Black review


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Buy your copy from Black (2006) starstarstarstarhalf star Publisher: Electronic Arts
Category: Shooter
Available for: PlayStation 2, Xbox
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What do you get when Criterion, developers of the fantastic “Burnout” series, take away the steering wheels and put high powered weapons in your hands? You get “BLACK.” A visually stunning, completely engaging, first person shooter game that demands that you blow shit up and blow it up real good. FPS games of this caliber are few and far between, so it’s nice to see that the gang at Criterion is just as amazing at making cool shooters as they are at making terrific arcade style racers.

In “BLACK” you play Jack Keller, a black ops operative. You’ve been brought in by some shady higher-ups to recount a few missions you partook in four days prior. You’re handcuffed and seated and you start spilling the beans about all the things you destroyed, documents you picked up, and team members you did your work with. All this in exchange for…what? Well, play the damn thing and find out!

“BLACK” is easily one of the best looking games to ever come out on the PlayStation 2.; proof positive that the old girl still has plenty of life in her. Explosion visuals are awesome, every bullet fired leaves a mark, and the rest is just 100% perfect. You couldn’t ask for better in the visuals department. Sound-wise, “BLACK” also delivers with a terrific Pro Logic II mix, chock full of ambient sounds, your teammates’ voices crackling through your helmet, and some quite stirring musical passages that pop up at the right moments but never get in the way of the action or wear out their welcome.

“BLACK” is as basic as first person shooters get. You basically just need to blow everything and everyone up until you reach the end of the level. But be warned: this is not a jump out, run, and blast everything you can while beating a hot trail across the map shooter. “BLACK” makes you think out your options and actions before you choose what to do. Just because you see two enemy soldiers out in the field doesn’t mean there aren’t 30 more hidden behind foliage, in burnt out buildings, and everywhere else. So there’ll be a bit of sneaking around and taking optimal head shots on your targets to take them down the quickest. Of course, this can’t always be done, and you will be unloading with your Uzis, AK-47s, chain guns, RPGs, shotguns, pistols, and tons of grenades plenty of other times.

Some have complained about “BLACK” not having the best enemy AI. And while it’s true that there are plenty of times where you can quietly enter a room and pick off a couple enemies rather easily, there are tons more areas where the bastards will surprise you at every turn, crawling out of the woodwork like a swarm of fire ants off to eat its prey. So don’t be easily fooled. A lot of the enemy soldiers have extremely good bulletproof clothing on and you will be shooting a few rounds into a lot of these guys to take them out successfully.

“BLACK” gets even more exciting when the player gets to use the sniper rifle. There are two magnification settings on it, and blowing the bejesus out of an explosive oil tank under an enemy’s watch tower is thrilling beyond words. Just seeing the damage done shooting an enemy spot on with the sniper rifle is cool enough, watching them fall back violently, or if they’re up on some sort of structure, falling down and grabbing the ledge at the last minute in a desperate attempt to stay alive before you take another shot and cap them off completely.

“BLACK” is simple throughout and doesn’t stray from its course. There aren’t any big side missions to take care of, other than collecting maps, destroying safes, discovering hidden weapons, and the like. But this is to its benefit. “BLACK” is the kind of game that was build on classics like “Wolfenstein 3-D” and the original “Doom.” Go in, shoot away, and get to the other side of the level. It’s fun, breathtaking, and hard as hell, too. Other reviewers have complained about the supposed short length of the game and level design, but to me, having to take an hour through one single mission, and through other missions as well, is well worth the money spent. And the level designs are terrific. There are multiple paths within the levels, allowing for maximum replayability, and just when you think you’re almost done with a level, you find you’ve only knocked out a quarter of it.

There are no multiplayer games in “BLACK,” but once again, so what? Not every FPS needs an online mode. And really, after a while, online FPS gaming starts becoming a blur. You’re either really good at it, or you suck. “BLACK” presents players with an engrossing one player campaign with four levels of difficulty and all the shit you could want to blow up over and over again. What more could you ask for in a game like this? Nothing, I say. So hats off to the folks at Criterion and EA for cranking out yet another classic that leaves your eyes weeping with joy and your fingers trigger happy long after you’ve turned the console off.

~Jason Thompson