Home > Opinions (Gaming) > Gaming: Project Pile of Shame – Day Three

Gaming: Project Pile of Shame – Day Three

The project: To spend two hours playing every console game from this generation that I own but have never touched (the ‘pile of shame’), to see if any of them are worth spending more time with. On the third day I played:

Blacksite: Area 51

Blacksite Firefight

The difficulty levels you can choose from are three threat levels: Yellow, Orange and Red. They're summarised as Casual, Hard and Expert, and while they're only names I still would have thought there would be a 'normal' in there between 'casual' and 'hard'.

System: Xbox 360 (also on PS3 and PC)

Reason I’ve never played it: Bought by my brother, probably for the achievements. He never actually played it though.

Achievements earned: Five (50 gamerscore)

Thoughts: Epic’s Unreal Engine 3 has really taken off this generation and has essentially become the default shooter engine for the HD consoles, which must make it a real struggle for developers to get their Unreal Engine sci-fi first-person shooters to stand out from the crowd.  Blacksite: Area 51 doesn’t do a good job of that.

The developers elected to start the game before all the inevitable alien sections, kicking off with a search for chemical weapons in Iraq, which means most of the opening two hours plays out like a modern shooter. Perhaps it might not have been such an issue playing it at release, but playing it after Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (which released just days before Blacksite) all but killed off the World War 2 setting and brought war shooters into modern settings makes Blacksite feel like a fairly generic rip-off, fighting Iraqi soldiers in a setting that is almost entirely coloured in beige, with regenerating health and a limit of the number of weapons you can carry.

Throw in multiple turret sections (including one on-rails section while you’re in a vehicle) and for most of my playtime there was almost nothing unique or special about it. It’s not particularly bad and there are some good things – it uses the same vehicle controls as Halo (which all shooters should do) and in a later level lets you choose to be gunner or driver, and there was one mildly amusing bit where your driver stops the vehicle for a bathroom break – but by and large it’s a wholly unmemorable opening.


There's a surprising lack of recoil on the guns, which stay almost completely still when fired (even the sniper rifle).

By the end of the Iraq sequence some of the aliens/mutants had been introduced, the main one being a melee-only enemy that is easily taken down by your powerful melee attack (which isn’t in any way a mistake limited to Blacksite, as even Gears of War 2 thought it was a good idea to introduce melee enemies despite your primary weapon having an instant-kill chainsaw attached).

After that it’s goodbye to the sandy settlements of Iraq and hello to… the deserts of Nevada, with the team making their way towards the (possibly alien-infested) town of Rachel. There’s a greater variety of enemies here but the setting is still fairly bland, and it was only within the final minutes of my two hours that I reached Rachel and things started to get more interesting (which is the same sequence used in the demo). Not enough to get me to come back though.

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  1. January 3, 2011 at 19:02

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