Review: BLACK (PS2)

Brikar

The Dude
Jan 1, 1970
3,661
3
0
Massachusetts
#1
"BLACK"
Electronic Arts/Criterion
PS2/XBox

STORY
There isn't much of one... Basically, you're a Black Ops soldier in prison, being debriefed by a higher up. Apparently, you disobeyed orders and a mission went totally FUBAR, and now you're paying for it. The game's plot is a bit thin, and ends on a cliffhanger where it ought to just be picking up steam, not ending. But that's neither here nor there. This is one of those times we can forgive a game for having a weak story because, frankly, the gameplay just kicks too much ass to care very much.

GAMEPLAY
Damn. BLACK is not a particularly deep, intricately plotted shooter. In fact, if you go more than a minute without emptying a clip at full auto, you might just be playing the game wrong. BLACK is a balls-out action game where, as the box art clearly states, the guns are the stars. The missions are rather long, each one will on average probably take you about half an hour or more (aside from the relatively short initial mission), during which you will expend more ammunition than you knew existed in the world.

The guns are big, loud, and powerful. The M249 is a beast of a machine gun, spitting out its entire 150 round clip in just a few seconds. However, you'll probably spend most of the game with the infamous AK-47. The Spas-12 shotgun, MP-5, M-16, G36C, Uzi and P90 round out the automatics, while there is a small selection of pistols and, of course, an RPG and a sniper rifle. They all have different accuracies, fire rates and recoils which is a nice touch. It's almost sad that the game is so heavy on the AK-47, since the other guns are so much damn fun. Anyone who's seen the "Stargate" shows knows what a badass weapon the P90 is, so it's a thrill to get to use it here. But the P90 only appears in ONE level of the game! The thing is fantastic (though not hugely accurate).

The enemy AI isn't terribly sophisticated. But they will run around and take cover and do all the things you'd expect terrorists to be doing. They're heavily armed and tough. There are a few stealthy moments in the game (particularly the forest level), and it's fun to peg them in the head from behind with a suppressed rifle shot (yes, the game has suppressors for nearly all the automatics - the AK, the M16, MP5 and G36C can all by silenced, as well as the pistols and Uzi).

The draw of BLACK is the action, of course. Bullets are flying fast and furious, with debris spurting up into the air all around. BLACK delivers all the dumb, visceral thrills of a summer Hollywood shootout. Every bullet has an effect, whether it's to chip away at cover or to send dirt or sparks up into the air. Indoor gunfights will often degenerate into you firing into a cloud of dust and your enemies doing the same, each hoping to hit the other. It's great fun to set whatever weapon you're using on full auto and just lay into a room. You've also got hand grenades, which are great to toss through a door before you enter a room.

Each level has primary and secondary objectives. Completing the secondary objectives aren't terribly necessary, though you must fulfill a minimum amount in order to proceed. Defeating the game on Normal difficulty unlocks "silver" weapons, which turns your weapons silver and gives you unlimited ammunition for each one. I suggest playing the indoor asylum level with the RPG. EVERYTHING shatters.

GRAPHICS
BLACK looks great on PS2, not much different from its SuXbox counterpart, if you're a loser enough to own that shit-worthy system. And if you have a SuxBox 360, I'm told your shit out of luck due to that system's ass-backwards-compatibility issues. The level design is great, with plenty of places to take cover and tons of destructible objects. Since you're in eastern Europe, there's lots of shitty, broken down, rusty locales to blast your way through, and they all look fantastic. They're all greatly interactive, as well - send a rocket through a window and watch it blow out two or three floors of the building, sending enemies screaming through the air.

SOUND
Got 5.1 Surround? Get BLACK. I wouldn't even want to imagine playing a game this aurally pleasing on a tinny little 13 inch tv with mono speakers. This game is meant to be big - big screen, big sound. Bullets whiz by, explosions really rock the subwoofer, and the gunfire all has nice, good heft to it. The game's score by Michael Giacchino ("Alias", "Lost," and the "Medal of Honor" games) and Chris Tilton is also quite good.

OVERALL
BLACK, as fun as it is, is pretty short. Couple that with a complete lack of any multiplayer options, and the game isn't quite as astounding as it should be. For what the game actually is, though - fantastic. The levels are long and hard and intense, the graphics and sound are excellent. I have minor quibbles, mostly relating to the fact that the P90 is my favorite gun in the whole game and I only get to use it once and the length of the game in general. But when you're in the thick of it, you'll likely forget that there's anything wrong with BLACK.

Gameplay: B+ (no multiplayer, too short)
Graphics: A
Sound: A+
Overall: A-
 

Deslok

regruntled and reemployed
Jan 1, 1970
1,221
2
0
in front of the computer
#4
It sounds like you had a blast with this one. One thing that I look for is the multiplayer feature, but it sounds as though this game engine woudn't support it very well anyway, the Bond games for the Gamecube for example.

Graphics are important too. Realism, especially in a combat game, is important. Medal of Honor really set the tone well.

Electronic Arts is one of my favorite gaming companies right now, with their sports titles, the Sims series, Need for Speed, and the highly anticipated Spore. I don't think I've ever met an EA game that I didn't like.
 

Brikar

The Dude
Jan 1, 1970
3,661
3
0
Massachusetts
#6
Deslok said:
It sounds like you had a blast with this one. One thing that I look for is the multiplayer feature, but it sounds as though this game engine woudn't support it very well anyway, the Bond games for the Gamecube for example.

Graphics are important too. Realism, especially in a combat game, is important. Medal of Honor really set the tone well.

Electronic Arts is one of my favorite gaming companies right now, with their sports titles, the Sims series, Need for Speed, and the highly anticipated Spore. I don't think I've ever met an EA game that I didn't like.
I did. Loads of fun. Even though the game is pretty short, the missions are fun enough that I've been getting good replay value out of it. There are usually a few different paths to take that mix things up a bit. For example, in the foundry mission's first area, you can go up the hill to the left where there's plenty of cover - or you can go up the hill to the right where there's no cover, but at hte top of the hill are two large concrete pipes that you can shoot and cause to roll down the hill and crush the enemies in your way. Go that way, and you'll be able to complete one of the secondary objectives by retrieving stolen documents by taking a bridge over across the left side of the hill to the top floor of a shattered building. If you go up the left side, you've got plenty of cover and you can pick off the enemies - but you have no access to the secret documents because the stairs on the first floor of the building are blown out.

I'm not sure about the BLACK engine not supporting multiplayer. I don't think I know enough about the capabilities of certain software to make that judgment. I seem to recall an article on IGN.com that said the developers considered it, but actively decided to focus on delivering the best single-player campaign they could.

I agree about EA, they've got some great stuff going on. "Need for Speed" is good, but EA's "Burnout" series is fantastic, as well. I haven't played the newest "Medal of Honor" yet, but it's on my list.
 

Cymro

Religious Fanatic
Nov 30, 1999
5,028
3
0
Shitsville, CF63
#7
EA make good games, but to me they seem like the "Blue Sun Corp" of the gaming world, they don't have supreme market dominance, but they're full of crap and marketing and all sorts of bullshit. I don't give a crap how good a game's website looks as long as it has decent tech support.
 

Bean

The Awesome One
Jan 1, 1970
5,243
3
0
39
Canada eh!
cheese.com
#10
I'm not such a big fan of EA. I generally dont play sports titles, and most other EA games I've played seem to me like EA should have Beta tested a little longer before releasing them.

Take Black and White 2 for example, I couldn't even play the game till the first patch came out.
 

Cymro

Religious Fanatic
Nov 30, 1999
5,028
3
0
Shitsville, CF63
#11
That's an increasing problem with all developers with PC games.

"If we beta test it properly we'll miss the deadline!"

"Ah screw it, we'll just release it as is and patch it when they start complaining, or better yet come up with some half assed tech support."
 

Bean

The Awesome One
Jan 1, 1970
5,243
3
0
39
Canada eh!
cheese.com
#14
I just started playing Star Wars: Empire At War a few weeks ago. Wow, I have got to say, this is the best Star Wars game I've ever played. THIS is what a Star Wars RTS should be. The graphics are superb, the model detail is amazing. And the attention to detail and canon is superb as are most Lucasarts productions. Honestly one of the best RTS games I've ever played. Definetley worth a play if you're an RTS or Star Wars fan.

There's nothing quite like the feeling you get after building your very first Imperial Star Destroyer....
 

Stag

It's me again
Jan 1, 1970
3,292
0
0
53
Florida
#17
OK, Brik, based on your review I went out and bought this game. I haven't had a chance to play it yet, but I will and let you know.

Your reviews are pretty on target, so I went for it.
 

Stag

It's me again
Jan 1, 1970
3,292
0
0
53
Florida
#18
Played it last night for about an hour and a half...good mindless game. Not much thought required to get through it. Agreed AK-47 is the lead character in this game.

Funny part is, in the first mission which takes place in some generic Easten European war torn city, a couple of the enemy soldiers speak either Polish or parts of it are in Polish and I was able to understand the directions they were shouting to each other..." go down on the left" .... and start picking off (or what ever you would call it when a shotgun is involved).