First of all, the actual shooting in Blacklight: Retribution is absolutely average. It’s the same low-recoil, hit-scan style we’re used to seeing in CoD and similar titles. This doesn’t make it bad, but it’s not all that great either. It’s just average. And true, there is a device that could be called a “wallhack,” in the form of the HRV. But since everyone has it, I really don’t see what the problem is. If anything, it’s a positive addition because it makes camping impossible and eliminates the need to walk around the map aimlessly looking for an enemy.
The real meat of the game is in its customization system. This is the first FPS where you can actually build your guns from parts, to have a weapon tailored exactly to your play style. Despite the large number of parts, it seems they’ve actually got the balance right as well. There are still a few problems with certain parts, but the vast majority are almost perfect sidegrades. The graphics are also pretty good. Nothing spectacular, but at least it’s not another brown-and-grey shooter. The futuristic aesthetic also helps, as it reminds me of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, a game which I absolutely loved. Now, graphics and aesthetics is a touchy subject as most of it comes down to personal preference. I like the way it looks, but you might not. Either way, nobody can argue that the graphics are so bad it hurts your ability to play the game. But here’s where the games starts to have problems. Blacklight: Retribution has a serious case of what I like to call “CoD Syndrome.” CoD Syndrome involves having a level-based unlock system which forces you to play the game not for fun, but rather to get something you want.
Not only that, but after you unlock something with levels you also have to buy it with in-game currency, called GP. Now, this has nothing to do with the business model. I just hate the idea of having to run on a treadmill for something which should be down to personal preference. For example, if I subjectively prefer a shotgun over a light pistol, I have to wait until level 20. But if I want a heavy pistol instead, I only need to get to level 2 or 3 (I forget which). This is like an ice cream shop letting you buy mint chip, but making you run on a treadmill for 10 minutes if you want cookie dough. What’s more, you still have to pay for your ice cream whichever one you pick. Now, some people may think differently about this problem, but honestly it was this that got the game a 7 instead of an 8, 9, or 10. Now, this being a free-to-play game, the way the company makes money is by allowing you to buy the gun parts with real money. Because (almost) everything is sidegrade, there’s no buying power. You’re not getting better things; you’re getting the same things faster by bypassing both the GP cost and the required level. Additionally, the part renting system makes it so you can try things for either one or seven days before you buy them. However, in order to really judge an F2P system, I have to compare it to what the game would be like if it were full price. If it was full price, would they still have the level-based unlocks? Or would everything be available from level 1? If the former, then I would most certainly rather keep it free. If the latter, then I would rather pay for it. That’s right folks, call me crazy but I would pay $60 just so I don’t have to run on a treadmill for my cookie dough ice cream.
July 2, 2012
Perfect World Entertainment
Online Only, Downloadable Release