Blacklight: Retribution Review: Top-flight free-to-play multiplayer shooter
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Blacklight: Retribution can easily stand tall with the competitive online shooters on the PS4. Zombie Studios' focus solely on multiplayer makes for a surprisingly good game highlighted by its balance and gameplay that also just happens to be free-to-play.
- Balanced gameplay
- Tight controls
- A plethora of customization
- Lag can be an issue
- Unreal Engine starting to show its age
- No lifetime stats
The rewards for doing well aren’t in superfluous killstreaks. Combat Points, not to be confused with Game Points, are awarded for kills and objectives in matches and can be spent at optional Weapon Depots for consumables like health and ammo refills or heavy weapons. With enough CP, you can grab yourself a Hardsuit mech which you can deploy and control in the field. It is literally a walking tank that can tip the odds in a map with open areas. It is practically useless in any close quarter situation. Balance can easily be restored by dispatching the Hardsuit with a rocket launcher.
The fact is Blacklight rewards skill. You never have to go beyond the default loadout if you don’t want to. The more I dug into the customization, the more I enjoyed the benefits. Sights and scopes help immensely if you are more looking for more ranged accuracy. If your style is more run-and-gun, you need to be aware that an attachment can improve a statistic like recoil while downgrading another like run speed. I would have preferred that equipment weren’t gated behind experience level. It seems unnecessary when you’ve already implemented a pay gate.
The microtransactions are completely optional and while I understand the business model, I just wish the premium currency wasn’t pushed so deliberately on the gamer. Everything in the Minimart is available for Game Points or Zcoin. Game Points are the reward for your performance and for finishing matches. The only problem is that Game Points are only good for a rental, not an outright purchase. You need to go drop some real dollars on Zcoins to unlock what you want permanently. I’m not enamored with the pricing structure. 500 Zcoins are the equivalent of $5 and that would net you a weapon and two attachments. The higher priced character presets or customizing your own armor, weapons, and gear could easily run you over $20. There lies the benefit to rentals with GP. All it costs is your time earning GP and you can unlock anything for 1, 3, or 7 day rentals. It’s the best way to experiment with customization without buyers’ remorse.
One thing I found most interesting was how I enjoyed all of the various game modes equally. As a FPS fan, I tend to stick to what I think an individual game does better such as Rush and Conquest on Battlefield or Domination and Team Deathmatch on Call of Duty. Blacklight handles all of the different modes well. I usually just use quick play to jump into a match. I can play for hours, late into the night, or hop on for a couple of quick matches and log off, equally satisfied in either situation.
If there is one thing that I wish Zombie Studios would have included, it would have to be some form of stat tracking. That is a “be careful what you ask for statement” from me. There are people who play FPS’s religiously and are crazy about their statistics, most notably kill-to-death ratio. Obviously scores are kept from game to game, but there is no historical data that serves as a not-so-humble brag for how good you are. The flipside to that is I believe it keeps the game interesting as I focus on one game at a time.
Blacklight: Retribution is a tried-and-true shooter running on an aging, but dependable engine, though the mere mention of F2P is sure to send people running the other way. I’d prefer a retail release to cut the middleman out but I can live with the microtransaction structure as long as it isn’t critical for success. Blacklight is more than worth the price of admission and stands tall in the online multiplayer shooter arena on the PS4.----
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