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BlackSite Area 51


Area 51 is arguably the pinnacle of science fiction icons of our present day. The elusive military zone has been the subject of speculation and mystery for quite some time and it's safe to say that it has inspired several projects. On the video game side of things we have been visiting Area 51 for quite some time and for over ten years shooting fans have had something to cheer for. From a coin-op arcade light gun game released by Atari to the creatively named Area 51 by Midway, it's safe to say that aliens of any size or shape are fun to shoot at. Does BlackSite continue that trend?

Taking a page from modern events, BlackSite: Area 51 puts you in the shoes of Special Forces Agent Aeran Pierce. Three years prior to the main story we see a mission in Iraq gone horribly wrong. For starters the troops are there looking for weapons of mass destruction and there are posters of Saddam all over the place. Naturally a fair amount of Bush bashing falls into play here with some dialogue though those feel like easy shots given the circumstances but I digress. Aeran obviously doesn't find a single WMD; instead something of an alien origin turns up and everything goes to hell in a hand basket. Fast forward by three years and you have a threat taking place in Nevada that has ties to what transpired in Iraq. Needless to say Area 51 requires Aeran's expertise.

As you can tell the story isn't anything particularly enthralling. It's B-movie quality at best and some of the cheesy dialogue doesn't help matters but that's probably a good thing. The game never takes itself too seriously and let's just say you won't either. There are several glitches still in the system with regards to gameplay and presentation. The end result is a title that feels rushed and unfinished. This doesn't necessarily mean that BlackSite: Area 51 is a bad game; it's just not as decent as it could have been if the project had more time to smooth out the rough patches.

Gameplay


BlackSite: Area 51 is a first person shooter right down to its core but is it any better than Midway's 2005 trip to Area 51? Well, not really. To be quite honest both outing stand as examples of what you can expect from a generic FPS. No boundaries are pushed here, there's nothing new to speak of, and quite frankly the whole experience winds up being very, very dry. With games like Bioshock, Halo 3, Call of Duty 4, Metroid Prime 3, and Resistance on the market is there really any reason to go back a couple of years with Black Site? Nope.

The gameplay is identical to what you'd expect to be though Midway made some saber rattling prior to BlackSite's release about some morale system that would improve squad performance based on your own. They didn't execute this hyped content as promised; not even slightly. No matter if you run into a situation like Rambo and destroy everything with tentacles in sight your teammates will simply stand up, die, and take a dirt nap until you've killed everything. Every situation turns out like this and the experience yields a very one man versus alien infestation feeling. This is fine and dandy but the FPS genre has evolved over the years and if you're going to provide squad AI it better be damned good. Let's just say that this proves to be ridiculous as you enter some boss battles and watch as your torn apart while your team just stands there not firing a single shot.

Enemy variety is also lacking and there're simply not a lot of things to shoot. You're basically going to be squaring off against the same exploding bugs, reanimated corpses, and big bad dudes repeatedly. What's worse is enemy AI is almost as bad as the friendly AI. Aliens hide in predictable locations, often stand in one spot, and rarely do anything that will make you work for a kill. Sure they'll swarm you at times but that's not necessarily an advanced tactic.

For all of the flaws and shortcomings BlackSite: Area 51 offers a marginally passable single player experience. Stark environments, sluggish controls, and terrible AI don't do the game any favors, but the experience is ironically undeniably fun at times. Granted those moments are few and far between but they help the single player component supply an enjoyable weekend rental. The multiplayer aspects, however, are another story altogether. Bland modes and a lack of playing community will not tear anyone away from COD4 and Halo 3 to be sure. This severely limits the experience and essentially makes BlackSite simply a humdrum solo campaign.

Graphics


I'm very torn when it comes to grading BlackSite: Area 51's graphics. On the positive side of things there were several outstanding moments that really got the adrenaline pumping plus it's presented in 1080p (for better or worse I suppose). Visceral firefights, surprise enemy entrances, and big boss battles really stood out amidst the rest of the game's design. That being said everything here has a terribly generic coat of paint slapped onto it. Character models look ridiculous most of the time and environments are ghastly bland and open.

As if design flaws weren't bad enough there are several technical glitches as well. Objects simply pop in and out depending on what angle you're looking at them from. Textures also randomly perform disappearing acts which lends to that unfinished feeling I mentioned earlier in the review. If more time was spent on the drawing board and this title had another few months in gestation we may have been looking at a different story but as it stands this is a game that feels kind of sloppy.

Sound


Equally bland is the audio package which features laughable dialogue, uninspired sound effects, and generic, forgettable music. Some glitches also come into play in this department as well with some vocals beyond drowned out by sound effects and bits that just stop mid effect. The sense of immersion isn't bad but once again it doesn’t stand out especially when you take other recent FPS outings into consideration.

Conclusion


BlackSite: Area 51 could have been something better than it turned out to be. The campy alien atmosphere was rife with potential but underdeveloped and overlooked areas plague this experience. From the AI to generic gameplay and shoddy presentation values there are several things that keep this game from being as fun as it had the possibility to be. In the end this title is little more than a weekend rental for FPS fans looking for something to pass some time with.