Rachel, Nevada, sits just outside of Area 51, the famed US Air Force Flight Test Center around which many a UFO conspiracy theory revolves. What better locale to kick off a sci-fi thriller of a game? Midway Austin is the team behind this squad-based shooter that drops the player off just at the city limits (population: 98) with reports of a disturbance coming echoing over your radio.

The demo we played at the Midway press event was running on an Xbox 360, though the game will also be available on PC and PS3. Getting used to the control scheme was a snap, with all of the buttons mapped out just where you'd expect to find them. Conveniently, a shoulder button sets a waypoint for your squad, causing them to either set up defensive positions or take action. The obvious path from your starting point leads you to the rear of a gas station, with the most obvious point of entry being a locked rear door. Once you've pointed at the door and clicked your squad button, your team attaches a small explosive device and clears, allowing you to gain access to the building through a darkened rear stock room... and the tension begins to build. An interesting twist on the squad play is that your buddies react to however you are faring. Start kicking some alien ass and you'll find they are quite effective in assisting you in mowing down the enemy. If you find yourself on the receiving end of that ass kicking, you'll notice that your team will react accordingly: accuracy will decrease, morale will drop, and fatigue will set in.

Rounding the corner you spot some sort of tall alien beating the bejeesus out of an automobile and its driver parked just outside of the front window a few feet away. Pow - Pow - Pow - die alien scum! Oh wait... bullet proof glass? Oh well... an open front door into the parking lot is the obvious course of action. Once you've made your grand entrance, things go from bad to worse as the single alien aggressively attacks and you notice that it has brought its friends to the party. Close Encounters of the Third Kind or ET this is not. These things are clearly not pleased to see you. One interesting note is that gunning down this type of alien won't necessarily spell the end as its torso will continue to drag itself towards you, clearly with ill will. These things hate me! There's no doubt that your grenade is the way to deal with these baddies, as it tends to leave fewer pieces lying about.

Fighting is fast and furious, punctuated by the destructible environment. Blacksite borrows the "Massive D" technology from its sister studio working on Stranglehold. Chunks of concrete fly and cars explode after taking too much punishment making the play area much more dynamic. Not to the level of games like Company of Heroes, in which entire buildings can be brought down (at least not in this demonstration!), but you can very well find yourself making a run for it when your cover is blown away. Likewise, detonating automobiles or any of the handful of propane tanks lying about can be used to your own advantage.

We were not able to experience it, but were told that the final game will include a number of multiplayer options, including Death- Match, Team-Death-Match, Capture-the-Flag, Human vs. Reborn mode and a Siege mode, in which teams attempt to control territory by capturing each other’s squad members. Also not seen, but promised were guns using alien technology and a number of vehicle encounters, such driving military HMMWVs, ATVs, and civilian vehicles, or acting as the gunner in low-level helicopter raids. Project lead Harvey Smith, of Deus-Ex fame, also promises a more serious and topical storyline, including topics such as Iraq and "black" sites (of course).

Blacksite is looking good, throwing all of the expected UE3 goodies your way such as specular lighting giving the ground that convincing "wet" look. The camera rocked with explosions, the sounds seemed pretty convincing and well placed, and smoke rolled up from the blazing scenery... in other words, it's looking and sounding pretty damned nice!

With some of the past successes of the project lead in mind and Unreal Engine 3 in tow, Blacksite: Area 51 could very well shape up to be one of the more exciting action titles of the year. Hopefully, the rest of the game will follow in the footsteps, and build upon, what we've seen so far.