Blacksite: Area 51
So You're Charged with creating a violent force of interstellar origin for a pseudo follow-up to the relatively dismal Area 51 in what, hopefully, should be a more refined outing in alien flouting. What's your first step, Harvey 'Deus Ex' Smith?
"We initially looked at all these images of jellyfish, worms, plankton, parasites, all that really disgusting-looking stuff we carry around in our bodies all the time..." explains BlackSite's cheery creative director. "One of our creatures, the drudge, came from those urban-myth photos from Iraq with the soldiers holding up giant camel spiders. We were looking at the skin of the camel spider and the things were disgusting, so we moved in that direction."
I Got Soul...
The heart of BlackSite may be in its standard squad combat, grenade chucks and fixed perspective helicopter sidegunning at giant 'Tremors' beasts. However, Smith wants its soul a little more mature and edgy. Much like in the forthcoming Haze, he's aiming for popcorn gaming with a thoughtprovoking twist. The action begins just outside Tikrit in Iraq, where illegally traded alien parts have been buried out of sight and out of mind in a forgotten bunker. Ever on alert for weapons of mass destruction, meanwhile, you and your fellow Yanks are sent on in. Unfortunately, in this case, the WMDs exist here as well as back home in Area 51: and the accidental and nonaccidental establishment of extraterrestrial genes in flora, fauna and military forces are a-go-go.
"Half of your enemies are part of an insurgency called 'The Reborn', which were created by the US military, so the subversive angle is that you have US soldiers fighting US soldiers," explains Smith passionately, eager for us to understand how lie's trying to engineer an alien foe that's as politically close to home as it is of thoroughly distant origin. "Some of those, they start with a human soldier... And they do something to them. There's this tall one that, when it dies, splits apart and has its torso crawl towards you and then becomes a suicide bomb."
Where It S At
Whether Smith's clear talent and enthusiasm for melding a hard-nosed sci-fi edge on current world affairs will work in what's clearly otherwise a shooter of the 'no brains' variety is yet to be seen. As, indeed, is whether its entirely traditional formula will cut the mustard on PC. What's easily apparent though is the sheer amount of thought that's gone into it.
"I have a weird opinion," continues Smith. "It's about these soldier guys, and it's that I think what we're dealing with here is a modern bogeyman. Like those modern monsters from Children Of Men: the soldiers with the riot gear. It's like a modern icon or something: an archetype. I think the reason it keeps coming up in games is because people want it, they're afraid of it. You're afraid of the cop who can step on your neck and drag you away to some black site and do whatever they want."
Will BlackSite's lofty ambitions be matched by a lofty quality in gameplay though? Here's hoping...
Download Blacksite: Area 51
"Just look up the term 'black site' on Wikipedia," responds Harvey Smith, executive creative director of this aliens-versus-soldiers first-person shooter, when we ask about the game's grim setting and story. After our online check brings up photos of Abu Ghraib and other plausibly deniable U.S. government installations, we know this politically charged game casts a dark mood--one felt by the squad you order around with one-button context-sensitive commands. "We want the intensity of a combat situation, as driven by the player's actions, to influence the mood of the squad members," Smith says. "When morale is high...the squad is more aggressive, fires more often and more accurately, etc. When things are going to hell rapidly, the squad tends to enact the military rule of 'CYA.'" (Don't get it? Hit up Wikipedia for "Cover Your Ass.")