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So what was the U.S. government really after in the sands of Iraq?

Something out of this world, according to “BlackSite: Area 51,” a T-rated first- person shooter from Midway Games.

The action starts in Iraq, where you — Aeran Pierce of Delta Force — are searching for weapons of mass destruction. You end up facing down an army of mutants spawned by Iraqi chemicals — or so you are told. Near the end of the mission, you encounter a glowing chunk of something. All hell breaks loose and one of your comrades dies and has to be left behind.

A few years later, you’re called into action near the town of Rachel, Nevada, where something mysterious is happening. Mutants are crawling all over the town, as well as some gigantic otherworldly creatures that require some heavy-duty firepower to take down. Then, your buddy who was lost in Iraq reappears. It’s your job to figure out what’s going on and put a stop to it.

While you play as Pierce, you’re usually accompanied by two additional characters. This is a squad-based game, so you’re able to tell them to open doors or run ahead to take out a few baddies before you arrive on the scene. However, their main job appears to be to chatter constantly. It can be a drag when you have to listen to the disgruntled Summers or the mysterious Dr. Weis. However, it can be a bit amusing when you’re accompanied by the ornery and profane Grayson.

A lot of grumbling concerns the war, the government and other political hot topics. However, the game doesn’t really do much with them aside from establishing a real-world connection with a scenario that involves a secret project to create super soldiers.

The game play generally involves running through dank passages or military bases and shooting dozens of mutants. This won’t be surprising to anyone who has played the original “BlackSite” in a video arcade. There’s a steady flow of foes, so the action rarely lets up — but it does start feeling a little too familiar at some spots.

Graphically, the scenery doesn’t offer the detail available in some current games, but the backdrops are interesting and convey the right mood. Most of the lower-level enemies are pretty unimpressive, but the giant tentacled beastie that you battle atop a bridge is pretty cool.

However, quite a few glitches popped up. In one case, I blew a mutant into the air with a grenade and he remained suspended there, twitching grotesquely until he evaporated a few seconds later.

Another annoying problem was the prolonged loading screens between most scenes — including one that caused my console to stall.

Finally, you have to wonder why there’s no co-op mode when Pierce is almost always accompanied by someone else.

Because of these gripes, “BlackSite” doesn’t live up to its potential. However, I have to admit that it intrigued and entertained me enough to keep me going.

Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC

On the Web: Blacksite: Area 51.


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