Black E3 2005 Gameplay Demo Impressions

Criterion shows us an unbroken demo of the explosive shooter; we go gaga.

Remember last E3, when we hyped the hell out of a tech demo-cum-game called Black? Today we confirmed that hype was justified when Burnout maker Criterion showed us a lengthy demo of the explosive shooter as it was being played right before our eyes. And it pretty much blew us away. Criterion magnate Alex Ward began the demo by saying that while The Matrix changed the shooting-action landscape back in 1999, no game has since captured the madness of that Keanu Reeves lobby shoot-out...until now. What a bold statement.

Good thing Black has the chops to back it up. This is simply one of the most destructive shooters we've ever seen. Everything breaks in the world of Black, from the glass windows of a phone booth to the signage suspended above a restaurant to the entirety of an automobile when you hit its gas tank and blow it sky-high. The sheer degree of activity in the Black demo is honestly hard to convey in words. You sorta need to see it in action. (But at least we're trying.)

It seems like just about everything in the Black demo was both destructible and governed by the game's physics engine. One jaw-dropping sequence we saw had the demo player fighting enemies that were returning fire from a half-demolished building with an open front. The player fired a massive gun at the top floor, collapsing it onto the next lowest floor, which then collapsed on the next one down, and so on. The result: a bunch of dead enemies and one ruined building, all in the space of about two seconds.

There was just one sequence after another like this in the demo. In another scene, the player threw a grenade through an open window of a glass-fronted building, blowing out literally the entire face of the building in one huge rain of debris and broken glass. Another explosion brought down an entire city hall-type building by taking out the two front support columns, crushing more enemies below. Even the basic shoot-outs in the demo were extremely impressive, with extensive particle systems used for sparks, smoke, flying debris, and just about everything else you can imagine flying all over the place. The demo was finally capped when the player pulled out a rocket launcher and fired it past enemies at a large tanker truck, which came apart in one of the biggest FPS explosions we've ever seen. The player's perspective didn't stop shaking for a good few seconds after that one.

Again, you have to see how fast and furiously this action unfolds to really appreciate it. Between the solid visuals and the incredible action going, this is easily one of the most impressive PlayStation 2 games we've seen in a while. And reps on hand said the graphics are only at about 50 percent completion, with the gameplay at around 20 percent. So if it's looking this good now, Black ought to be pretty special, indeed, when it's released for the PS2 and Xbox next year. We'll close our impressions of the demo with a message to Criterion and EA: Put out some footage of Black. This thing sells itself. Stay tuned for more as soon as we get it.

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