Review by TerrifyerCW

"BLACK: FPS Evolved?"

Criterion needs no introduction. They've brought us the established Burnout series which is arguably one of the fastest and grittiest racing series ever to grace the console. But are they ready to enter the FPS frag-fest world? Read on to find out.

INTRODUCTION

You've got two types of video games these days; the games that are of current-gen quality and games that reach the pinnacle of gaming bliss that just screams next-generation. BLACK was touted to be the next-gen game on current-gen consoles and people were - with arms wide open - expecting it to crush every other run-of-the-mill FPS in its destructible omnipotent path. Does it deliver? Not quite.

The game definitely differentiates itself from the multitude of wanna-be FPS games out there at the moment, but is it enough to label it a next-gen game on a current-gen platform? Sadly, I have to dispel all belief regarding its position in the platform paradigm. Is it for the FPS aficionado? Of course, but will it keep him/her happy with their purchase during the entire single-player campaign? That's a matter of opinion, as is this whole review.

PRESENTATION

For those not in the know, let's have a quick rundown of what BLACK actually means, shall we? BLACK is a tactical squad that operates under the cloak of complete anonymity to protect the US from threats. BLACK operatives are trained to the highest extent in lethal skill, psychological warfare, and tactical espionage. You play a soldier in the BLACK ops named Jack who debriefs his story by four days of its actual occurrence.

The game pits you in the middle of combat at the very beginning as it describes the story by using a backtracking technique not uncommon in video games these days. While the story is arguably shoddy, the presentation is fantastic; the menus are as helpful as can be, the ambiance and overall sound is incredible, the musical composition – gladly, no Emo – is extraordinary, but the real-life acting cut-scenes leave a lot to be desired.

GRAPHICS

At first sight, BLACK is the game all of us have been dying to play. Debris everywhere, explosions galore, it's beautiful. The way the glass breaks when you grenade your enemy to their downfall is mind-boggling and the explosions, oh the explosions! The screen blurs whenever you blow something up to heighten the realism and sense of war. It also blurs when you reload your gun which sort of puts you in a tight situation whenever an enemy is right in front of you.

The backgrounds are lush and prove to be some of the best the PS2 has to offer. Cracks on the wall look almost lifelike and the asylum level definitely proves that. The lighting is what shines about BLACK's graphical aptitude; pun intended. Everything shines bright and the lighting reflected by the sun is absolutely gorgeous. The graphics are nothing short of impressive, but do they compete with the 360? Not a chance.

GAMEPLAY

BLACK is all about explosions, but what about the guns? There are 15 guns total in the game (excluding the grenades) ranging from assault rifles to submachine guns; pretty much the norm in most realistic FPS games. My personal favorite, however, is the RPG as it emits explosion-laden rockets that would cause an explosion in your pants and induce tears of joy; yes, at the same time. This game is undoubtedly fun, but it does have its kinks. The controls are great but the AI is repugnant, the fluctuation of the storyline helps the game plenty but the whole idea doesn't really sound much exciting; much like the general idea of the gameplay. Shoot hordes of enemies, blow up buildings, rinse and repeat. And no online play/multiplayer really kills the overall replay value.

While the overall fun factor is high at best, it does seem to wear off by the fourth level. I often found myself desperately pausing the game for a short break after falling to the hands of the enemies due to poorly scripted AI. Sometimes, I find myself shooting the enemy, but I just don't feel the enemy's pain. It feels vaguely-executed and highly shallow to the point where you just want to blow up everything in sight. The difficulty is pretty erratic as it seems to be hard even on the easiest difficulty. Head-shots are a bit hard to pull off but it makes you feel quite relieved once executed. All in all, it's definitely chaotic. Bullets flash right past you as you try to get that final head-shot to reclaim some well-deserved sighs of relief. I would personally recommend this game to the die-hard FPS fans. If you're looking for replay value and multiplayer fun, look elsewhere. BLACK is mostly fun the first time.

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Overall, Criterion's first go at an FPS is impressive but it isn't like what we all expected. Let's keep our fingers crossed for a far more improved sequel on next-gen platforms.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 03/06/06


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