Blackout Protocol hands-on preview

Blackout Protocol hands-on preview

Unfriendly fire can be a surprising blessing in this upcoming rogue-lite

There’s something special in not being able to turn off friendly fire in Ocean Drive Studio’s upcoming Blackout Protocol. In the game, and isometric 3-player rogue-lite shooter, friendly fire is a part of the design philosophy; the gameplay mechanism forces a lot of thinking in how we move and shoot, how we take on situations, and how we help or mess with our friends.

In fact, the only way to play is to hurt our friends, which can be both funny and strain a relationship.

Turning off friendly fire is not even an option, and makes my heart happy because A) it’s bold, and B) it puts intent in the experience beyond just letting us spray bullets. There is care to how all of the things work together in the game, and by committing to it, it allows the developers to dedicate their passion to that vision and make the gameplay that much more impactful.

For example in one area, fellow SideQuesting Editor Zach and I were moving in opposite directions when suddenly enemies appeared between us. I couldn’t turn around to shoot them because the attacks would hit my teammate, so I had to reroute and try to either tackle them from the side or to have Zach move back closer to my side. The weapons don’t just affect our partners, either, they can affect us. We had a grenade launcher at one point, and when some enemies came at us we launched a bomb at them — but because it went off near us we died almost instantly.

It’s a novel gameplay conceit, and it works really well.

A lot of the aspects of the game work really well, actually. From the government conspiracy X-Files themes to the different types of weapons, and even to the two types of HP (physical and psychic) that enemies can chip away from us, Blackout Protocol seems like it has a lot of neat ideas coming together.

The game is aiming to launch in Early Access this year. Images and video courtesy Ocean Drive Studio.