Black: Review

Black is an easy to pick up, non-stop action game that delivers exactly what it promised. It’s just unfortunate that it feels like it’s over just as you’re getting into it.

The Good: One of the best looking current gen shooters. Weapon and explosion sounds are massive.

The Bad: Extremely short. No multiplayer. Less than stellar A.I.


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What’s been dubbed as the last great game on current gen consoles is finally in our hands, but unfortunately it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

I’ve watched several interviews with the developers of Black (via Gamespot) and went into this game knowing it was made to be a fun, intense shooter in the same vein as the classic 80s Hollywood blockbuster action movies. And in this regard, Black excels. There’s bullets flying from every direction. Shit blowing up all around you all the time. And plenty of weapons to keep you entertained… for a short time.

Black

I’m not gonna beat around the bush here… holy shit, this is the shortest game ever! It really is. I don’t think I’ve ever played a game that I beat in 3 sittings (less than 6 hours). But in that time, I did manage to fire over 27,000 bullets and drop over 1,700 dudes. I can deal with a short campaign as long as there’s other things to do. Unfortunately, there isn’t with Black. Once you beat it, you can play it again on a hard difficulty level, but that’s about the extent of it. After completing the game on Normal you’re rewarded with Silver weapons. Not only do they look wicked hot, they have unlimited ammo. Which you might find sort of cheese since you’re supposed to continue onto the harder difficulties and they’ve basically just given you a cheat.

Speaking of cheese. When I wrote my Preview last week, I mentioned that I was 4 levels in. I think it was showing my progress as 18% at that time, so I figured I still had quite a ways to go. I’ve now beat the game and I’m only 30% done. That there, is some stanky cheese. Aside from your main objectives, there’s secondary objectives which include things like collecting big red pieces of paper that you find stuck to walls, blowing up safes and laptops, finding plans and maps, etc. When you play on normal, you only have to collect a few of the secondary objectives to finish the mission, although you’ll end up with almost all of them anyway. It’s not exactly hard to find a big metal safe or a gleaming red page stuck on a brick wall. I guess this is where the extra 70% comes into play? Beat the game again on High and collect more useless shit, then beat it again on Black Ops and collect the same useless shit and you’ve finally completed the game. Ummm, no thanks.

Black doesn’t look or sound like an Xbox/PS2 game. And I’m sure you’ll agree after you watch my gameplay video. They’ve really pulled everything string possible to get the most out of these consoles. The environments look great with tons of detail. The amount of dust and debris flying around is insane. Add a bunch of fire on top of that and some sparks from bullets hitting metal. You would think with all that on screen chaos, you’d see some slow downs. Not at all – at least on the Xbox. It ran smooth as silk.

The weapon sounds are phenomenal. The automatic guns are sharp and crisp while the RPG and grenade explosions are huge and full. They really did a good job on the range of weapon sounds here. To accompany the medley of shells dropping and glass shattering is a beautiful orchestral score produced by non-other than Michael Giacchino. Who just happens to be my favourite composer. You’ve definitely heard his work, whether you’re a gamer or someone who watches television or enjoys movies. He’s done everything from the Medal of Honor and the Call of Duty series to The Incredibles and Lost.

The enemies you’ll encounter in Black are nothing to get too worked up about. Basically you’re run of the mill soldiers that don’t know any better than to take cover when they get shot in the face and will run head-long at you while you’re unloading on them. That’s not to say they’re not tough, though. I think in an effort to make up for their lack of intelligence, they’ve been given the ability to withstand and obscene amount of bullets passing through their bodies. Some in particular, you will have to reload a couple times before taking them down. Which does get frustrating, to say the least. There’s basically 4 types of soldiers. The standard, skinny, extra stupid soldier that only takes a few shots to take out. He’ll often run away if you come up behind him – which is actually quite funny to see. Then there’s one that’s got different camo and takes a few more bullets. Then we have Mr Jason mask with a shotgun. This guy sucks as you have to knock his mask off to kill him. I found that if you pump him full of bullets to the chest as you’re approaching, he’ll fall to the ground. You can then smack him with the butt end of your gun and he’s out for the count. The last class of soldier is the fuckin’ worst. Dude’s got a huge shield and is fully covered in armor from head to toe. If you don’t have grenades or an RPG, you’re going to take some hits and unload a ton of bullets on this dude. Even then, he can protect himself from the grenade blast with the shield. So you have to make sure to shot around him to keep him moving while you’re waiting for the ‘nade to blast. There was a couple instances where 2 or more of them came out at the same time. Sucked.

Overall, I had some fun playing Black. I don’t see myself playing through the entire game again. I’ve already played some of the levels through a second time, which was just as fun if not more with infinite ammo.

Rating: 3/5

Black

16 Responses to “Black: Review”

  1. Great review, and although I don't have a console, I was interested in how this game would turn out. For such a short game, is the price right, or is it priced like other A-list games out there ($60?) If it is $60, that is a real shame, and a ripoff. Pricing really should be about the length of the game. If' it's short, it shouldn't share the same price as games like Oblivion or GTA: San Andreas.

    Serious Sam, when it came out, was a quick, simple, yet fun game, and only set me back $20. That gave me good tingly feelings, and I wish more games like that were produced (seems we may soon, with episodic content coming up from Valve, and likely others.)

  2. @Matt: EA announced a few weeks ago that all current gen games would be marked down. Black is included in this. Mind you, it's listed at $49.99 CDN on the Future Shop site. Which is only really $10 less than most Xbox games. Guess that's better than nothing though.

    @Tom: Nice. I'm not too into custom soundtracks. I find that it wears songs out for me. Making custom soundtracks on the Xbox is so pain staking too. Can hardly be bothered.

  3. Ooookay, bare with me …

    I think Burris asks the most relevant question, yet. I was rubbing my eyes to recheck the first two comments when the responses were in favour of running out to pick this title up. A review says it's the shortest game ever, offers nothing more than absolute action mayhem slathered in cheese and people are willing to pay full price for it??? Holy cow this industry has it easy!

    Frankly, your (great) review not only confirms my suspicions but further disappoints with descriptions of uber armor, silver unlimited ammo guns and tacked up (important) red sheets of paper that need collecting.

    [sigh]

    Black seems to be nothing more than a product demo dedicated to showing off a smart game engine that allows for unprecedented destruction, level alteration, ballistics, and explosions.

    Correct me if I'm wrong but there doesn't seem to be any real attempt at a story, character development, or complex and/or rewarding objectives. Worse, if it aims to be nothing more than a mindless action shooter, then to have been fully successful there should have been anywhere from 12 to 15 levels of fun.

    My guess is that this really is a ploy to licence off their game engine the way Quake and Unreal engines have been exploited. Only both id and Epic showed off their engine with a FULL shooter experience that was worth our hard earned dollars.

    Black looks like a fat irradiated mutant cow of a rip off. I shouldn't have to pay for a product demo and neither should you. I'd ask for my money back.

    Nice job, Mr. Brett!

  4. I'm with you on the review matt. I picked my copy up yesterday morning since I had the day off and plowed through a couple levels on normal, lookedat my percent done and figured i have a long ways to go when in reality I was told I'm closing in on the end.

    The game altogether is fun but in the next 2 installments, I'm sure there will be multiplayer. You can basically look at this one as the demo for the next two.

  5. Looks like a lot of fun, I love the touches, as you mentioned, like the blurred background when vision is focussed on the gun during a reload.

    Shame about it's length then.

  6. Did you see on digg where someone hacked the flash site and found a promo code for those that preordered the game? I believe it got you a rocket launcher or something.

  7. I had high hopes for that game. Now I don't know. With so many games out there with more replay value, Perhaps I should just rent it.

    Awesome blog, as always. I linked to you on my blog,at http://official-xbox.blogspot.com/ I will do my best to mention your site as often as possible. Please keep up the phenomenal job. Thanks so much.

  8. The promo codes give you a bfg for the first level.

    Haven't quite finished it yet, the game yet but I'm not in a huge rush. You have to be willing to sit down for at least 45 minutes to complete a level, it's kind of annoying. I like it though, it's a fun fps… it feels kind of like playing Burnout with guns.

    What I want is decent multiplayer that doesn't need Xbox Live. Xbox games don't give you the extra meatbots to shoot when you're playing a living room game with four people.

  9. I missed Unreal 2, have a copy of the first one around, just doesn't cut it though. I'll have to check the second one out.

    Best FPS multiplayer I've played lately is From Russia With Love. Takes a little while to get used to but it does a really good job evening things out across various skill levels. i.e. it frustrates you that the person you just finished killing spawns beside and kills you, but it gives both sides closure.

  10. I dont get why you people say it is so short, i mean if you take your time and have fun with it, and play on the hardest setting its a good 30-60 minutes for one mission, then there ALOT more missions, its alot of fun..i got it for $20 at Game Stop, and yes the graphics are amazing on the PS2, and Yes they are making a Black 2 for the 360 and PS3