Earth, the future. Well, 25 years from now. Obviously it’s one of those bleak, shellshocked, dystopian futures, because if video games have taught us anything (besides how to kill people), it’s that the future will be bleak, shellshocked, and totally dystopian. Anyway, this guy whose name (Colonel Klein) bears absolutely no resemblance whatsoever to someone else’s (Colonel Kurtz), has recruited the local thugs and gone renegade as a self-styled warlord somewhere in Cambodia Eastern Europe. Enter Blacklight, a covert spec ops team comprising four guys presumably really good at shooting stuff quietly, who are dispatched to terminate the rogue Colonel’s command. If the penultimate chapter of this game concludes up with a bloated, corpulent Colonel Klein delivering a slurring and intellectually provocative soliloquy on war and the human condition, I totally called it first.
Back to the future then, and one Zombie Studios’ co-CEO Mark Lang describes as “science fact”, Blacklight is an Unreal Engine 3-powered squad-based tactical shooter, with 4-way drop-in/drop-out co-op play. The buzzwordy “science fact” bit means that in-game tech and gear is already realised in current military research and development, so no silly chainsaw bayonets on guns here. Instead, there’s this futuristic-but-totally-plausible thing called a “turtle helmet” that lets players see through walls, and share that feed with everyone else. Using futuristic-but-totally-plausible camouflaging technology, players can remain still and avoid detection on the turtle helmet’s infra-red visor, although they’ll be every bit as visible as ever in plain sight. There will also be futuristic-but-totally-plausible deployable infra-red decoys. If this is starting to sound a bit like Halo with wallhacks, it’s probably because it sounds exactly like Halo with wallhacks.
There’s also something Lang’s calling “tac jumping”, where players can jump instantly into AI squadmates, and take control of them. Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear had something like that back in 1999, but you had to die first. I think I prefer this new version.
It’s also more than just a game. Zombie has joined forces with a bunch of other companies to produce a feature film and comic series to complement the game. “The through line in the Blacklight story spans five decades, beginning today and ending approximately 2059,” Long elaborates. “The comic prequel, set in present day, introduces the protagonist and antagonist and the origins of the Blacklight team. The game and feature film, set in 2041, bring their conflict to climax. And the sequel follows one of the characters into the distant and surprising future.” They’re already planning a sequel? This guy must hang out with Lorne Lanning. “It’s an ambitious project and I’ve been fortunate to find partners at Fox Atomic and Union who share that same vision. We are cooperating on the comic, game and movie at levels that are unprecedented in the industry.” Apparently nobody over at Zombie HQ has dared to tell him about Dead Space.