The Burnout team turns its destructive eye on the FPS.
By John Gold
The best thing about Black is that all you do is unload seething justice into your enemies, venting buildings and barrels and barricades while you use the environment to your advantage, killing as many enemies as you can before they do you in. The only real downer to the experience is that once you get over the destroy-or-be-destroyed gameplay there's really not all that much more to be had, which may be a problem if more is what you want.
Black's pedigree is really all the warning/incentive you need. Coming from the explosion-happy people at Criterion (of Burnout fame), the game is about the here and now - the future be damned. There's a tacked on story that dabbles in current affairs and nonexistent character growth, but mostly there's just a whole load of visceral fun.
Black is like Halo 2 (a game it's otherwise light years away from) in that it nails the core control mechanisms. When you want to shoot you shoot, when you want to shoot faster you switch to automatic and shoot faster, and when you want to pick off that baddie at the back of the corridor without wasting your ammo (though being stingy with ammunition is hardly a requirement) destroying his cover, you switch your weapon to single fire to gain that extra bit of precision. There's a heft to the highly detailed and concussive weapons and you'll experience a pure, 10-year-old's glee at seeing the shining rifles in your hands, especially during the frequent reloading animations. No one is going to accuse Black of being a realistic shooter simulation, but things work as they must in the context of the experience.
In many ways, Black feels like an arcade shooter (think Gradius) made FPS, and this works for and against the game. The thrill of all-out action through solid mechanics makes you forget about everything around you as you focus on the task at hand. But like those token-guzzlers of old, when you distil the levels they sometimes feel like more of the same, only with different backgrounds.
Another similarity with shooters is in the longevity of the experience. Some will bemoan the short playing time, which at around 6 hours or so is bound to stir feelings of being cheated, especially considering that there's no multiplayer to keep you playing once the singleplayer experience is over. But this misses the point that like shooters this short playing time is all the incentive you need to play through it again and again, perfecting your skills and trying out different strategies. Playing time is also extended by increasingly demanding mission objectives tied to increasing difficulty levels, the last of which is unlockable.
One of the selling points of Black is the destructible environments - something that plays more of a role in gameplay than you might initially think. Far from feeling tacked on to the experience, as it does in Mercenaries, this outrageous disregard for architecture can and should be used in your favour to simplify your passage through the game. Enemies will oftentimes be easier to take down once you've chipped away at their cover or gone the less straightforward route and crashed through a wall to reach them. Not everything can be broken, but most of the important bits can, which is good enough, even if it does mean that your plans are sometimes too leftfield or just weren't considered by the developers.
Black is a fun jaunt while it lasts but for some it won't last long enough. It is also a showcase of how much can still be squeezed out of the aging PlayStation 2, though the occasional slowdown shows just how close Criterion has come to maxing out what's possible on the console. There are a few caveats to keep in mind, but this is a solid shooter that is bound to have broad appeal thanks to its tilting in the favour of brawn.
Safety off. Brain off. Storm in.
(See Latest Videos & Video FAQ Here)
|PLEASE DO NOT DIRECT LINK TO ANY MEDIA FILE ON KIKIZO|
High quality gameplay footage
Assorted gameplay trailer