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Black Review

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating

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Black Review
EA / Criterion
From the moment it was revealed that Criterion (the brilliant minds behind the Burnout series) was working on an explosion-filled FPS, Black shot to the top of everyone’s most wanted list. Now that its here, I’m happy to say that the presentation and gameplay are very impressive and will not disappoint. The lack of multiplayer and extremely short single player campaign are a bit of a letdown, but Black is very fun while it lasts and is worth checking out.

Gameplay

The story in Black is told through full motion video cutscenes of an interrogation and each of the eight missions are flashbacks of what happened during the previous four days. When it all comes down to it, though, the story is entirely forgettable and seems more like speedbumps in between all of the glorious beautiful shooting going on.

The gameplay in Black doesn’t really do anything new, but it perfects things other games have done and molds it all into a nearly perfect FPS. The controls can be completely customized so you can change whatever you need to get comfortable. I find the default controls to be just fine, personally. A sticking point in other reviews (but not this one …) is that you can’t jump or sprint in Black. This makes the levels more linear, but it also tightly focuses the gameplay into shooting what is right in front of you. Truly, the shooting and thrill of blowing the hell out of stuff is the star in Black, not exploration, and if you understand that the game is very enjoyable. Why would we want every FPS to be the same, anyway? One big problem in Black is that it only takes about 5-7 hours to beat the game and after that there isn’t much replay value since there is no multiplayer.

EA / Criterion
Black sets itself apart from other FPS in other ways. The levels are somewhat open and you have some degree of choice as to how you get from point A to point B, but you are still funneled towards chokepoints filled with enemies. This is where the game really shines, though, because the shooting is so pure and so well done and so satisfying. Each level is filled with enemies and vehicles and gas tanks and barrels and all of them blow up really, really nicely. The environments are also very destructible and blowing large chunks out of the levels is a big part of the game. You can’t just hide behind cover because the log or wall you are hiding behind will be chipped away by the enemy bullets flying at you. The enemies aren’t terribly smart, but they are really only there to catch your bullets so I don’t mind the dumb AI too much. You’ll be overwhelmed sometimes, but individual enemy soldiers aren’t terribly bright. Bad AI and linear, gimmicky (all of the explosions) gameplay usually mean a game can get old pretty fast, but the level design in Black saves the day. Dark, misty forests, green and sunny cemeteries, bombed out cities – Black has a little of everything and it is all very good.

Graphics and Sound

Graphically, Black is easily one of the best looking games on the Xbox. The environments are very sharp and great looking and all of the explosions and particle effects and smoke are very nice. Emptying a clip into a wall produces a bunch of dust and chunks flying around and the dust will slowly billow around the room. That is impressive.

The sound is also very good. The sound effects for all of the gunfire and explosions are fantastic and the dialogue and screams of enemy soldiers is all well done. Easily the best part of the aural presentation is the soundtrack. It is all big, epic, orchestral themes that perfectly matches the action and gives the game a very satisfying feel.

Black looks and sounds like a big budget action movie and is very impressive even compared to some of the Xbox 360 games.

Bottom Line

EA / Criterion
Black is a gorgeous looking game that is a blast to play, but it is hard to give it a 100% solid recommendation. It is just crazy short and the lack of multiplayer is pretty disappointing. Half-Life 2 was a somewhat similar situation, but HL2 absorbs you into its world far better, is longer, and has more memorable moments you’ll want to play again so I still recommended it event though it didn’t have multiplayer. As fun as Black is, there just isn’t enough meat to the single player to make it worth more than a rental. There are some things to unlock which adds some replay value, but most people will be done with the game after their first play through. It is a good game that is very well put together, but paying $40 for five hours of gameplay isn’t too appealing. Give Black a rental and wait for the inevitable price drop before you buy it.
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