Well, that kind of says it all, doesn’t it?
I’m still kind of in the dark, I really don’t know what I did. One night, Rigger82 calls me over to his house and hands me this… Maybe it was payback for the time I stenciled “USMC” across his driveway, or maybe that time I scored a headshot on him in Battlefield 3 with a tank I stole from his base. Either way, payback is a bitch. I’m sorry.
Blackwater was released just a few weeks ago on October 25th. I’m not quite certain what prompted former Blackwater USA (now Xe Services) CEO Erik Prince to approach 505 Games and Zombie Studios with this idea, and I sure as hell would like to know who thought this one through and said “Hell yeah, that sounds good!” Scratch that, I don’t want to know, some mysteries are better left unanswered. As games go, well this one strikes new ground. I have never played anything so bad, it made me want to channel Darth Vader and force choke the developers. This is no soup sandwich, this is a full six course meal of horseshit, and you get the choice nugget.
Some time ago, following a few rather public incidents, Erik Prince resigned as Blackwater’s CEO. The company was rebranded Xe Services, and continues to operate as a Private Military Company. Prince retained rights to the Blackwater name, however, and decided to relaunch the brand…as a Kinect game. Well, to be fair if you visit the new Blackwater website, you can also get a coffee mug or a tactical Blackwater beer koozie. The Blackwater towels aren’t up yet, and you can find a picture of a knife, but those aren’t available either. They take Visa, Mastercard and Discover.
The story is set in a fictional North African town of Harri in the equally fictitious country of Limbano. You control Agile-22, a four man squad of Blackwater operatives who, from looking at them, are all related somehow to a Fallout Bobblehead. The team consists of Devin, Baird (whose name constantly sounds like “beard” and since he has one, is fitting), Smash (who has the obligatory Security Contractor bald head and goatee) and Eddi, who remembered his name is supposed to have an “e” in it, but not how many. The team drives up in it’s convoy of Black SUVs, because those never stand out when you are in a tactical environment, and meets with their point of contact, a Sikh in cammies. I don’t know, could happen, he’s not wearing any U.N. insignia so I figure the local North African Sikh community is proud, but they might be riled to find out the voice actor is probably the same guy who does the voice of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon in The Simspons.
The first mission involves escorting an aid convoy. During the scene, the members of Agile-22 joke with each other. Smash stands in the open sun roof canopy of his SUV, one hand on his hip, shotgun resting over his shoulder in a fine display of muzzle and tactical awareness. “Hey, I’m riding shotgun, WITH a shotgun!” he says, and the crowd goes wild…The jokes just keep on coming, but the humor remains behind.
The convoy comes under attack, and you can almost hear the sound effects guy rattling a piece of aluminum while saying “boom” in the microphone. What follows next is a quick engagement with an army of look alike insurgents, all wearing khaki tactical vests and red shirts. The bad guys move in and out of screen like sliding range targets as your player feed confirms your score, +10 Militia Killed…The game moves on to several other missions, all aimed at protecting aid workers and dignitaries amid the backdrop of internal strife in a nation overrun by a warlord.The various scenarios are all fairly realistic, in that they could happen, but the delivery is rather like watching the Three Stooges read the Gettysburg Address. Sadly, what might have been a decent FPS title for the Kinect ends up becoming a chest thumping, media whoring propaganda piece that ends up sucking hind tit on a bull.
Blackwater uses the Unreal Engine, and I am thinking Epic should find a way to disavow any connection to this game whatsoever, or at least institute a new clause in their licensing contracts, call it “The Blackwater Effect.” The characters all look like they were drawn for a 1970s cartoon, with heads so disproportionate to their bodies they look like dashboard collectibles. All of the models are flat, featureless, and look interchangeable with any number of other characters. The explosions are laughable, as well as the claims that the game features a destructible environment. If this were the first title by developer Zombie Studios, I might be tempted to give it a pass, but it is not. What they need to do is fire every damn person who worked on the graphics, and replace them with finger painting 4 year olds, that way the quality will improve a bit.
Whether it is the bad, over the top acting, or too dramatic music, this game should serve as a training tool for gamers and developers alike as glistening example of what not to do. IF, after this review you simply have to go out and buy this game, do yourself the favor and disable the subtitles. Hearing the voice overs is bad enough, but reading them is the next thing to torture. And me without my Kinect waterboard…
In addition to the standard Campaign mode, we are blessed with Quick Play and Competition maps. The Competition Maps consists of three different map areas, and are able to accommodate players numbering from 1 to 8. I didn’t have a chance to try this one out, so I can’t speak on it, turns out there are not a lot of folks interested in playing Blackwater. In Quickplay you can access any of the maps you have already played, or go to the Training Camp to learn the controls.
Blackwater uses the Xbox 360 Kinect sensor, but you can also play with a standard controller. Using the Kinect to play the game is like trying to open a can of peas with one chopstick and a can of Wesson. It’s sloppy, unresponsive and pointless. The aiming reticle jumps around so much, anyone not watching you would think you are having a seizure. The point of aim is way off, even after tuning the sensor and working within the game’s menu to adjust settings, I still found that pointing my hand AT the target did not translate to an accurate aim. Bottom right somehow is the middle, and I wonder if instead of my hand, the game is programmed to track my elbow. Switching over from the Kinect to the standard controller is no good either, your aim improves and the reticle stops dancing like an overworked stripper, but you lose the ability to move in the game effectively. By the time it is all done, you wish your controller had a wire so you could choke someone out. When you do somehow manage to get close to what you are aiming at, it locks on and you fire after a pause.
That brief pause part, that is what bothers me. The game’s home page touts employing realistic tactics to handle potentially lethal scenarios. The only thing realistic, is that your expectations should be low. The pause in between acquiring your target and actually putting rounds downrange is enough to infuriate anyone who has ever handled a weapon.
The only value in this game is comedy, or perhaps the joke you will get out of it if you buy it for someone else. At 30 bucks you can kiss my ass.
The development team of Blackwater, as well as the supposed technical consultation that went into this steaming pile of tripe, have taken all their hard work and given us something to laugh at. This game is an insult to the gaming and military community. Erik Prince has tried to give the Blackwater name a better image, but instead turned it into a bad joke delivered by a stuttering comedian with lockjaw.