Black projects, and Black Sites are true military terminologies. A Black Site is a location that hosts unacknowledged classified military projects. In the past the U.S. military has conducted black projects like the F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter and the B-2 Spirit stealth heavy bomber. This is the basis of the new BlackSite: Area 51 from Midway. As Aeran Pierce, one member of a small Delta Force strike force, you are sent into war against an Blacksite outbreak of alien species.

BlackSite doesn’t start you off in the middle of an alien war, or a top secret military base like the first Area 51 game released in 2005. BlackSite puts you in the middle of the Iraq war which leads you into the bizarre and strange world of mutated genetics and alien life forms. After engaging renegade terrorists, It doesn’t take long before the hostile aliens sneak out from the darkness to greet your character, the devouring way. BlackSite isn’t a sequel to the Xbox shooter Area 51, it’s a new shooter experience based on the same subject matter focused more on NPC development and squad tactics.

If you’re checking out BlackSite because you are a fan of Midway’s 2005 Xbox release then you might be a little disappointed. BlackSite lacks a lot of aspects that made Area 51 such an interesting shooter. Besides loosing an excellent candidate for voice overs in David Duchovny, BlackSite can’t recreate the haunting atmosphere Area 51 generated. When I played through the Area 51, I was captivated and terrified knowing the alien creatures could come from any direction and easily overpower my character. In BlackSite it’s the opposite, you see them coming and they don’t provide a challenge. One major contributor to the difference is the focus on your squad and not the solo adventure which takes away a great deal of the suspense. It wouldn't have been so bad if all the other elements come together like a more developed storyline, and better squad tactics, as it stands BlackSite: Area 51 is rather dull, and simplified.

Squad Tactics in BlackSite are strangely basic and offer a one button hotspot to trigger events, or target enemies. I found it odd that you have to let your team mates do everything for your character in the game, while you sit back and watch. Even a simple action like open a door is restricted and impossible to interact with. To progress in BlackSite you are forced to point your crosshairs on a round green indicator icon and press the right bumper. Then your team will surround the door and breach it for you, sometimes with explosives, or their feet. For an action so simple, it would have been nice if you could choose who would open the door. The standard D-Pad squad controls would have been perfect for BlackSite and would have made the game a little more interactive.

Vehicles also have a role in BlackSite that lets you drive, or man the gun turret. In these levels you will have a linear path to follow while you usually avoid enemies and navigate successful through a mini-obstacle course. The piloting controls are simple to grasp, but feel ultra loose and unrealistic. These segments with the wieghtless vehicles seemed forced to extend the length of the game. If you do vehicles right it can be awesome like in Halo, however if you need to have a look at how to do it wrong, BlackSite is a good example. Forced fed and scripted, the vehicles do nothing for the overall sense of the game.

One interesting aspect to BlackSite is Midway’s attempt to add a dynamic morale system to your teams A.I. This basically gives you’re team mates a boost to their stats which includes improved tactics and weapon accuracy. The problem with this system that sounds like a great idea in theory is that it’s not effective, and it’s pointless. When the squad had high moral during the game I really didn’t notice a difference in their effectiveness in combat. This is partyly because I didn’t need them to fight the enemy, and if they did the enemies usually line-up for the death squad and they where easily gunned down. The extra member floating around in low or high morale doesn’t contribute to any of the action on screen besides a few bullets and a distraction as you close for the kill. If this system was implemented well I’m sure the entire feel of BlackSite might have picked up, in the end this isn’t the case and the morale system ends up being an underdeveloped idea.

The multiplayer mode that supports 2-10 players features the standard game modes, Deathmatch, Team Death Match, Capture-the-flag along with a Human vs. Reborn and Siege mode. I found the online structure to pretty basic with not a lot of options besides a few power-ups. Plus, it took a long time to find a group of people playing BlackSite. In attempt to find players I even hosted my own game for a period of time and no one showed. Compared the full package in games like Halo 3, it will be a gamble to see if the online community finds something to love in BlackSite. BlackSite is single player driven, but a few online matches help give the title more depth.

Midway Studios Austin used the Unreal 3 engine in BlackSite, the same engine that was modified in their other holiday release, Stranglehold. The Unreal 3 graphics engine gives BlackSite a rock solid framerate and the ability to load large environments quickly. Besides the large environments, BlackSite doesn’t have much to brag about concerning its visuals and looks dated compared to other releases. It’s also cursed with a lot of graphical glitches like weapons floating in mid-air. It seems like BlackSite might have been a bit rushed because some levels are more impressive then others, but they still don’t hold a candle to anything that has been released in the last year.

This follows suit with the sound that really doesn’t stand out, one aspect that had a huge role to play in the original. The alien enemies really never sound the part, as everything seemed to be dulled out. Even the voice acting doesn’t measure up in a lot of respects. As a whole the game manages to come together to make a game that plays good enough and sounds good enough, however its not up to the standards laid by its earlier conception, or the expectations of a tremendous game engine like the Unreal 3 graphics engine.

BlackSite: Area 51 is a noble attempt that really doesn’t shape up into anything. I disappointed that BlackSite didn’t manage to capture the unique feel and ambiance of the first thrilling Area 51 game. Even though Area 51 was underrated, it was one of my favourite shooters I’ve played and I was expecting BlackSite to bring out the same feelings of wonder, fear and excitement that Area 51 extracted. BlackSite is extremely flawed in its straightforward objectives, squad tactics and obvious storyline. BlackSite needed to slow down and refocus its attention to what made the original so great. If you need a boost to your achievements or a fun simplistic game to blast through in a weekend then give BlackSite: Area 51 a shot as a rental, otherwise stay away from the infected.

Gameplay: 6, Graphics:6, Sound:6, Innovation: 5, Mojo: 6 Final: 5.8 / 10

Reviewed by Jimmy | 11.29.07


  • You are the leader: Lead well and your living, breathing Special Forces squad will rally in battle. Waver and their morale will sink, affecting their tactics and their will to fight.
  • Intuitive squad-level combat: Armed with the ability to issue squad commands using the press of a single button, you have the power, authority, and duty to issue orders to your troops. Plant C-4 explosives, snipe enemies from long range, or take control of vehicles or weapons left behind by the wounded.
  • Drive, shoot, and ride: Commandeer civilian cars, trucks and ATVs in your quest to keep America safe. Drive the latest military vehicles or take a position in the gunner’s chair in daring, low-level helicopter raids.
  • Online multiplayer modes: Play co-op with a friend through the story. Competitive play includes a variety of traditional online modes, such as "Death Match," "Team Death Match," and "Capture the Flag," as well as all-new unique multiplayer modes, such as "Human vs. Reborn" and "Siege."

Blacksite: Area 51


Midway Austin


US Release
November '07


X360, PS3, PC

1-2 Players
Multiplayer Vs.
Dolby 5.1
HD 720p
Marketplace D/L