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Blacklight: Retribution sells the PS4 controller as a shooter's best friend

Blacklight: Retribution, Zombie Studios' free-to-play shooter which launched on PC in 2011, might be one of the first shooters on the PlayStation 4 — a fact that carries with it a tremendous amount of pressure.

Consoles live and die by the ergonomics of their controllers, and the manner in which developers utilize those controllers for launch titles. That's what Blacklight's aiming to be: a launch title for the PS4, though it may take a few weeks longer than that to finish the port, Zombie Studios communications manager Collin Moore told Polygon during an E3 2013 demo.

My Blacklight demo marked my first time holding the PlayStation 4's new controller, which I fell in love with instantly. It feels better in the hand, with more responsive buttons and far more manageable triggers than those on the comparatively obtuse DualShock 3. Blacklight on PS4 utilizes that controller extremely well — the PC version of the title has been lauded for its tight shooting mechanics, which have been adapted nicely to the new DualShock.

That's quite fortunate, Moore explained, because a console's early shooters are often responsible for selling the promise of how all games will control on new platforms.

"For ergonomics in the controls; we saw it last generation with Halo, Halo pretty much defined how people held the Xbox with the old Duke controller," Moore said. "Sony's made some really good updates to the DualShock. When we got our hands on it and started playing, we were like, 'Holy crap, I think I've found my new favorite controller.'

"When we got our hands on it and started playing, we were like, 'Holy crap, I think I've found my new favorite controller.'"

"The first-person shooter genre being a genre that a lot of people buy their console for, the genre where you get your 15 million sellers, your 18 million sellers, your Call of Duty and Halo-type games," Moore said. "Those are the games that everyone puts their hands on, and if it doesn't make sense, you'll have a lot of disappointed fans out there. But we've done a lot of research to make sure Blacklight, even though we have different features, that people still feel comfortable in the game. They can pick up and play if they've played a previous game in the first-person genre, and they'll be able to figure it out really quickly and have a great time."

Shooting in Blacklight PS4 felt responsive, even though it used the DualShock's formerly maligned rear triggers. While the DualShock 3's squishy, convex inputs left a lot to be desired on the PS3 shooters which decided to use them for aiming and firing, the PS4's — while still slightly analog — do not disappoint. My demo was single-player, and the bots I was firing at didn't do much in the way of evasive maneuvering; the demo, Zombie explained, was to show E3 attendees what shooting guns on the new console feels like.

There's a lot we haven't seen from Blacklight: Retribution's PS4 port, but if demoing that one mechanic truly was Zombie's goal at E3, it succeeded with flying colors.