I recently attended a preview event for Massively to sample Onslaught for myself. Let's start with the small and work our way up.
Bag of stuff
A bag of stuff? Yeah, it's what I'm calling the oh-so-bullet-pointable content that I mention only because I owe it to you, reader, to provide everything you need to know about Onslaught in one place.
What else are we getting? Two new maps: Metro and Safehold. Metro's map is a winning formula, a network of subway tunnels (use a shotgun!) that often feed into the open plaza above (use a rifle!).
Finally, BLR will see two new game modes. The first, Search and Destroy, is a game that takes place over 10 rounds, during which the attacking team must plant a bomb at one of two sites. The twist? Bombers are unseen by HRV. The Search and Destroy mode wasn't quite ready to be played when I visited Perfect World's studio last week, but the other, the update's namesake, Onslaught, was.
The Onslaught mode is a clear descendant of the enemy wave modes featured in so many other games, though you'll have to do more than just hunker down and survive to win. "There are a lot of ways to fail," Perfect World senior producer Mark Hill told me during my demo. Having all players downed is an obvious one, but there's also a clock to beat and cross-map objectives to seek out.
Frankly, the addition of Onslaught is a no-brainer. Fighting alongside human players and against AI for a change is a great option. Left 4 Dead and its ilk always did carry a truly different flavor of stress and release than your standard deathmatch, and Blacklight: Retribution is nowhere short of that game's level of polish.
But a couple of things in Onslaught stuck out to me as a bit uninspired. The first is the enemy models themselves. They were made exclusively for Onslaught mode, but they're still run-of-the-mill stuff: zombies, fire zombies, zombie dogs, riot shield zombies... OK, they aren't all zombies, but they don't stand out much either way.
Don't get me wrong; Onslaught mode is worth your time, especially if you're on board with Blacklight: Retribution already. It's hectic as hell and keeps you moving. Played with friends instead of strangers, it should be a fun mountain to climb and a difficult one (my squad and I were wiped out on the ninth of 10 total waves -- bummer).
Besides, Onslaught mode can only improve from here. The mode is brand-new, and more maps are in the works.
ESL integration is on the way
Really, the game is still young in the grand scheme of the genre. Despite that, Perfect World Entertainment has partnered with the Electronic Sports League to make Blacklight: Retribution that much more hardcore. The league approached the game-makers rather than the other way around, offering to provide ladders, leaderboards, and some suggestions on how to fine-tune gameplay.
Most of these ESL-oriented tweaks are coming after the Onslaught update rather than along with it, though some are in the game already. Recoil tweaks were among of them; vertical recoil is now capped and horizontal recoil has been added. Says the blog post announcing the changes, "Net impact? Instead of being able to mitigate recoil by just moving the mouse down, you'll have to adjust dynamically, correcting for both horizontal and vertical recoil."
A wealth of stat-tracking, previously unshared, is also in the cards. At game's end you can learn how many thousands of footsteps you took, for example, or how much GP (in-game currency) you earned per minute.
With new content, new game modes, and ESL integration especially, Blacklight: Retribution is growing up fast.
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