Blacklight: Retribution has never been subtle about its similarities to Call of Duty. The popular Kill Confirmed mode, which first appeared in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, took only a short time to appear in the Zombie Studios developed shooter, and supposed leaked screenshots of Call of Duty: Black Ops II turned out to be taken from this, too. Now available on the PlayStation 4, its free-to-play status, above-average visuals, and interesting sci-fi features may just give Call of Duty a run for its money on consoles. That’s if the game can get better out of its current beta state, at least.
Twitch first-person shooters like these are pretty predictable – especially when they’re online only. You run around killing people, and that’s all that there really is to it. There doesn’t need to be much in the way strategy or communication (although both help), and you don’t even have to be especially good to perform well. It’s all about having fun and being accessible, and Blacklight: Retribution is pretty successful in both departments.
There’s more to the game than just running and gunning down anything that moves, though. For a start, you can use your visor to see where your enemies are. Hit a button and the whole level is laid out before you. This is balanced by not being able to use weapons while it’s equipped, a cool-down period after use, and a second or so of animation to get it on and off. If you turn on the visor and see an enemy come around the corner, then you’re dead.
There are innovations in the core gameplay, too. This is mostly linked to the inclusion of CP, which rewards you for each kill and objective that you complete. If you do more to help your team, then you’ll become a more valuable kill, and subsequently more people will try to attack you. There’s no better feeling than stretching a killstreak, seeing the skulls lineup in the bottom left of the screen, and knowing that everybody is out to get you.
When you’ve earned enough CP, you can rush out to one of the many depot outlets on each map and purchase some upgrades. These may comprise ammo and health replenishments, or more meaningful items such as a flamethrower or Hardsuit. The latter resembles a fusion between the Caterpillar P-5000 from Aliens and the armoury of a small nation; it’s almost unstoppable if not approached properly, and controlling it is great fun.
There would be very little to complain about with Blacklight if not for a few niggles. It’s important to remember that the title’s still in beta, so the studio’s working on fixing these issues, but at the time of writing they can really ruin your playtime. Things as simple as joining a match or adding friends are currently very touch-and-go – in fact, we’ve received invitations from people who’ve yet to actually try the title. Furthermore, if the host leaves a battle then it can result in a hard game over.
Fortunately, the in-game cash store is working fine. Tap the touchpad at any point and you’ll be whisked away to the store, where you can spend zCoins on items such as guns, experience boosters, tactical items (like healing boosts for your team or poisons for the enemy), armour, and more. What’s amazing is that the title still feels balanced despite these purchasable items, and you won’t really ever feel at a disadvantage because someone’s spent a bit of money. Well, that’s certainly not the case at the moment, anyway.
The visuals are serviceable, but the Unreal Engine does cause its own set of familiar problems. The environments look decent, and are enhanced by pretty strong lighting – but textures do pop in randomly. It’s naturally not up to the standards of Killzone: Shadow Fall, but it’s a good looking game all the same – especially considering the non-existent entry fee.
In all, Blacklight: Retribution is going to be a fantastic shooter on the PS4, but it’s not quite there yet. All it needs is a little bit of polish and a lot more promotion, but if you’re in the market for a complimentary copy of Call of Duty – with some neat extras – then check this out. It’s certainly not as smooth as Activision’s flagship franchise, but it makes up for any rough-edges with huge death-robots. At the end of the day, isn’t that what innovation is all about?
Have you fragged your way through Blacklight: Retribution, or are you just not a fan of free-to-play? How do you think that developer Zombie Studios can improve upon the game in the future? Shoot us down in the comments section below.