BlackSite: Area 51

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BlackSite: Area 51
North American cover art
Developer(s) Midway Studios Austin
Publisher(s) Midway
Designer(s) Harvey Smith
Composer(s) Jason Graves
Series Area 51
Engine Unreal Engine 3
Platform(s) PC
PlayStation 3
Xbox 360
Release date(s)
  • NA November 12, 2007[1]
  • EU November 30, 2007[1]
  • AU November 29, 2007[1]
Genre(s) First-person shooter
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer
Distribution Optical disc

BlackSite: Area 51 (BlackSite in Europe) is a horror science fiction first-person shooter video game, released for Xbox 360 and Windows on November 12, 2007 in North America, with a PlayStation 3 version coming a few weeks later. The game is mostly unrelated to the 2005 Multi-platform game Area 51. The game was developed by Midway Austin and published by Midway. A demo of the game for the Xbox 360 was released via Xbox Live Marketplace on May 11, 2007. A PS3 demo was released December 11, 2007.

The game has been noted for its cynical political commentary, which challenges the often black and white viewpoint of many first person shooters with an unusually messy and nebulous situation.[2] Characters comment on the injustice of the military's treatment of prisoners or wounded soldiers, the ethics of torture and other controversial subjects related to the War on Terror. Many level names are plays on speeches or comments made by members of the Bush administration regarding the Iraq War, i.e. "Last Throes", "Stay the Course" and "Misunderestimate".

Gameplay[edit]

BlackSite: Area 51 features standard first-person shooter gameplay. It uses a regenerating health system; additionally the player's character can absorb relatively large amounts of gunfire before dying. The game features six different weapons, though only two can be carried at the same time. The game also features the ability to use grenades and melee attacks. The game's main weapon, the M4 carbine, has a holographic sight that can be aimed through for zooming in on distant targets. The game does not feature the ability to lean around corners.[3]

One of the main features of the game is squad tactics. For almost the entire game, the player will have a team of two A.I. controlled squadmates accompanying them. Squadmates can be ordered to move on a location, concentrate their fire on a specific enemy, man a mounted turret, or set explosive charges on certain items. Squad commands are given with a single button; the commands are context sensitive based on what the player points the cursor at. Squadmates cannot be killed, and will only be knocked out for a brief period after taking a certain amount of damage.

The game also features a morale system, where squad morale increases as the player kills enemies or scores headshots, and decreases as the player takes damage or as squadmates are injured or incapacitated. At high morale, squadmates fight much more effectively and can survive more damage, while at low morale they contribute much less to firefights, and are incapacitated much more easily.

The game also features several vehicle sections, where the player must drive a civilian van or military Humvee cross-country to reach a location, while dealing with enemy attacks. The player can exit the vehicle at any time to collect items, investigate buildings, or man the Humvee's mounted machine gun.

Multiplayer[edit]

The multiplayer features modes such as Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the flag, Siege,and Human VS. Reborn. The Siege and Human VS. Reborn are different and unique from other games. It allows the teams to attempt to control each of the level's territories while trying to capture one another. The Deathmatch mode, as well as the rest of the online portion of the game has a maximum number of 10 players. There is no local multiplayer.

Multiplayer on PC could only be played after setting up an in-game account but with publisher Midway now out of business multiplayer accounts cannot be created for the PC edition of the game, rendering it unplayable online.

Story[edit]

The game begins with Captain Aeran Pierce and the rest of his Delta Force Echo Squad being sent to investigate a supposed weapons bunker in Iraq. They are accompanied by the head of an elite science team, Doctor Noa Weis. The bunker is infested with mutated humans and wildlife (referred to collectively as Xenos) created by an alien crystal found in the bunker. This crystal incapacitates Pierce and forces the squad to retreat. One member of the squad, Lieutenant Logan Somers, is left behind during the retreat.

Three years later, a heavily armed militia has taken control of Area 51 and the surrounding area, accompanied by an outbreak of alien creatures identical to those encountered in Iraq. Echo Squad and Doctor Weis have been chosen to reclaim the base. They begin with the nearby town of Rachel, where they discover that the “militia” are actually cybernetically enhanced US soldiers known as Reborn. Echo Squad finds survivors in Rachel, but as they rescue the survivors, they find Lieutenant Somers, now a Reborn. Somers explains that the Reborn program was designed to replace the volunteer army of U.S. citizens with expendable supersoldiers, using subjects forcibly recruited from groups of people who could disappear without being noticed, such as the homeless, illegal immigrants, and military without family. Because of the harsh experiments, one of them led an insurrection.

Back at base, they find out that Weis was in charge of the Reborn program, but it was shut down years ago and the soldiers sealed in Area 51. Somers led the Reborn to escape and seek revenge, using an alien device of which the crystal in Iraq was a stolen component of. After being revealed as the Reborn leader, Somers betrays Echo Squad and retreats back to Area 51 as the Xenos and Reborn attack the base. Echo Squad successfully repels the attack, then joins another military division in an assault on Area 51. During the assault, Pierce is captured and the rest of Echo Squad is killed.

Inside Area 51, Pierce discovers that the Xenos were actually created by spores emitted by the alien device, and that Somers is using the device to spread the spores across the surface of Earth. Pierce escapes with the assistance of Dr. Weis, then shuts down the device and kills Somers in a shootout. The game ends with Pierce and Weis flying off in a helicopter to assess the damage caused by the Xeno spores.

Graphics[edit]

The game uses Midway's modified Unreal 3 engine that was developed for Stranglehold[citation needed]. This allows for more realistic graphics and effects, such as having rain bounce off the player's weapon. Many destructible objects are featured, but most of the environment is not alterable. A high level of interactivity between the landscape, the player character and the AI is shown, such as when a petrol station sign is shot at, one of the AI squad members says "Yeah, I hate those prices too."

Demo[edit]

On May 11, 2007 a demo for the Xbox 360 was released on the Xbox Live Marketplace. The demo is set early in the game in the town of Rachel, Nevada, the closest civilian settlement to Area 51. Armed with an M4 Carbine with a reflex sight attachment and the Mark 23 handgun, Pierce and his two-man squad search what remains of the alien-infested town for another squad, later found dead. The demo ends after a red flare is seen in the distance, signifying that some members of the squad survived, and Pierce witnesses a massive alien organism fall from the sky only to land in front of the squad sending a shockwave and cars flying. The demo mentions a "Human Vs. Reborn" multiplayer mode, suggesting that the alien lifeforms are a reborn form of something else, hence the suggestion that they are modified humans. A second demo was released onto Xbox Live Marketplace, a week after the game's release.[4]

Trivia[edit]

  • Two references to Star Wars are made in the opening levels of the game, both while driving a support vehicle. One is the infamous "targeting computer" line, while the other is Darth Vader's, "I find your lack of faith disturbing."
  • An X-Men reference is in the name of Echo Squad member Lieutenant Logan Somers: Logan is Wolverine's name, while Somers is a play on Cyclops' last name (i.e. Scott Summers).
  • A Mortal Kombat reference is also present in the game. At one point in the game, the player will find himself at a drive-in movie. At the back, there's a building where the film projector is located. On the first floor, when they enter, to their left there will be an arcade machine that says "Mortal Kombat", and it has the official logo. It also sports some of the art from the original arcade machine.
  • The game states that the alien artifact was stolen from Area 51. This may be a reference to the 2005 Area 51 video game that has a truck driving away from the destroyed Groom Lake base carrying an unknown glowing alien artifact in the final cutscene.

Reception[edit]

The game received mixed reviews, receiving a metacritic rating (as of November 25, 2008) of 60 for Microsoft Windows, 62 for Xbox 360 and 56 for PlayStation 3.[5]

On November 29, 2007 Harvey Smith, the game's designer, came out publicly to announce how ruined the game's development schedule was. He claimed the schedule caused the low reviews due to the fact they were not able to test the game properly.[6] He lost his job at Midway soon after making this comment.[7]

References[edit]

External links[edit]