And just where in the world is this going on?
Well, I tried to find out more about where exactly this game takes place, but there is a surprisingly little amount of information available about the setting. This was a bit disappointing since I am a fan of all things science-fiction, and a Cyberpunk shooter is a breath of fresh air in a market that is otherwise dominated by cookie cutter modern military shooters.
From what I did manage to gather up through forum diving, the game takes place 50 or so years in the future in a city that has been described as a Neo Tokyo style city. Judging from the signs I've seen when fighting, it probably is Neo Tokyo. Apparently there was also a viral outbreak and the civilians had either died of disease or were evacuated, leaving the city and all the facilities within it. With the city and all of its resources free for the taking, global arms corporations hire mercenaries to go in and secure the remaining resources for themselves.
While the game and websites related to it don't have much information on the lore and setting of the world, it is hardly what most players are here for.
So what makes this a Cyberpunk Shooter?
Blacklight: Retribution is an incredibly fast paced shooter and it has several similarities with other shooters, these mainly being found in game modes. There's death match, capture the flag (node), king of the hill and even an escort mission where you have to escort a small walker tank to an extraction point. Blacklight: Retribution does actually use it's setting for a few gameplay elements that aren't in your standard issue shooter.
Besides the fancy equipment mercenaries bring into battle, there are all sorts of things in the game world. You can cut off access to areas by hacking doors and locking them down so enemies have to hack them again to get through. This mechanic is also applied to taking control of nodes from the enemy team. Just be careful when hacking as you will be incredibly vulnerable to any enemies that decide to stop for a visit, even more so if you make a mistake when hacking and get a nasty shock.
This actually adds quite a bit of pressure when you have to hack a door open for your teams node carrier with enemies hot on your trail. Or even worse, waiting just on the other side of the door.
Speaking of enemies on the other side of the door, or anywhere really, every single mercenary in the game also comes equipped with a Hyper Reality Vision mode for their helmets, or HRV. This allows players to effectively see through the world to spot all sorts of important things. Enemies and team mates are the most prominent ones on the field, but it also highlights objectives and things you could interact with, consoles that players can hack or even more important a weapon depot.
Weapon depots are an interesting bit of technology in the game. They are effectively vending machines that were deployed across the city to provide assistance in case of riots or invasion. Now they respond to the mercenaries and so long as they have enough credits, they can pick up anything from medical injectors to a target painter in order to call down an air strike. Better yet, you can always call in a Hard Suit.
Players can earn credits to spend on weapon depots each match, and these aren't tied to the free to play currency players can use to unlock more equipment outside of a match. These two currencies are separate which is great because this way there is no reason not to spend them. Players earn credits through killing enemies, performing their objectives, and even when your team is doing better than the other team. And there is no need to worry about losing credits upon death. Your credit counter stays with you regardless of how many times you die through out the match, or round as some game modes have.
Luckily, Blacklight: Retribution has a very good tutorial that'll help you get a hang of the basics in the safety of a nice, quiet and relatively safe practice range. You can even practice piloting a hard suit there.
Free to Play not Pay to Win.
Starting out as a new player in Blacklight: Retribution you will be armed with a very basic assault rifle. There is nothing fancy about it, especially when comparing it to the weapons of other players that have been playing a bit longer or those that have spent cash. But I very quickly found that I was not lacking for potency in the slightest. After getting a hang of how it handled I found myself out-classing a lot of the "Pay to Win" players that had much more specialized equipment than I had. The basic assault rifle and armor are nothing to underestimate.
That being said, players still don't have to spend a dime on this game unless they want to purchase a hero character or alternate camo pattern. Hero characters come with their own load out, which you can customize to some degree, and have some advantages over standard characters but over all I find them to be really fancy skins.
Blacklight: Retribution has two types of currencies: Zen and GP, with the cash shop currency being Zen. The smallest stack players can buy costs 10 USD which gets them 1000 Zen which, unfortunately doesn't get you a lot in the way of weapon parts or equipment.
Then there is GP the free to play currency. After every match players earn GP along with XP. While a player that uses Zen can buy equipment from any level so long as they have the Zen for it, a free player has to reach the level requirement for equipment. Players have the option of renting equipment from one to seven days or buy permanently for their character. Permanent being the most expensive option, usually in thousands of GP. This may scare off some free players but I found myself making 200GP per bad match and 300+ when I did good so that's something like 10+ matches per piece of equipment or gun part. So if you find yourself enjoying the game but want more than a basic assault rifle and don't want to buy zen, just stick with it. You'll be decked out before you know it.
Legitimate customization? In my shooter?
As if being set in a cyberpunk future wasn't enough to get me excited about Blacklight: Retribution it had to go and add a pretty solid customization system where no two mercenaries have to look even remotely alike and the same goes for their weapons.
Starting out with equipment, players can change everything about their mercenary. Helmet, upper body and lower body armor. The weight class of the armor affects player speed and how much health they have. For upper and lower body armor, this also dictates how many equipment slots they have to carry utility items like a melee weapon, grenades, EMPs and items that generally make it unpleasant to look in the general direction they were deployed, and even hide players from HRV.
Speaking of HRV, helmets affect this in a fairly serious way, affecting how long HRV lasts to how quickly it recharges. This is important because HRV can only be re-activated if it is at full charge. Strangely enough, head armor is also the only kind that adds any sort of resistance to damage. This proved disappointing and just flat out made no sense to me with the massive upper body armor I have my eyes on, just because I like how it looks.
About a week ago I mentioned in my Tom Clancy: Future Soldier review that their gunsmith wasn't really a gunsmith. Tweaking your gun was something you could do but it wasn't really the "Make your own gun" that it was advertised to be. Well, if you wanted to build your own gun, Blacklight: Retribution will let you do just that!
Players start out with building their gun by choosing a receiver, which essentially dictates what kind of gun it is. From there players can change the barrel, muzzle attachments, optics and stock. This doesn't sound a lot different from Future Soldier, but when you see it in game there is a huge variety of parts and each one of them has a distinct lock to them so every players weapon is their own. If Zombie Studios decides to add in customization for the internal workings of the guns like Future Soldier has, it would add a lot more depth to weapon customization but I also understand that it must be a nightmare to balance weapons and all the different possible combinations as it stand.
Speaking of balance! The game is amazingly well balanced. Out of all the combinations that are possible, there aren't really any weapons that feel over powered, even with special ammo taken into account.
All in all, Blacklight: Retribution is a great game and well balanced between free players and cash shop players. It's a beautiful game in an interesting setting with all sorts of fun gadgets to play with. If you love fast paced competitive shooters it is certainly worth giving a shot.