I’m never been much of a hardcore shooters gamer, so I’ll state this for the record: my opinion is that of someone who hasn’t logged hours and hours of FPS gameplay. But Blacklight Retribution, the near future military shooter by Zombie Studios and Perfect World Entertainment, looked promising, so I downloaded the game and dove in. As it turns out, Blacklight Retribution surprised me. Read on!


It’s a shooter--you’re running around gunning people down. Expect blood, violence, and areas inhabited by the kind of gamers who play first-person shooters.

Gameplay - 87 / 100

Blacklight Retribution isn’t what you expect from a free-to-play first-person shooter…and that’s a good thing. Sure, you’ll experience quintessential FPS modes such as capture the flag, death match, team death match and king of the hill. Yes, you’ll be able to buy items, either with real or in-game currency, for certain amounts of time ranging from one day to permanent. But what other free-to-play FPSs don’t routinely offer is complete and total customization of your guns and armor. And there are mechs--hulking, menacing, full-of-win badass mechs with mini guns and rail guns for blowing up those pesky peons who keep shooting at you. (Really, what is their problem?)

Blacklight Retribution Screenshot

Yep, that's a badass mech.

When I first came into some in-game cash, I wasted vast amounts of time tricking out my character. Not only could I edit her armor (with changing stats for each piece) but I could alter every characteristic of my weapon. And that’s fun.

All guns are broken down into 7 components: Receiver (which changes the overall type of gun your character is using), muzzle, barrel, magazine (which includes ammo upgrades that can give you exploding rounds), scopes, weapon tags (which are like key chain bobbles for your gun), and camo. Bobbles and camo are, of course, purely cosmetic, but combined with the other 5 customization options they virtually ensure that, if you take the time to customize the gun you start with, you’ll have a unique and serviceable weapon.

If customizing guns isn’t really your thing, fear not--you can purchase pre-made guns in the item shop using some of your hard-earned real world cash.

You can also customize your character’s armor by changing your helmet, upper body armor, lower body armor, and then add cosmetic items like trophies (badges you earn by completing certain achievements) and camo (changes the overall color scheme of your character’s items). You can further specialize your character by giving them equipment that include things like health kits, turrets, repair kits (for fixing turrets and mechs), stealth cloaks and riot shields. You can also change the voice of the game’s announcer as well as the voice of your own character. You can also unlock and purchase various taunts for your character to use when pwning noobs. (And you get to hear theirs when they’re pwning you.)

Another great feature of Blacklight Retribution is the ability to craft buffs for your character. These character buffs come in the form of nodes which you attach to various node slots. You earn nodes of various ranks by completing matches. You can combine nodes using fusion to make stronger nodes of higher rank or with a longer use time. These nodes add effects that range from extra resistance to certain types of damage to increasing the amount of in-game currency awarded for a match.

Blacklight Retribution Screenshot

The weapons depot brings new meaning to caveat emptor--while shopping players are prone to being shot down, allowing another player to steal the purchase.

One of the best features of Blacklight Retribution is the weapons depot. Throughout battles your character is constantly awarded CP, or Combat Points (not to be mistaken for GP, or Gold Points, which are used in purchasing customization options out of combat), for doing various things throughout a match such as killing an opponent or even watching someone else kill an opponent. You also gain CP for taking down players that have been kicking major ass. The top rated player at any given time is given the title of Warlord. Killing this player will award a larger bonus to your overall score for the match as well as additional CP, but don’t worry if you can’t take him out--as long as you’re involved in the action you’re earning CP. You can spend your CP at combat depots spread throughout the map, which are stocked by the player character with their unlocked combat depot items in the customization menu. These items can be simple things like health restoration and ammo, which are relatively cheap, to more expensive and hard-earned heavy weaponry like mini-guns and flame throwers. Items also include the mech I mentioned earlier, the Hardsuit.

The Hardsuit comes equipped with a mini-gun and a rail gun for blowing away tiny foot-soldiers as they run in fear as well as rocket boosters for closing the gap between your foes. The Hardsuit is also heavily armored and takes a lot of fire power to bring down. (For this reason, it’s not a frivolous purchase at the weapon depot.) Is the Hardsuit overpowered? It’s a fair question. It would be, except that the Hardsuit comes with a randomly generated weak-spot that other players can detect using their HRV (Hyper Reality Vision). This weak spot will take ten times more damage then any other part of the Hardsuit giving tactical players a fair chance to take down the player using the Hardsuit. If you feel incredibly gutsy you can also pick up a flamethrower from one of the weapons depots spread throughout the map and use it to burn out the pilot of the Hardsuit and take it for your own.

Blacklight Retribution Screenshot

When the HRV is active, you can gather lots of intel on your enemies.

Another innovative and cool feature Blacklight Retribution introduces is the aforementioned HRV, which not only allows you to see all other players on the map, but allows you to see their health and their kill-streak, giving you an idea of how much CP a certain player is worth upon death so you can assassinate the better character to earn more CP. The HRV’s usefulness doesn't stop there; it also allows players to view turrets and mines wherever they may be hidden, as well as pointing out the weak points of a Hardsuit as I mentioned earlier. Sound overpowered? It sidesteps that by having a short duration, followed by a recharge time. You also can't sprint or fire your weapon while it's active. The HRV is a tool you'll need in your arsenal if you play to win.

Blacklight Retribution boasts some great features that FPS gamers should embrace.

Graphics - 77 / 100

The graphics in Blacklight Retribution are notch above average for what you might expect from a game of its ilk. Armor and weapons look better in menus than they do in the actual game, and special effects like explosions are sometimes a little underwhelming. Overall, everything looks respectable and should satisfy all but the most hardened graphics whore.

Sound - 77 / 100

There’s nothing related to Blacklight Retribution’s sound that will blow you away--it does the job. I found the music a little uninspiring, but music isn’t really the focus in a game like this. You’re more likely to be kicking ass to the tune of your favorite MP3s with the sound of weapons fire providing a nice soothing, ambient backdrop. (That is, if weapons fire calms your nerves.)

Value - 87 / 100

You can’t beat free, but is Blacklight Retribution a pay-to-win game?

I found the in-game market to be more reasonable compared to other games of the same caliber. Various items can be rented for a day or a week for certain amounts of in-game cash or real currency. They can also be purchased for permanent use with both in-game currency and real currency, but saving up the in-game cash for permanent items will take you a while. Here’s where Blacklight Retribution pushes you to spend a little of your paycheck on the game. Don’t get me wrong--saving up the in-game kaching to purchase permanent items is doable. While you’re scrimping, you should be able to get by renting the games various items until you have the cash to lay down for that coveted sniper rifle.

Blacklight Retribution Screenshot

Also, it’s worth mentioning that players who are impatient can unlock items before reaching the intended level by dropping a little of their own money. Don’t worry though, because the things you can unlock ahead of time only provide your competitors with minor boosts. I didn’t feel like the game was pay-to-win during my experience. I didn’t lay down a cent of real world cash and I managed to hold my own.

Lasting Appeal - 77 / 100

While Blacklight Retribution is an incredibly well done game, unless the developers consistently add new maps or game modes, I don’t see it holding anyone’s attention for months on end. The game is a good FPS, but all strictly multiplayer first-person-shooters can grow old after a while. Still, Blacklight Retribution doesn’t cost a dime, so it’ll be worth returning to again and again when you feel the need. And if you’ve spent your real world cash to purchase some items, you might even feel invested enough to stick around for a longer run.

Pros and Cons


  • Character and weapon customization is both entertaining and useful
  • Solid features set and mechanics
  • Winning without paying real world cash is doable


  • No real wow factor where sound or graphics are concerned
  • Certain items can be costly to purchase with in-game cash, so you'll need patience if you want to keep it free
  • Like most map-based military shooters, it gets old after a while


While I was growing up, I often heard the adults in my life drop the little nugget of wisdom: "You get what you pay for." In the case of Blacklight Retribution, you can pay nothing at all and still have a helluva lot of fun with this polished FPS. Like many shooters, most gamers won't likely play for the long haul, but for the cost of free it's entirely worthy of a download and your time. Hell, you might even be inspired to spend a few bucks.

Overall 81/100 - Good


To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Blacklight: Retribution Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016

About The Author

Karen 1
Karen is H.D.i.C. (Head Druid in Charge) at EQHammer. She likes chocolate chip pancakes, warm hugs, gaming so late that it's early, and rooting things and covering them with bees. Don't read her Ten Ton Hammer column every Tuesday. Or the EQHammer one every Thursday, either.


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