E3 '07: Blacksite: Area 51

With over 900,000 downloads, the demo for Blacksite: Area 51 is poised to become one of the few demos on Marketplace to reach the 1 million mark; obviously, Midway is pleased.

At E3, I sat down with Midway’s Tim DaRosa and tried out the game.

The story revolves around you, Aeran Pierce. You’re a soldier fighting in Iraq, and travel back home to the US. Things start going bad when aliens (and alien experimentations the government has obviously covered up) escape Area 51, and the small towns surrounding it are in trouble. Leading the Delta Force soldiers, it’s up to you to eliminate the threat and restore peace and order.

As any of the 900,000 downloaders know, Blacksite has some rather basic FPS elements, but used in a nice and simple way. For one thing, you can control your squad using only the RB button. Target an enemy and click, and they’ll attack; target a building and click, and they’ll take cover. It’s a very simple system, but it works surprisingly well.

For the most part, the rest of the controls are standard fare; RT fires, clicking in the analog stick crouches, LT zooms in/focuses, etc.

The portions of the game I played showed two elements: the on-rail shooting, and the full-out strategic battle. Taking place near Rachel, Nevada, the on-rail portion involved Aeran traveling in a helicopter, and giving cover fire to an army convoy below. Alien soldiers would occasionally obstruct their travel, and using the helicopter’s mounted machine gun, clearing them out was (literally) a blast.

At the end of the road, a boss fight came into play. The boss in question was some giant tentacled thing, latched onto a bridge and attacking any and all surrounding US forces. "Like all great bosses," Tim joked, "he blocks the bridge." The alien would occasionally shoot giant flaming balls of something at you, and Aeran would need to shoot them out of the air lest the helicopter be damaged.

After weakening it enough, the alien is easily dispatched and falls to its doom a few hundred meters below. One cool feature of the fight was the use of a parked gasoline tanker truck near the alien’s tentacles. "Shoot that truck," Tim told me. I did, and it burst into flame damaging the alien, and creating a hole in the ground which exposed its weak underbelly.

As the boss died, he took a helicopter out with him. A short while later during the flight, you could spot the black smoke of the helicopter in the distance; the next level was on foot, and I needed to free the surviving troops involved in the crash, because they were pinned down.

The fighting in that level was the same sort you see on the demo; fast paced, but still full of strategy. There were alien snipers on the roof and in turrets, but using the RB I could command the helicopter which dropped me off to give supporting fire. With a higher difficulty (and final build) the aliens will realize this happens, and take more strategic positions.

Through the level, there were some weapons not seen in the demo; my favorite was the Javelin. Much like the missile in CoD4, the Javelin in Blacksite doesn’t require a direct line of sight to fire. Once you lock on the target (takes about 3-4 seconds) you can shoot the missile, and it will track them down. (I locked on and tried to fire up around a building, only to have the missile keep on going straight up – "Well, that was weird," Tim said.)

Blacksite: Area 51 doesn’t quite stand up to the level of the other major FPS titles I saw at E3, but it was still a fun game. There was no real word on how multiplayer would function (at least the ones created specifically for the game) so that may end up swaying things. If you’re looking for a good, ol’ fashioned sci-fi FPS game to compete with all of the WW2 shooters out there, Blacksite should serve that purpose quite well; just don’t expect it to compete with Legendary, CoD4, or Fallout 3.


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Author: Brendon Lindsey View all posts by

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