Blacksite: Area 51 is traversing into controversial territory. Harvey Smith, game designer of Blacksite, has received a ton of flak for his attempts at making a story that tackles modern political issues. He's unabashedly left-wing, and is willing to make obvious remarks about the current Bush administration in his game. We love seeing game storytelling pushed to new, unexplored territories, but we wonder -- is an alien invasion really an appropriate backdrop for serious commentary on politics?
Unfortunately, we don't think so. This Unreal Engine-powered FPS certainly looks good, featuring the same sheen that Unreal games tend to. However, it doesn't feel as visceral as the myriad of other FPS games available at the show. The squad-based mechanics seem inspired by Gears of War: your partners are rough commando types that seem fearless. Commanding them is easy, with everything assigned to one button. Smith promises a morale system that intrigues us: performing as a leader will have your allies acting more confident, but poor leadership will lead to low morale. They'll become sluggish, and take more cover. Their shots will become less accurate, and they'll become far less aggressive. It's certainly a novel concept, but we weren't able to see it in action.
Other than the morale system, we haven't seen anything that looks extraordinarily original. The game will feature online co-op (no split-screen co-op, unfortunately). Hopefully, with more time with the game, we'll see some of its more original features, but for now, it feels like just-another-shooter.