It\'s the future, that grim era some years ahead of us in which skies are almost always overcast, giant holograms of corporate mascots compete with each other for our attention, and opposing teams of agents shoot at each other in urban and industrial zones for reasons that no longer matter. If you choose to cast your lot with the fighters of Blacklight: Retribution, you\'ll experience competitive first-person shooting that, for all its gun customization mechanics and other marquee features, feels standard and commonplace. Still, it\'s competent and, like all competent shooters, it\'s sometimes thrilling. It\'s also free to play, so you can get your shooter fix in Retribution without making yourself a penny poorer, though the game certainly makes spending money tough to resist after you\'ve sunk a few hours into it.
Whereas its predecessor, Blacklight: Tango Down, was introduced as a $15 team-based multiplayer shooter for PC and consoles, Retribution does away with the cost of entry. After creating your account and downloading the game for free, you can dive right into Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, King of the Hill, and Domination competitions. Servers called proving grounds are limited to players at level 10 and below, giving you a chance to familiarize yourself with the maps and controls while competing against other relatively new players. But if you\'ve played just about any competitive first-person shooter in the past five years, you\'ll probably feel less like you need to get acclimated to Retribution, and more like it\'s a game you\'ve already played.
The maps are well designed, with plenty of open areas and cramped corridors. The controls are responsive, and your agent moves about the battlefield at a pace that suggests he or she is actually inhabiting the world and not just gliding through it. You have enough health to withstand a few hits before you go down, but a single shot to the head means lights out, so you always feel vulnerable. Sprinting down hallways in pursuit of human quarry is exhilarating, and taking down a distant foe with a sniper rifle is as satisfying as you\'d expect. And that\'s the problem; it\'s all very expected. Retribution doesn\'t have a strong sense of identity to help it stand out from the numerous other games of the same type.
That\'s not to say that it\'s wholly generic. There are a few elements that give Retribution a touch of personality. The environments borrow heavily from the Blade Runner vision of the future, but the steam hissing from pipes, the neon signs on city streets, and the cool blue color tones of industrial facilities create a sense of a grim, emotionally cold era. Sound effects pull you into this world; bullets whiz convincingly past your head, and the sounds of your footsteps on different surfaces lend your movements a feeling of weight. Your hyper-reality visor, or HRV, also differentiates Retribution just a bit from all the other shooters on the market. Returning from Tango Down, the HRV lets you see through walls for a moment, enabling you to spot approaching enemies or figure out where that pesky enemy sniper is hiding. The visor\'s effect doesn\'t last long before it needs time to recharge, so you can\'t rely on it too often; it\'s a tactical tool that, if used well, can give you an edge in certain situations.
One such situation arises when an enemy soldier summons a hardsuit out of the sky. You earn combat points for your actions during a match, and these points (called CP) can be spent at weapon depots scattered across the map to purchase ammo and health refills, heavy weapons, and the mechanized, heavily armed and armored hardsuits. Facing one of these with an assault rifle or other standard weapon is typically suicide--the minigun and railgun on the suit can make mincemeat out of agents--but a quick glance at the hardsuit with an HRV reveals a randomly generated weak point, so at least you can try to do some significant damage before you go down.
Hardsuits often start appearing several minutes into matches of any type, once players have earned enough CP to start purchasing them. They can be tremendously effective on the battlefield--using one to defend a node during a King of the Hill match, for instance, can make life much more difficult for the opposing team--but the contraptions have their drawbacks. In addition to the aforementioned weak point, they\'re susceptible to heavy weapon fire, like the Stinger missiles that can be purchased from the depot. You might opt to purchase a flamethrower, run up to a hardsuit, and cook the driver, which doesn\'t take long and which then lets you snag the hardsuit for yourself. The hardsuits are slow and unwieldy, so for all their power, they\'re quite vulnerable without swift agents on foot fending off such attacks.