Blacklight: Tango Down

Condition orange.

There are a lot of cultural reference points in games these days, deliberate and otherwise, and sometimes they're all the hook you need. But they're also open to misinterpretation. For example, when I sit down to play Blacklight: Tango Down all I can think about is mood lighting and ageing British TV adverts for crap soft drinks.

And while a game about looking for suspicious stains and spilt fizzy orange with a forensic lamp would certainly be an interesting one, I'm relieved to discover that Blacklight: Tango Down is actually a download-only twitch shooter from Zombie Studios instead.

The central conceit is a little bit Half-life and a little bit Apocalypse Now. A far-right new order is taking over a fictional East European city and an extraction team of special operatives is going behind enemy lines to rescue a lost officer, who may or may not have gone a little bit rogue.

Oh, and there are zombies. They're the sort of zombies which upset Simon Pegg - fast and intelligent, even to the point where they use guns, although they're much more likely to swarm you ala Left 4 Dead, wielding stop signs and iron bars.

Blacklight's designed to be fast and relatively lightweight, it turns out - a return to simpler days of Quake where shooters were more about fun and less about tactics. It's smooth, fast and Unreal Engine 3-powered, with a price point of $15 mentioned for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.

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Occasional set-pieces punctuate the co-op mode.

But surely there has to be a catch? To find out, I sit down for a session with the co-op mode, which is a secondary feature to the game's online multiplayer focus. Sadly there simply aren't the numbers available for an actual session of the many multiplayer modes, so a solo blast through one of the four co-op Black Ops levels against bots has to suffice.

It's all very urban - a decayed metallic landscape of broken vehicles and handy concrete barriers. Levels tend to be quite open and studded with cover spots, although there's no cover button or 'sticky' shelter. Aesthetically, think Blade Runner in a powercut and you won't be too far off. In one level, Derailer, underground trains whistle blithely through the centre of the warzone, mashing anyone foolish enough to hang around on the tracks.

As I start the level I'm given to test, a computerised female voice crackles in my ear, Stephen Hawking in electric drag. Instantly I forget what she's said, but I'm reassured that it doesn't really matter - this isn't a game which is heavy on the exposition. Wandering up to a point of interest, a terminal used to activate the barrier that begins the level proper, I'm treated to another little sniff of the pot-pourri of ideas which Blacklight encompasses.

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A bewildering array of influences are mentioned, from Perfect Dark to Killzone.

It's a simple mini-game of repeating a sequence of button presses - Simon Says, in other words. This will also play a part in the capturing of control points in the 'King of the Hill' style game modes, where standing next to a post will gradually convert it but completing the mini-game hastens the process - a quick dose of risk/reward when you're under enemy fire. There's another variant too, a simpler task of centring symbols on a sliding scale.

The next toy I'm introduced to is the game's HRV, or hyper-reality-visor. Designed to prevent camping, it's essentially a wallhack device that projects the positions of all players and bots onto the HUD, alongside ammo and health dumps.

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Dan Pearson

Dan Pearson

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