BlowOut is an all-out throwback to the classic Contra-style shooter that pits you against hordes of angry alien mutants and equips you with the latest in futuristic weaponry so as to give you the age-old thrill of killing everything in sight. Unfortunately, it offers very few thrills, and instead, an overly cumbersome control scheme and some insanely convoluted level designs suck just about all the fun out of what could have been an entertaining shooter.
'Dutch' Cane says: Killing stuff is cool!
BlowOut has a plot, but like many shooters of this ilk, it's pretty much meaningless. You play the role of one John "Dutch" Cane, a cigar-chomping, gruff-voiced space marine who, as a part of a special unit, must infiltrate a mutant alien-infested space station called the Honour Guard. Of course, not everything goes according to plan, and at the outset of the game, Cane is on his own, left to navigate the many twists and turns of the space station and eliminate the mutant alien threat. This plot never really comes into play, and the focus here is almost solely on the action.
BlowOut features 10 different levels, each of which is rife with twists, turns, elevators, destructible walls and floors, and, of course, evil mutants. Initially Cane will only have a basic machine gun at his disposal (albeit one with unlimited ammunition), as well as a basic map screen that slowly becomes more clear as you progress through a level (a full map can be accessed at a data point contained somewhere inside every stage). As time goes on, Cane will gain access to seven additional weapons: a shotgun, a grenade launcher, a nailgun, a missile launcher, a minigun, a flamethrower, and an impulse cannon. Some weapons are more effective on certain enemies than others, but for the most part, each gun packs a pretty mean punch.
BlowOut's controls are fairly simplistic, but they're not especially easy to get accustomed to. The default controls have you controlling Cane by pressing the left thumbstick in the desired direction, and aiming is achieved by pressing the right thumbstick up and down. Where your actual shots go is shown by a targeting reticle that appears in front of Cane, and you can press the right stick down to lock onto an enemy. The default controls in the PS2 version of BlowOut actually had you both moving and aiming with the left stick, which was a much bigger hassle than it needed to be (though you could switch to a right-stick aiming function by fiddling with the controls). Aiming with the right thumbstick is definitely a little easier on the Xbox than on the PS2, but it can still be a bit unwieldy at times. The remaining controls include the right trigger button to fire your weapon and the left trigger button to make use of Cane's jetpack, which essentially acts as your jumping ability.
Decidedly more problematic is the game's level design, which is so disordered and labyrinthine in nature that the action almost becomes second to the dubiously necessary task of just trying to figure out where you are. The maps are quite useful when trying to locate items like color-coded keys for certain locked doors and elevators to get to different floors, but it's still pretty easy to get badly turned around. Additionally, the game requires a seriously healthy dose of backtracking when it comes to finding certain door locks and keys. Essentially, it's almost required for you to seek out every single room in the level, so as to avoid having to run halfway back across a level just to pick up a key you didn't even know you needed until that moment. There are a few secret passageways behind destructible walls located here and there to shorten up certain sections and hide various power-ups, but they don't help much.