Blacksite and Mr Smith

By Jim Rossignol on July 17th, 2007 at 12:50 pm.

I’ve just noticed that my PC Gamer piece on Blacksite has gone up on their C&VG site. This kind of preview is bread and butter for us, but actually this was one of the more interesting game demo events I’ve been to recently, and not because it situated in the skin-draped depths of Soho.

Having played Midway’s Area 51 and being distinctly unimpressed, I was going into the demo of this sequel with some scepticism. Despite the credentials (Harvey Smith and friends, of Deus Ex) attached to the Blacksite project, I thought a multi-format shooter based on last year’s nonsense was a doomed enterprise. However the event itself demonstrated that the team do seem to have a pretty strong idea about what makes linear shooters interesting. The main fighting sequences are going to be fairly open “arena” areas, with players encouraged to use the space and operate alongside the AI (or indeed drop-in co-op like in Gears of War) in taking out a varied selection of baddies. These arenas are filled with scripted sequences (Star Ship Trooper-alike bug aliens leaping up onto buildings and so on) and your team react to their environment with some nice touches, such as kicking open some doors, while smashing glass to reaching round and open others by hand. It’s all very linear, Half-Life 2 style, but it looks like there’s scope for experimentation. That said, the smalltown America stuff was far more interesting that the by-the-numbers dusty Iraq sections.

Those Yankee environments, being all small desert towns and semi-derelict trailer parks, look awesome in the Unreal 3 engine, and I suspect even if the game ends up being a bit thin we’ll still be impressed by some of what the design team manage to come up with. The giant worm alien on a bridge set-piece was pretty spectacular, and only really marred by inexplicably crappy fireballs being emitted from the giant critter.

Finally, as has been mentioned elsewhere, Smith and his team are developing Blacksite 2 to be more open, with environments encompassing sections of a city. Smith has being playing Stalker – which I’ll rant about later – and I can’t help hoping that the spooky Ukrainian shooter will have been a big influence on the overall design, and the amount of exploration the game will allow players to do.

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