Blacksite is all around a fly-by-the-numbers shooter
In BlackSite you play as Captain Pierce, a US Marine who remains silent and faceless throughout the game. Joining him are the members of Echo Force, a team of marines originally based in Iraq. This is where the game opens, and where the stage is set for the events to come. Without ruining anything, Blacksite revolves around an uprising in Nevada of what is initially believed to be a local militia but what eventually turns out to be something a little more diabolical. The best part of this game is the political satire that plays out in almost every level. References to the war in Iraq, corrupt government officials, and secretive military operations abound, and it is refreshing to play a shooter whose story has more to it than several steroid injected alpha males slaughtering obviously evil alien monster zombie nazi terrorists. Here, the villains are of a more grey background, and their goals, while still utterly wrong, are brought about by equal wrongs done to them by society. My favorite line occurs in the first level, set in Iraq, when one of your squadmates asks, "Who sells construction workers heavy weapons?" To which another team member responds, "I think we do."
But a game is more than a story, and BlackSite unfortunately doesn't have the complexity or the polish to back up its politically charged plot. Blacksite is a FPS through and through. You have your standard assault rifle, pistol, rocket launcher and sniper, as well as a couple experimental guns, that really are pretty common in sci-fi shooters. Unlike other shooters though, Blacksite's guns only have a single fire option, cannot be modded or upgraded, and aren't numerous enough to maintain interest throughout the whole game. Besides, I beat the final boss with the same weapon I started with on the first level. None of the other guns have more than a minor role.
Luckily, the actual gunplay feels pretty on, although sniping is a little loose. You can duck behind destructible cover, but you can't "take cover" per say. You also have squad commands, but they rarely do what you tell them to, and usually die within seconds of a firefight starting, so there is little value in giving orders outside of specific instances when a squad member needs to input a code or break down a door. Moreover, your squad will sometimes get in your way during a firefight, and will often charge straight into enemy fire. They also tend to throw endless barrages of grenades- even at helicopters. Their grenades also usually end up exploding in your face rather than taking out an enemy. Luckily your squad can't damage you.
Other than the repetitive gunning down of seemingly endlessly respawning soldiers, there are also a couple turret and vehicle sequences. The turret sections can best be described as dull and monotonous and the vehicles are so floaty that you can barely drive them. The game really is at its best when you are shooting at some enemy scum. Of course most likely the enemy wont be shooting back, as the AI for opponents is even worse than that of your squadmates. Here are some tactics I have seen the enemy employ: Hide behind cover that doesn't exist, shoot at an enemy who isn't shooting them over one that is, run right past an enemy to engage another one further away, and my favorite, seeing me and then responding by running in the opposite direction letting me easily gun them down.
The poor AI never ruins BlackSite, and in fact makes some difficult parts much easier to beat, but it is discouraging to see a game in 2007 have such idiotic N64 quality AI. On the other hand, the boss fights in BlackSite are enjoyable, at least until you have played them three times over. It would have been nice to see some bosses at least gain a new attack or two with each successive encounter, as it is though, each boss fight is largely the same as the last. The final boss encounter is appropriately the hardest part of the game, but is still easily beatable.
In fact the game is easy enough all the way through. I would recommend playing on medium to start, as this will deliver a challenge without being overwhelming. Also nice as far as the Xbox 360 version is concerned, beating the game on a harder difficulty setting also earns you the achievement for beating on the lower setting. BlackSite is a relatively short game. We're not talking Halo 3 short, but this is easily beatable in a weekend. There is an online portion to this game, but with so few players online I chose to skip it. The only other extending feature of this game are some unlockable dossiers that are scattered throughout each level, but with all honesty this game is really a very poor value without a healthy online community.
Blacksite looks ok. The levels all have that shiny UE3 look to them that is great for metal and stone but terrible for rock and grass. The weapons are boring to say the least, but the characters animate well enough. Unlike some other players I haven't experienced any glitches in the game beyond getting stuck a couple times. The load times are unacceptably long, the framerate drops here and there (although at times it makes the game almost unplayable) and there are some issues with floating bodies and guns, but all and all the game isn't terrible to look at. But for a game released last holiday, the stakes are extremely high, and being average just doesn't cut it in today's cutthroat industry.
The same goes for the sound effects and music, which are non-intrusive but far from memorable. The voice actors get the job done and at times even deliver their lines with great aplomb. Mostly though the audio package, like the rest of the game, is merely ho-hum.
And that really sums BlackSite up. The game is just average. It's not broken or unplayable by any means, but compared to the competition BlackSite just doesn't cut it. Still, if you have played all of last year's big guns and need something to do while you wait for the next big thing than BlackSite will keep you busy for a little while.