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Publisher: Midway Home Entertainment
Developer: Midway Home Entertainment
Minimum requirements: Pentium IV 3 GHz; 2 GB RAM; Pixel Shader 3.0 capable video card with 256 MB RAM; Windows XP or Vista
Genre: First-person action
Release date: Available now
Review by: Bob Mandel
In 2005, Midway released the PC game, Area 51, which, while not groundbreaking, offered a fun experience encountering and battling weird otherworldly predicaments at the legendary and mysterious locale in the Nevada desert. Considerable buzz and high expectations developed when word leaked out that a sequel was being prepared for release. So excitement surrounded the recent development by a different team of Blacksite: Area 51, which was supposed to be not at all like the original. Does this highly anticipated release live up to its hype?
Given the difference in development philosophy, it’s perhaps no surprise that the story in Blacksite doesn’t continue from where the original Area 51 left off. You play the role of Aeran Pierce, a member of the Delta Force sent to locate weapons of mass destruction supposedly hidden in an underground bunker. The action begins in Iraq and later — after you find an alien artifact — moves to Rachel, Nevada, a rural locale isolated by the military and close to Area 51. Although you begin by fighting human foes, it doesn’t take long until you’re battling an unending stream of unearthly opponents, many of who are mutated humans linked to a failed military experiment.
Blacksite encompasses six episodes and 34 missions. Each segment has an interesting label, reminiscent of catch phrases that have been widely used in American military strategy pronouncements, such as “coalition of the willing” and “stay the course.” In truth, the levels get a lot more interesting later on in the game; the early parts in Iraq are particularly dismal, like a really pale imitation of Call of Duty 4. There’s considerably linearity in how you progress from one objective to the next, without varied ways to overcome obstacles. Often, frustratingly, this progression involves a lot of artificially injected scripted incidents that seem to occur on cue no matter what you do.
The monsters in Blacksite are one of the high points of the game. You encounter mutated soldiers, bugs, worms and repulsive creatures of all types; this title definitely wins the award for having the ugliest baddies I’ve seen in quite a while. Many of the larger ones have identifiable weak spots you must hit to kill them, just like in old arcade games. The battle against the final boss is similarly reminiscent of the final showdowns in several classic shooters I’ve played. My favorite foe is a gargantuan tentacled creature you encounter on a bridge, and the combat there is spectacular. You do encounter a lot of the smaller monsters repeatedly, and at times dealing with swarms of them gets more than a bit tedious.
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