Cheap and nasty aren't two words generally used to extol the virtues of anything outside of a red-light district, but they accurately describe the very good Blacklight: Tango Down. Zombie Studios has done a tremendous job with this multiplayer first-person shooter for Xbox Live Arcade, delivering a remarkably feature-filled game for just 1,200 points. While there are some rough spots here, like the worthless single-player/co-op mode and a few grievances over map design, you get a lot of action for just $15. All of the console shooter basics are covered here, and the design also incorporates a few twists so that it doesn't feel like you're playing a bargain-basement Call of Duty.
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Of course, Blacklight: Tango Down is pretty much that. The game is console-shooter boilerplate, with quasi-realistic, brutal, and fast-paced action where you can get taken down with just a splattering of shots or a single well-placed bullet to the head. The story is set in a near-future Russia, which has gone all grim and dystopian. City streets have become battlegrounds in a war between Blacklight, a team of elite US commandos, and The Order, a team of US commandos gone rogue who might be turning people into some kind of zombies. Apparently. The plot is completely ignored in the game itself, so you have to read the how-to-play text if you're really curious to know why these gangs of high-tech soldiers in sci-fi suits are shooting each other. Controls are standard for the genre, and you get gadgets like kaboom grenades and special digital pineapples that cause a cloud of pixelated distortion in your suit's funky goggles. You can also activate the hyper-reality visor, a limited-time x-ray-specs deal that lets you spot enemies through walls via their heat signatures and locate health and weapons caches.
Along with the lack of a plot is the lack of a solo mode of play. Single-player and co-op available via the Black Ops option is a waste of time. Taking on four maps full of bad guys either alone or with up to three buddies sounds cool, but the reality is a lot less interesting. Maps are thoroughly linear. You trudge forward, kill the bad guys until they stop spawning, and occasionally open a barrier by playing lame minigames, including a variant on Simon. Firefights can be very tense because just a couple of shots can kill you, and the game ends immediately as soon as you die (there is no save option, even when playing solo). But predictability soon wins out because enemy soldiers do little aside from find cover and hunker down, only peeking out regularly to open fire. Levels quickly turn into creepfests because you have to keep your head down and slink forward until you find a good firing position of your own. Battles are somewhat reminiscent of the gunfights from the Police Squad TV show, where Frank Drebin and the villain of the week would exchange shots from a few feet apart while hiding behind garbage cans.