“Blacklight: Tango Down” (rated T, $15 Xbox Live Arcade download): I saw this $15, download-only multiplayer shooter during my trip to E3 in Los Angeles last month and came away impressed. Set 25 years in the future, the multiplayer-only title ships with 12 maps and seven different game modes. It supports up to 16 players and includes four co-op missions that can be played by four players at a time.
At E3, I saw and played what could best be described as a standard deathmatch mode, and while the game obviously wasn’t as visually impressive as some of the higher-end, $60 first-person shooters, I’d say the graphics were probably on par with such Xbox 360 launch titles as “Perfect Dark Zero” or “Call of Duty 2.” They’re passable.
The game’s two big innovations are tied into one another. First, the hyper-reality visor, or HRV, gives players a sort of souped-up X-ray vision that lets them see everything in their immediate vicinity, from enemies to allies, health stations and ammunition. The only catch is that you can’t shoot during the three- to five-second window during which the HRV is active. It also has a cooldown time, so you can just mash the button as you run around looking for your enemies. The second innovation is a visor-distorting grenade. If a player equipped with this grenade tosses it, the entire blast area becomes pixilated. Players inside the blast zone won’t be able to see anything, and players on the outside will just see a sphere of gooey pixels. It’s a neat twist on the now-ubiquitous flashbang grenade.
The other big feature publisher Ignition Entertainment is touting is the hojillion different customizable weapon options. In short, the longer you play, the more stocks, barrels and sights you’ll unlock for your weapon. You’ll also be able to add personalized flourishes to your weapon by adding little tags and perk-bestowing good luck charms, in much the same way real-life soldiers personalize their gear with reminders of home. All in all, it looks like a solid, budget-priced multiplayer-only shooter with more maps and game modes than many full-priced games. As for how it plays, what I saw looked plenty polished, but there was no option to invert the look on the beta build I played, which made me downright useless in deathmatch. I died. A lot.
PC and PlayStation 3 versions are coming soon, but as of this writing, the game’s only available on the Xbox 360.
“Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Sky” (rated T, $40 on DS): While I prefer to play my 30-hour-long role-playing games on consoles, not handhelds, the format should free “Dragon Quest IX” from some of the in-game-movie bloat that bogged down “Final Fantasy XIII” on Xbox 360 and PS3. From all accounts, this is a pitch-perfect, party-driven role-playing game reminiscent of early “DQ” or “Final Fantasy” titles, though reviews emphasize its linearity. A review copy showed up last week, so I’ll hopefully have a review or impressions soon, but first I’ve gotta rummage around and find the charge cable for my DS. It’s been AWOL a little too long.
“Crackdown 2” (rated M, $60 on Xbox 360): I covered it pretty well in my review of this game earlier in the week. Despite its middling review scores, “Crackdown 2” can be a heck of a lot of fun if you play it online with two or three friends. If you play this open-world supercop game solo, you’ll get bored after a few hours. But the game takes on a fun enough life of its own once more players are added to the mix that it’s a good fit for threesomes or foursomes who play games like “Left 4 Dead” and “Borderlands.” If it’s too tough a buy at $60, consider revisiting once its price drops to $40.
“Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable” (rated M, $40 on PlayStation Portable): Though I haven’t played one myself, the “Persona” series that meshes dating simulation with hack-and-slash role-playing game sounds like one of the best things going on the PlayStation 2 in recent years. Now, the third game is getting a PSP release with enough new content to make the game fresh for veterans.
“Monkey Island 2 Special Edition: LeChuck’s Revenge” (rated, $10 download for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3): LucasArts has prettied up this classic PC adventure game the same way they did for the first “Monkey Island” game last summer. While 1Up’s review points out a number of notable omissions from the game’s classic mode, the game remains a staple of the genre and many younger players aren’t going to notice the missing bits anyway.
“Dragon Age: Origins” (rated M, $40 on Xbox 360 or PS3, $30 on PC): The downloadable content keeps coming for my 2009 Game of the Year. This week’s batch, priced at $7, is a prequel adventure for Leliana, one of your traveling companions from the main game. It’s incredibly cool that BioWare keeps pumping out these side missions involving secondary characters. The big draw for me in “Dragon Age” was the depth and complexity of your traveling companions, so this bit of content really seems to play to the game’s strengths.
“Despicable Me: The Game – Minion Mayhem” (rated E, $30 on DS): Don’t confuse the DS version of this movie tie-in game with what you’ll find on the Wii, Xbox 360 or PS3. “Minion Mayhem” is a different experience, a puzzle/platform-jumping game that reminded me a little bit of Xbox Live Arcade cult hit “Cloning Clyde” when I saw it at E3. This game’s probably overpriced at $30, but if your kids see the “Despicable Me” movie and you want to buy them a tie-in game that’s not horrible, the DS version might be your best bet.