Black Xbox Review

How do you describe Black? Well for a start it is highly action orientated. Alas that description is far too normal to describe this game. I guess I need to be more “Black-Like” then I guess! Ok I have it; Black has the feel of being developed by a collection of raving mad lunatics and then attacked with a very sharp axe by another crazed individual all the way to the CD pressing factory until the game fell out (and boy what a game fell out). Then of course the game was not just placed into it’s DVD case it was probably just tossed in there from halfway across the room like a Frisbee for the simple reason that it is much more fun that way. Fun is what Black is all about! Around every turn it asks you the question “should I just shoot this guy or maybe just shoot the cleverly place highly flammable object lying beside him and after the obscenely huge explosive guess where he lands?” Of course as with all questions (non-rhetorical ones anyway) they need an answer and if your answer sways anywhere into “I love big booms, let’s blow him up” territory then Black is quite possibly the game you have been waiting for all your life.

Black takes the FPS genre back a few years then rewrites it and arguably throws out something different, special and new that surpasses the efforts of many games over the past decade. The most instantly notable exclusion is the lack of a map and radar which has become the stable of many games in the genre over the past few years. Black does not need a map nor radar so why bother building the game around a them when you could just toss ’em out. It seems Black’s developers are as ruthless as the game itself! What’s weird is you won’t actually notice many of the missing aspect the game decided upon tossing out as they are not looked upon as weakness. Any weakness you think the game may have is replaced and equalled by a better strength. Everything Black does it carries out with intense vigour and extreme ferocity making many moments in the game highly enjoyable intense visceral experiences.

Fighting In The Dance Hall

Throughout the game’s development life EA have hyped the game as “Gun Porn” and while this title may be apt, a title along the lines of “Highly Explosive Ballet” may be more descriptive. Not only does the game offer explosion after never ending explosion it does so with immense style and grace. As you progress through Black you will rarely want to or need to stop to take a breather. Your finger will want to become entrenched on the right trigger and find solace in its new home as it won’t be leaving there for a while. In fact you will rarely need to move your finger off the button as there is more than enough bullets available to blow up everything in the game twice over! In Black you will always to be on the move, you will be compelled to keep going. This moving does not always mean being out in the open taking as much destruction as you are getting as it’s always advisable to stand behind some cover and let off a few shots into something that wants to blow up. There is always something for you to do in the game as it contains little low points. Black always asks you that question I posed at the beginning of the review and 9 times outta 10 hitting that explosive crate, barrel, oil tank or mine is the correct answer.

Every time a bullet leaves a gun in Black it means something. A high number of them won’t hit your target but still something will happen on screen to let you know you just shot at something. Maybe if you miss and hit the wall behind the enemy a small bit of dust will rises then he shoots at you breaking a bit of glass, then you shoot him knocking down a pot. He then hides behind a pillar and you shoot at it taking lumps of concert away with every bullet that makes contact. Finally you get pissed and take out a SMG and shoot at him 100 times a second with most of the bullets of course missing your target which leads to loads of dust rising and the whole room been filed with smoke! You then hear a gun shot and you don’t know where it comes from and you unleash hell with your SMG once again but this time you blow up an oil tank sending it a few hundred feet in air and it explodes with the force of a megaton bomb. There has never been this much destruction in a game before, ever. What makes it even better is it is not just you who can cause the destruction!

It’s A God-Awful Small Affair

Players: 1, I am sure you have noticed them words sitting over there on the right side of your screen at least once as you skip though this review and yes that means black has zero multiplayer options. I am definite most will look upon this as a reason to dismiss the game and some may flat out refuse to buy it because no multiplayer options seem sacrilege in games these day. Well I am sure my words are not going to change your mind if you are dead set not on buying it because of this but I am sure as hell going to try.

In my opinion Criterion chose not to include a multiplayer option in the game as they wanted to make the single player games as good as they possible could and that is exactly what they have accomplished. They just tossed the idea of multiplayer out the door from the word go (they probably planted a mine behind it, denoted it and then ran after it shooting if the game is anything to go by). Without half of their team focusing on balancing weapons to make the multiplayer fair, making countless equally balanced maps and then spending ages optimizing servers and the like, every spare minute has gone into making the single player campaign as good as it can be. If you can imagine your love for your favourite multiplayer game multiplied by a nice big high number then you will realize how much work has been put into the little touches that make Black what it is. Believe me hard work shines through straight away from just the first few minutes of play.

Lived It Ten Times Or More

For those that just can’t get over the loss of a multiplayer option (read: sad people crying in corner) the main form of replayabilty in Black comes in the form of replaying the levels and trying things out a different way. The eight levels themselves don’t really take too long to complete. Then there is the option to play the game on a higher difficulty level (there’s four of them) which will of course take a bit longer. Then, and this is where Black shines; even after playing through the game on the difficulty levels you may want to even play it again as there are a thousand and one ways to blow up the thousand and one things that can be blown up. Sure you may not have all these play session in one go but I am sure there are many days throughout the year when you will run your finger down the spines of the games on your shelve then hit on Black and think “what if I did it that way.” There is also the option to unlock “silver weapons” which is basically your chosen weapons with infinite ammo. Yes I will admit a multiplayer option would have been nice but it not the end of the world now is it? If you still going to argue that “Black is white” then there is nothing I can do.

My Friend Is Nowhere To Be Seen

Now onto the game’s AI, yes I will admit there are a few problems to be had here. No one (but you of course) in the game can be classed as very smart but that is not saying they are incredibly dumb either. It’s not the enemy AI that I have a problem with either, I am sure if Goldilocks was to make an appearance in the game she would class it as “just right” although I am sure she would have been shot in the face before she would get a word out. It is the friendly AI that is a bit off. There are a few missions in the game that teams you up with some comrades to fight the odds together. It is these team-mates that may sometimes get on your nerves. Sometimes they run off and do their own thing and sadly you have no control over them at all which means at times you may be facing hoards of bad guys without any form of much needed backup. Sometimes they just stand in one place and focus all their attention on one enemy and keep attacking him ’til he’s dead (even if they get shot at a lot in the process). Thankfully none of this detracts much from the game’s experience and at times your team-mates end up drawing some fire for you letting you frag an annoying bad guy with sniper. All in all the AI is respectable, sure it could be better and sure some enemies would have been much better off if they did not stand next to that red box with “danger” written on it but the game may have been a lot less fun if they did. It’s another weakness turned into a strength!

Hooked To The Silver Screen

Not only does black play like the action movie of your dreams it also plays homage to some big blockbusters. There are many set pieces in the game that are easily identified as being in some films you may have seen in recent years. The most noticeable one is undoubtedly the columned lobby ripped straight from the original Matrix (yes the columns do explode while shot) which is one of the games biggest awe inspiring high points but if you dig deeper you will also see others which aren’t as quickly identifiable but are equally impressive. The shower sequence for “The Rock” is also included, in fact I remembered this scene a few hours after playing the game. There are some other scenes in there which I have noticed but will let you find for yourself (it’s half the fun isn’t it?). I am also sure there are some I have not picked up on at all and I might just remember a few more days down the line.

The Seat With The Clearest View

Most areas in Black are a vision of beauty and look like they should belong on a next gen console and not on the not lowly ole Xbox (don’t even get me started on trying to explain how they got that much power out of a PS2!). The destructible environments may be enough for some but not for Criterion as they have included a fantastic selection of partial effects most of which can all be happening at the same time and they game does not show a hint of slowdown. Black is also home to some nice “ragdoll” physics which make each enemy’s demise look that little bit better. The title also houses a nice “domino” effect which means this little explosion may trigger a bigger explosion which may in turn rip out the side of a building it just happened beside. It all looks fantastic as it happens with devastating force right in front of you. The lighting on these explosions are also of a high quality and it dramatically changes the look of the level in a flash.

The sound is also of an equally high-quality. Each weapon sounds like it is going to hurt you and each explosion sounds like it could be heard from miles away. If you are in possession of a good sound system then turn it up as high as you dare and Black will start to shake your house and hearing one of those explosions with the volume in the red will literally shake your innards ruthlessly apart! Then there is the soundtrack (written by the guy that composes most of the music heard in the TV show Alias). The music does not sound that spectacular at first but as you advance through the game you will notice that each track has similar base music with layers added to make it fit with every section. By the time you reach the end of the game I can guarantee you will have some of the compositions stuck in your head. If you don’t really want to listen to the music (I would advise you do) then the game also offers the ability for custom soundtracks which is a nice touch as it is something you don’t get in that many FPS’s

It’s The Freakiest Show

Black makes you feel like you’re in an action movie! Now, in my opinion that’s something that has never been done before. Sure, Goldeneye made you feel like you were in the shoes of a spy and the likes of Call Of Duty 2 brought the morbid feeling of war to our brand new shiny high-def TVs but have you ever felt like John McClain jumping off the side of a building just it was about to explode while playing a game? It’s hard to think of a game that unrelentlessly tosses this much action straight in your face without any thought of holding back. Black offers some of the best single player gaming the world has seen in ages and while some may complain to the high-heavens that they need some multiplayer option in the game to “make their life complete” the simple answer to that is they don’t. Back in 2003 Criterion Games decided they could make an outstanding FPS and three years later that’s exactly what they have done. While it lasts, Black is the best single player FPS available to buy for your ageing Xbox (and yes I do know what games I am comparing it to when I make that statement). Black was the most intense six hours of my life and then everything blew up!

9.6 out of 10

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