When your name is Sylvester Stallone and you decide to tell the story of a group of military mercenaries who save a country from an evil dictator, you call that project The Expendables, and you put together a dream team of action stars that includes Jason Statham and Jet Li. When you are a game developer with a similar vision, you partner with a real-life military organization and add Kinect support and online leaderboards. You try something unusual but greatly flawed, and call the game Blackwater.
Harri is a land of contrast. Contrast between 'brown' and 'beige.'
Inspired by the military contracting group that was known by the same name until 2009 (but that now calls itself Xe Services LLC), the Blackwater video game is an on-rails shooter that places you in the shoes of four mercenaries who have been hired to bring democracy to the fictional North African country of Harri. Kinect support is substantial enough that you can play the entire game using this method. Unfortunately, the game demands more from you than perhaps it should. Though Blackwater takes place on rails, like the recent Resident Evil light-gun games, there are frequent stops along the way. Battles are often fought from behind crates, vehicles, or doorways. That means you are frequently forced to duck for cover, or you need to take quick steps to the side so that you put yourself out of harm's way as you reload. There are also sequences throughout each stage where you have to perform actions such as jumping across gaps or busting down doors. Kinect play can be exhausting if you don't take breaks, and it can be difficult to manage the required precision and speed even when you're energetic.
If you play with the Kinect control scheme, you'll likely feel a bit like Tom Cruise near the start of Minority Report. You stand facing the screen, and you hold out your left or right hand to direct the aiming reticle. If you want to fire on an enemy, you let the onscreen reticle hover over him for a moment, triggering a burst of gunfire. It's all too easy to fire on a nonthreatening target by accident as you swing your weapon around toward a primary target (helpfully highlighted in red so that you know it's a threat). The result: wasting ammo on civilians, and having to pause and reload while still being fired upon by enemies positioned above you or to the side.
The alternative to the Kinect is the standard Xbox 360 controller, but going that route is no less punishing. The right analog stick controls movement, but not consistently. Moving the stick left swings your perspective to the right most of the time, but occasionally the opposite is true. There's a setting in the options screen to invert the y-axis, but you're stuck with whatever potentially illogical controls the game deems most appropriate in a given situation. Until you adapt to that dynamic, it can lead to frequent instances when you're trying to duck behind a pile of crates to recover from getting hammered with enemy fire, but instead you roll out into the center of an area and soak up even more bullets.
Wave that reticle around like your life depends on it!