BlackSite: Area 51 (Review)

blacksite-area-51nsgThis is the pseudo-sequel to 2005s Area 51, but you’re not at a disadvantage if you haven’t played it. The early missions of this first-person -shooter take place in Iraq a few years before the events at Area 51. As an army grunt your character is under the impression this is a standard mission. Half an hour later, knee deep in aliens this is obviously not the case.

The graphics here are reasonable and the outdoor environments are brightly lit with clear detail. However towards the end of this segment there is a section with some horrific slowdown as the frame-rate nosedives and you’ll think the game is about to crash. Fortunately it doesn’t happen again throughout the rest of the game.

After Iraq you head to Arizona and the towns surrounding Area 51. Thankfully most of the game takes place outdoors after the underground claustrophobia of the first game. You’ll fight your way through deserted (by humans at least) trailer-parks, diners and the town of Rachel before finally heading to the still exploding base at Area 51.

The targeting and weapons feel balanced and more importantly very accurate. The human weapon set is pretty standard. Your first weapon is also the best, the good old assault rifle. You can pick up a strange alien shotgun-style weapon that fires more accurately the longer you hold down the trigger, let go of the trigger too soon and the shot will spread wide but be very weak. The plasma cannon fires a ball of energy that explodes into a large dome on impact, deadly, but ammo is in short supply.

There is a team morale element to the gameplay. Do well, and you team will do well, but if you can’t hit the side of a barn with your weapons they’ll perform poorly. Sounds like a nice idea but it doesn’t work, as they are hopeless either way.

For example, you can select a target for them to take down. So you let them take him / it down while you take on the other nine advancing enemies. Before you can all exchange high fives, you realise that while you went on the rampage they are still struggling with one guy, during ‘squad morale high.’

To be fair they provide some light humour bickering amongst themselves and do all the talking (yes you’re another mute leading man). You can’t shoot them, which is good seeing as they walk in front of you when you’re firing all the time. They’ll occasionally get a bit overenthusiastic after a gunfight and chuck a grenade at your feet! Why?!

The main annoyance with the game is the doors. The ‘open’ icon needs to be green for it to work. For no reason at all sometimes it remains red for ages while you stand next to it. It’s an annoying glitch that should have been spotted during development.

There are plenty of driving sections; they suffer a little from slightly over-sensitive controls. The steering is controlled with the analogue sticks in the same manner as walking around. But they can be really exciting as you hurtle though valleys avoiding the giant snake-like aliens erupting from the ground in front of you. You can hop out to take them on at any point too, so you never get trapped. Some levels will put you on the gun turret instead of the driving seat which provides some simple yet enjoyable blasting.

Sniping down a helicopter is one of the big highlights, but the biggest “Wow” moment is the section where you control a gun turret on the side of a chopper flying over a canyon while trying to take down a giant alien worm/ hydra beast that’s wrapped itself around a bridge.

Online matches can accommodate up to 10 players over 8 different maps. There are the usual Death Match options, Capture the Flag, and Abduction. All of which include some online only pick-ups such as extra damage or extra armour. There’s just one problem; nobody seems to be playing it. At all.

It’s a shame because the shooting is solid throughout the game and would be fun online. It would have made more sense to make the story missions co-operative too seeing as you go through the game in a team anyway.

This is good game that could have been so much more. Just as you feel it’s really beginning to hit top gear it finishes. You can watch those end credits to the end all you like but it really is that short. You’ll be done in well under 5 hours which is the biggest disappointment. You could play it again to pick up all the dossiers you missed which unlock more information on characters or try it on a harder difficulty level but that’s no substitute for a few more levels.


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