's creative director Harvey Smith came out and described the gamed development as "fucked up" during the Montreal International Game Summit (he's obviously no longer employed by Midway). It was even reported by Wired, he said he wasn't too interested in the project to begin with and the game was "disastrously off rails" a year before finishing. He also says the game went from alpha to final in a "completely reprehensible" fashion. The critics agreed with him, but inexcusably I ignored them too.

I was shocked to read that this was said and so much was written of the multitude of bug reports after playing the game as I'll admit, I didn't find much. Was the game substandard? Well yes. Was it boring and unimaginative? Yes. But it wasn't as buggy as some games I've tolerated and 5-starred. It seems that whatever horrific bugs that were in the game were taken out with a patch in the US and the EU release seemed already patched to 1.3 out of the box, so I'm guessing there was some quick intervention to minimise the calls to the Midway European tech support lines.

What's is bad about this game is that there’s absolutely no deviation from the standard FPS staple points, you have a gun and you shoot everything that moves. Now this was a great basis for a shooter in the 90's and the early 2000's it was still quite enough for most people; but we have, in the latter half of this decade evolved into a superior class of gamer - we have become so spoiled by the likes of the incredible Half-Life and Call of Duty series as well as the likes of Far Cry/Crysis that we can't just waltz back into the basic FPS model in a brand new game. Oh and you can't even lean around fuckin' corners here.

You have only 4 basic weapons- pistol, assault rifle, sniper rifle and missile launcher here (ridiculously you can only carry 2 at a time) and assuming you play to the end and reject the shitty "alien" weapons, you'll finish up the game with 2 our of the 4 of those original as well. Again this was good in the old days but in the modern FPS the array of weapons is 10 times larger in COD4, fully customizable with a dozen attachments in Crysis, radical like the gravity gun in Half-Life 2 or just plain awesome as F.E.A.R.'s "Penetrator."

I haven't even begun on the most disastrous aspect of this game however - the politics. Someone, whether it was the CEO, the project director, the writer or a combination of all three, have used the game for their own twisted pro-liberal anti-Bush agenda and it makes me sick. Allow me to elaborate: A first person shooter, at it's core, serves the purpose of shooting bad guys on the screen in front of you, be they human, alien, undead or Nazi - and that's it! That's what you pay money for and they're one of the most played genres on the planet since Wolfenstein 3D in 1992. They've evolved over the years to include AI controlled team-mates, which assist you in completing your mission whether you're a Marine, Soldier of Fortune, Jedi Knight or a mechanically enhanced clone to name but a few. In most cases they've far more personality then your own character and help tell the story, involving you in interaction much like an RPG only in an FPS you have practically no choice. In many cases they can enhance a rewarding gaming experience - what would Half-Life 2 have been without Alyx? How many bullets did Hawk take for you in Solder of Fortune? And how many time do you owe your life to Price in Call of Duty?- well most of your "allies" in Blackshite are all hardened soldiers like you are - but they incessantly fill your head with anti-Bush, unpatriotic, bleeding-heart liberal excrement.

Indeed!- I kid you not - when I'm fighting for my life spitting red-hot leaden death at a horde of enemies - I don't want a team mate wondering if we're doing the right thing. I don't want my team's doctor to express her remorse at what "we" did at Abu Ghraib. Even times of success are tinged with little nicks at the duly elected government. A particularly boisterous machine-gunner upon mowing down enemies exclaims "Hell Yeah, Kick-ass American engineering, baby!" - great, until another buddy pipes up "I hate to break it to you, but those are mass-produced in China." I mean what the fuck? The real digs though are in the episodic chapter names for the game's story: and wouldn't necessarily be recognised by everyone: "Misunderestimated," "Stay the Course," "Last Throes," and "The Surge", all soundbytes from the more famous speeches from Bush, Rummy and Cheney referring to the Global War on Terror.

That was the last straw for me. I turned on God-Mode and just waltzed through to the end of the game so I could see if end was as pathetic as the political affiliation of the writer - after discovering that the "alien" threat was really created by the government and covered up, you destroy the alien production facility and head off to rid the world of all the aliens that are left. At least I saw the credits at the end so I could make a list of some people to kill.

Final Verdict: I want to burn it!!! I can't though. I want it alive to remind me of my own indomitable resolve that I know is shared by every real serviceman on the battlefield today and not constantly badmouthing "chickenshit politicians" as their digital counterparts do in this game.

Colonel Creedon Rating: **1/2


Anonymous said...

"chickenshit politicians?,"
Careful Lt.Col, you want to be busted down to 01 ranking, again?

Anonymous said...

Hang on! I thought you had DOOM3?

Hmmm. Does anyone think the Colonel's reviews of shit are better than his reviews of "magnificence"?

Colonel, I think you should at least sample Iron Man, Starship Troopers and SOF3 so that we may learn why they were avoided.

Inform us...

Lieutenant General Creedon said...

@ Civvy: I'm quoting from the game. It's obvious they're not my sentiments.

@ Grunt: I played it, it wasn't mine.

We'll see about your suggestion.

Anonymous said...

Lt.Col, In that case, I will only get you busted to 02 Ranking for repeating seditious remarks. Am I not merciful?.