|System: PS3, X360, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Midway||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Midway||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Dec. 10, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-10||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Matt Cabral
Blacksite Area 51 sits in the unenviable position of sharing retail space with some heavy hitters this holiday season.
Halo 3, Call of Duty 4, BioShock, and The Orange Box are all top-tier titles that stand to steal the spotlight from this under-hyped alien invasion shooter. And while Blacksite doesn't evolve the genre as these other titles all have in some way, it does deserve a hint of that glow they're gloriously basking in.
It's a fast and fun FPS that not only marks most of the boxes on the "what makes a good shooter" checklist, but also adds a couple of bar-raising boxes of its own. Most notably, its clever aliens-attack-earth scenarios, supported by some great level design and set pieces, make it a refreshing alternative to the other offerings gunning for dominance in the genre.
You're likely wondering what could be so clever and refreshing about yet another alien shooter. We've been fighting little green men in our videogames since Space Invaders; hell, we even recently rid the Earth of extra-terrestrials from behind the Spartan visor of Master Chief and the smart specs of Gordon Freeman. So, what kind of alien-blastin' goodness can Blacksite offer that Halo 3 and The Orange Box haven't already? Well, this current incarnation of the Area 51 franchise--which has previously seen success as an arcade light-gun game and less so as a David Duchovny-voiced Xbox/PS2 FPS--does a fantastic job of bringing the aliens home; not the futuristic or post-apocalyptic "home" of other such games, but the everyday, present day settings and environments that can be seen right outside your own window. You see, Blacksite's primary draw is its brilliant blend of rampaging, giant-tentacled threats and middle America settings; from roadside truck-stops and diners to strip malls and trailer parks, if you've ever roadtripped through the United States, you'll relate to the turf your protecting in Blacksite. In fact, think of it as a trek down Route 66 with lots of Earth-eating obstacles. And those ooze and fire-spewing obstacles run the gamut from small and speedy spider-like types to ground-erupting behemoths that'll only be silenced after several clips have been emptied into their slimy flesh. You'll also take on plenty of super-soldiers and, more interestingly, half-man, half-machine "reborns" sporting long metallic legs and creepy human faces.
The game's opening chapter sees you in the fatigues of a US military man fighting in Iraq. It takes a bit for things to get in gear as this tutorial level feels just like any other been-there-done-that military FPS. But things quickly pick up when the action shifts to the Nevada desert, and creepy-crawly, self-detonating beasties begin rushing you from all sides. From here the aliens-in-Americana fun starts to unfold as you navigate an abandoned--except for all those flaming, black smoke-spitting vehicles--charred highway. You'll defend against not-of-this-world foes in gas stations, weigh stations, and convenience stores on your journey to a military base, where you hope to uncover some answers. These close-to-home locales look great and support plenty of environmental destruction. You'll feel like you're at the local 7-Eleven when you hunker down behind an ice machine--you know the one: white with silver doors and "ICE" stenciled on the side in big, red letters--trying to get a reloading reprieve from the marauding menaces out by the gas pumps. Equally exciting encounters unfold in a trailer park--complete with exploding propane tanks--, a small town court house, and an old drive-in theater. A nice suburban area even has you climbing over a child's jungle gym to navigate a neighborhood overrun with the alien threat. These moments, and others like them, are what make Blacksite worth playing, especially if you're a fan of movies like Independence Day and War of the Worlds.