PS2 REVIEW: BLACK

Black's "Wham, Bam, Shot You Ma'am" school of design gives you plenty to destroy, but Criterion actually gives the player too much, too fast and its a lesser game because of it. That being said, it's a tour de force entry for Criterion in the FPS market. by StewXX

Please click here to read our other Black Review

March 7, 2006 - Black is a one-trick pony. It's a pony that does amazing tricks but we all know that a pony show has limited entertainment value, not to mention that there's usually quite a mess to clean up afterwards.

Black would be an absolutely fantastic game if it only lasted half-an-hour. There's an old show-biz axiom that states: Leave them wanting more. The problem with Black is that it starts off in high gear and has nowhere else to go from there. It's packed with action and some of the best explosions ever presented on the PS2/ Xbox, but after an hour of play you've seen everything the game has to offer - twice.

BLACK is a secret terrorist-busting squad. Like SWAT, its name is an acronym, but from here on in I'm not going to capitalize all the letters. It will just be known as black because I'm just too lazy to reach for the Caps Lock button. I'm also too lazy to tell you what the letters stand for. I can't remember if it was even explained in the game but in any case I'm not dragging my fat ass all the way home to look it up. Sure I could look it up on net but then I would have to close one of my windows containing free porn. How I wish I could get a job reviewing porn instead of videogames. At least I would be doing something that I'm really good at.

All I can tell you about Black is that they answer to no one. They are so secretive that even the American government denies their existence. They protect the interest of America around the world and can use as much force as necessary to get the job done. The game begins with one member, Kelly, being tortured and interrogated by a terrorist organization known as the Seventh Wave. Missions take place leading up to this ugly situation. The entire story is short and sweet - in a manner of speaking. It's like a ten-minute wedding in which not much is said but the job got done without a lot of useless hoopla. I can really appreciate not having to sit through a lot of lame cutscenes, especially if they aren't relevant to the storyline. There are lots of really good games where I don't even pay attention to the storyline, but then the journalist in me kicks in and I force myself to watch. But I have to acknowledge that the gamer in me could care less about some of these cutscenes and I have to assume there are many gamers out there like me. It's up to the developer to make them interesting. At least Criterion Games opted to keep the action flowing.

Black is a first-person shooter that takes place in mostly abandoned warehouses and factories. The areas are huge and there is plenty of action as the enemy will have swarms of security and general thugs deposited in pockets within these installations. These environments conveniently explain why barrels of explosive chemicals are so prominent. Like I said, the explosions in this game are amazing and there always seem to be a can of danger in proximity to the enemy. It's like there is a directive from head office stating that all newly-hired terrorists must congregate at the nearest explosive material container. It makes for a great cinematic effect but after a while it just seems so forced that it takes away from the realism.

Enemies are not very intelligent, as you could already tell. It's only their sheer numbers that really pose a threat to you. They don't take cover, except behind barrels of explosives like the coyote from the roadrunner cartoon. They always expose their heads which gives you a better opportunity at making headshots.

You will be restricted, at times, by the weapons that are available. The most coveted of weapons are ranged weapons such as the sniper rifle and the M16, but these are rare as they won't always be up for grabs. Other weapons include a shotgun, Uzi, Mac10 MP5, grenades and rocket launcher. The grenades cause the enemies to scatter but you can blow them up quickly by shooting them with your gun.

You can only carry two weapons with you and you'll have to do your best with what's offered although you always seem to get the right weapon at the right time. It feels like you're being patronized, like Big Daddy, or in this case Big Mama, is looking out for you by getting you the weapons needed to clear a specific area and take care of a situation. All of the guns seem very similar. They only really vary in their range, but when used within their range they are very accurate and highly effective. Ammo is plentiful as you can scavenge it from dead enemies.

The guns and explosives leave their mark on the environment. Whether it's shattered windows or a grouping of holes on a plasterboard wall, there is a sense of connection between you, your gun and the environment - so why not destroy it? There are reload animations for all of the guns which looks very realistic with shell casings covering the floor when you empty them. The sound effects of the guns take center stage. They are incredibly powerful and loud, almost as loud as the colorful explosions that they help to create. The gun models themselves are extremely detailed and display recoil animations commensurate with each gun's caliber.

Controls couldn't be much more simplified. The character's moves are limited. There are no jumping or roll moves. There isn't even an action button to open doors. You simply use your weapons to blast your way into new areas leaving bodies and chunks of metal and concrete in your wake. Black just reeks of testosterone.

There are only 8 levels and they take about an hour each. There are secondary objectives such as collecting things and blowing up other things. Replaying the game, even on higher difficulty settings, won't result in much replay value. With no other modes or multi-player capabilities, Black will begin to fade to black after one or two plays. As a PS2 owner you'll be blown away by the visuals and destruction, as an Xbox owner you'll recognize a very cool game (albeit) short one, when you see it. As an Xbox 360 owner, you'll be extremely annoyed that you currently cannot play it on your shiny new system. Let's hope that changes. Criterion is definitely off to a great start here, with their first non-Burnout game in years and considering the complete genre switcheroo, they should be commended for their efforts. I can't wait to see what they can pull off on the next gen systems and hope they continue the Black franchise for years to come.

Features:

  • Overt Action BLACK operatives do not hide in shadows or sneak behind walls waiting for the right time to engage their foethey destroy the wall, the enemy, and anything else that gets in their way.
  • The Guns Are the StarsAn explosive arsenal of bleeding-edge weaponry lets you experience the awe-inspiring power of the world's most exotic lethal firepower.
  • If You Can See It, You Can Shoot It
    · Reduce cities to rubble in a world where virtually nothing is impervious to your bullets.
  • Get Your Blood Pumping: Adrenaline is your friend. Visceral, destructive action sucks you deep into the gameplay as you blaze and blast your own path through open-ended environments.
  • BLACK-Style Kills: Use destructible worlds and explosive objects to take out enemies in cover, frag multiple enemies at once, or just wreak massive destruction for its own sake.

By StewXX
CCC Staff Writer

Rating out of 5
Black (PS2)
4.5
Graphics
Amazing explosions and interactive destructible environments. It's just too much too soon.
3.5
Control
Virtually all of the guns are similar with the exception of range. To get through a door all you have to do is shoot at it or blow it up.
5.0
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The explosions not only look good but they sound powerful. The guns are so loud it's scary.
2.5
Play Value
This game is a one-trick pony. Once the show is over, that's all she wrote but it's fun while it lasts. No online play hurts.
4.2
Overall Rating - Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
 
System: PS2 (shown), X
Dev: Criterion
Pub: EA
Release: Feb 2006
Players: 1
Review by StewXX

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best