It's not the most auspicious start to a game's marketing plan when the publisher tells you that it hopes to get some runoff sales from the 800lb. gorilla that is Halo 3. Still, it's not like there isn't room for another sci-fi-themed first-person shooter, but the Area 51 brand name has been squandered on a series of dated arcade light-gun games and forgettable console shooters over the years; clearly it's not going to pose much of a sales threat to Master Chief and company this September.
And yet, on maybe the second or third hands-on look we had with Midway's BlackSite over the past months, the game suddenly started to fall into place, and Halo comparisons aside, seemed to have the makings of a first-rate action title.
It's a stripped-down squad-based shooter, which basically means two other computer-controlled soldiers follow you around for most of the game, and all the genre cliches are there, from abandoned military bases to giant boss-level monsters. But instead of a throwaway story, the plot is surprisingly subversive, mixing in topics from the war in Iraq to unethical government experiments. Some members of the team worked on politically minded games like Deus Ex, and we were pleasantly surprised to find some actual thought and meaning behind the gunplay. Look for it on Xbox 360, PC, and PS3 in September.