Back in 1999, a free-to-play beta was released on PC that bucked the trend of AAA first-person shooters. Counter-Strike only went on to become the most popular FPS for years on PC. Blacklight: Retribution reminds me of Counter-Strike in many ways. Zombie Studios is attempting to carve out its own space in a very elite shooter landscape by providing an alternative for gamers to the big-budget annualized shooters just like CS did so many years ago.
Zombie takes a streamlined approach to Blacklight’s visuals by squeezing the most out of the Unreal Engine 3 on the PlayStation 4. Unfortunately, that means it doesn’t dazzle like its AAA contemporaries do. The game still sports a slick visual style, but it certainly would be more impressive if it were running at 1080p and 60 frames per second. On one hand, it is remarkable what they’ve been able to do with Unreal Engine 3 on the PS4 and I appreciate the detailed characters and weapons. The six futuristic tech-noir maps are well designed for individual gameplay style among six different game modes. On the other hand, many of the textures are flat. Walls and hallways are rather unremarkable. The tradeoff for lower graphical fidelity is snappy controls and balanced gameplay, which Blacklight excels because Zombie Studios avoided needless complications.
Blacklight’s controls are straightforward with the exception of Hyper Reality Vision which adds a Crysis-like dimension to the game as you can use it to spot where enemies are on the map. It is a valuable tool that does seem a little cheap at times, but complete vulnerability while in HRV mode can cost you. I was surprised at how well Blacklight played in comparison to other PS4 launch titles. Nothing is more satisfying than racking up a hearty kill streak. Death never feels like I’m being cheated by random out of bounds occurrence. A kill is a kill. It’s that simple and that’s what gets my adrenaline going.