The name "Area 51" immediately evokes a number of things relating to the US government, ranging from secret aircraft test programs to more colorful conspiracies, such as aliens and space ships. In the world of gaming, Midway has used Area 51 in a series of pretty hokey alien-filled games, ranging from light gun shooters that started in arcades to cheesy first-person shooters filled with all kinds of weird conspiracy theories. BlackSite: Area 51 continues the lineage in a more serious manner, but it doesn't necessarily make for a better game overall. The game's strong graphical presentation is overshadowed by its run-of-the-mill gameplay, which is in turn overshadowed by a series of glitches.
The relevance of the game's opening Iraq missions doesn't become clear until later, but it all fits in the end.
The game puts you in the role of Aeran Pierce, leader of Echo Squad. You'll roll with the same set of squadmates throughout, and the backstory is filled in with their chatter between firefights. The game opens in the recent past, with Pierce and his team deep in Iraq, looking for weapons of mass destruction. Instead, you find some not-quite-human enemies that are quickly explained away as humans with extreme cases of encephalitis. Then, you encounter swarms of creatures that explode like land mines when you shoot them. After a brief Iraq portion that sets the stage for what's to come, the rest of the game takes place in Nevada where you're told that a militia has risen up and seized control of Rachael. This is the town near Groom Lake and Area 51 itself, as well as its surrounding areas. While it's painted as Americans who have risen up in protest of the government, that's only half the truth. As you get deeper into the invasion, you'll uncover what's really going on, though the game fumbles when it comes to explanations and never really tells you from where the alien creatures originally came. The level titles and a few references to modern-day sticking points, such as Abu Ghraib, attempt to give the game a bit of an edge, but the content doesn't back up that edge very much, making level titles like "Mission Accomplished" (complete with sneer quotes) feel forced.
The action in BlackSite's single-player game is very straightforward. You'll control a squad, but your control only uses one button. If you hit the squad button, you can order your team to move to specific positions. You can focus fire on enemies by hitting the button while pointing at an enemy. You can also use it to order squadmates to utilize mounted gun positions, but you'll mainly use it to get your squadmates to open doors. Apparently Pierce is too good to open doors by himself. The squad mechanic feels slapdash and rarely necessary during the course of combat. Focusing fire on enemies doesn't work as well as pulling the trigger yourself; thus, it just seems faster and easier to do most of the shooting yourself. There are a couple of extended vehicle sequences where you'll drive a Humvee from one location to another while one of your squadmates lays down fire from a mounted gun to take out several giant worms that keep sprouting out of the ground. The vehicles handle just fine.
You'll get your hands on a few prototype weapons, such as a scattergun that fires rounds that can bounce off walls or a beam cannon that delivers large bolts of energy. But most of the time, you'll be using a standard-issue assault rifle. The aiming assists that make your reticle stick to enemies a bit make that make your reticle stick to enemies a bit, making firing on target a little too easy, even if you don't hold the weapons up and properly aim. Most of the enemies you face are humanoids, though you'll also face off against a handful of more creative creatures, such as the fire brute, which is a huge four-legged boss creature with a bright, glowing weak spot on its back that you have to take down with homing antitank weaponry. The game could have used more enemy diversity.