The PlayStation 3 version couldn't be launching at a worse time, but those looking for a cheap multiplayer shooter will be well served here.
When we heard about Blacklight: Tango Down our scepticism quickly ran into appreciation. The game's based on a clever marketing idea. The title was originally slated to launch in the summer — a dry, barren period for the industry where not a lot of block-busters come out. It's around the late summer months when people begin to actively seek games to play, and with block-buster shooters pledged for the Fall, a well-done online shooter with a low price-tag seemed like a good idea.
Blacklight: Tango Down aimed to fill that void, providing a Call Of Duty-like experience with a cheap PSN price-tag. The problem is, it's taken a long time to get here. Despite having a successful launch on the XBOX 360, the PS3 version of Blacklight: Tango Down seems to have been in limbo for eternity. And Ignition really couldn't have picked a worse time to launch it - a mere week before Call Of Duty: Black Ops.
It's a real shame because despite obvious reservations, Blacklight: Tango Down is pretty good. It costs £9.99 / $14.99 which is a note-worthy point. Tango Down is a not a supremely polished affair, it's actually rather rough. The frame-rate is janky, the graphics are abysmal, and the load-times are often atrocious. With all those things in mind, Zombie's still delivered an enjoyable budget shooter experience.
Tango Down packs the same twelve maps as the XBOX 360 version, plus an exclusive PlayStation 3 map called "Crossover". There's a plot behind Tango Down's setting, but Zombie clearly appreciate no-one cares. It's hidden beneath layers of menus, while the shooting takes centre stage. Basically, all you need to know is that there are two factions and they shoot each other.
That said, Zombie has breathed some personality into Tango Down. The game has a very futuristic, sci-fi look that's compounded by the game's busy HUD (littered with binary and command-lines) and the franchise's now-staple "digi grenade" — a "smoke" grenade variant which basically artifacts the screen. It looks both terrible and amazing. The game's over-the-top futuristic presentation is compounded by a glitch electronica soundtrack which is a nice touch. It's hardly original, but it's good.
The futuristic presentation might look fine in game, but it really clutters the user interface. In fact, every menu in this game is a complicated mess. There's a surprisingly deep progression to Tango Down's weapons, but the UI makes it difficult to find exactly what you're unlocking as you level-up. Which is a shame.
Essentially it's the shooting action that will draw people into Blacklight: Tango Down. It's also the game's biggest success, not because it's particularly outstanding, but because it's competent. The biggest risk with a budget multiplayer shooter like this is that it ticks all the boxes but doesn't provide an enjoyable gameplay experience. Tango Down is fun though. The shooting feels fine, and the pace is excellent. Blacklight is a fast game, which we found particularly enjoyable. It's going to depend heavily on taste, but if you're a fan of shooters that move quickly then you'll enjoy this.
Outside of that, Blacklight: Tango Down's pretty bog-standard. There's the typical range of gameplay types: deathmatch, team deathmatch, domination, search and retrieve. Every kill, objective and milestone rewards you with experience points, which raise your level and earn you new goodies. There's also a co-operative mode in which four players can fight groups of AI. Like Tango Down's competitive multiplayer, it's fun but nothing special.
Where Tango Down succeeds is by offering a good experience for a low price. The game's unlikely to blow anyone away, but as a throw-away multiplayer game between big releases it's a worthy download. That makes the game's release date so frustrating. If this had hit the PS3 earlier in the year, we imagine it would have been a big success. Dropping a week before Call Of Duty: Black Ops is worrying though, the cross-over between the titles is enormous — fun as it is, we can't imagine anyone choosing Tango Down given the choice.