Game Review: BlackSite: Area 51

Developer: Midway

Platforms: X360/ PS3

Rating: D (2.5 out of 5)

Seldom is there a gamer out there who doesn’t remember checking out the little arcade machines while waiting for their laundry to wash and dry. Arcade classics such as Pacman, Donkey Kong, and Galaga were almost always a staple, but some of the best memories remained for Atari’s Area 51, an alien based shooter with a light gun to actually shoot at the screen.

Fast forward to 2005, and Midway redoes the franchise to critical acclaim with a remake of the same name. Now in 2007, follow-up, named BlackSite: Area 51, expected to be a contender claiming its use of the Unreal Engine and on the fly squad based gameplay. These elements, while represented, cannot save this from being two weeks from the bargain bin.

BlackSite: Area 51’s mediocrity flows through every aspect of the gameplay. The gunfights are just boring, and while the computer AI is serviceable, it’s nothing exciting and nothing to fear. The weapons that are featured in this game are few in far between, with only six guns represented, and half of those are basically useless in a firefight (the pistol features no stopping power, the sniper rifle and the rocket launcher). Just as short as the weapon selection is the games length, even at the hardest level, can be run through in six hours. The multiplayer is not really anything to write home about, featuring standard modes of play such as death match and capture the flag are just as mediocre.

The claim to fame is the on the fly squad based gameplay, which judges you based on your actions, and controls your squad mates AI. The only problem with this is that your squad mates seem to just take up space and the difference between low and high morale is negligible. You’re forced to use them however, because they have to open doors and complete tasks for you, which can get extremely frustrating when they seem to be stuck behind rocks or vehicles.

Even if BlackSite: Area 51 is mired in mediocrity, it is beautiful mediocrity. The Unreal engine shows its legs here, as everything is rendered in eye pleasing fashion. The environments are bright and can even be breathtaking, especially when in a helicopter. Objects such as concrete and boxes break apart when shot, the guns get hot and show heat in a realistic fashion, and the NPC’s and enemies can look menacing. The Havok engine is used well to, as watching enemies fling from grenades can be satisfying. These things, however, only can help so much when swallowing the mediocrity.

It is tough to see a franchise suffer this kind of slap in the face, especially when remembering the over the top fun of the arcade version or the aesthetic of the remake. When there are games such as Kane & Lynch which implement the team aspect much better and Call of Duty covering modern soldier combat in a way better fashion, this game won’t even see the light of day. But fair warning for those who have nostalgia - you're better off looking for a quarter and a light gun... you would be saving yourself 60 bucks and a headache.