Black looks and sounds fantastic, but the rest of the game proves that great hype can bring great disappointment.

User Rating: 7.7 | Black PS2
Criterion, the company responsible for Black, was made famous by the Burnout series (racing games notable for their fast-paced action and extreme explosions). Black was supposed to be a first-person-shooter bringing some of the same elements, most importantly the destruction. Criterion promised several things for Black, such as a system that would allow practically anything in the scenario to be destroyed. Thanks to a fantastic response by the media everywhere, Black's hype was sent into overdrive. As the release date became closer, the media suddenly started to back away and say the game wasn't as amazing as they first pointed it out to be. How was the final result? Read on to find out.

Indeed, Black has a lot of destructible stuff - several objects you would like to destroy can be destroyed. Wanna turn those weak walls to dust? Shoot away. Blow up that car near some enemies to kill the enemies? Yeah, throw a grenade to make it look good. Use a rocket-launcher to blow up a huge fuel container? Yup, do as you please. Blast a minefield with a grenade launcher? Sure, sure. Blow up barrels? You didn't even have to ask that one. Of course, all of that sounds amazing, but it's not as good as you think. If you took part in the overhyping of the game, you'll expect to destroy more stuff than the game allows you to. Therefore, the short explanation is: no, Black, doesn't allow you to destroy nearly everything in the scenarios.

As for the other promises made by Criterion, regarding visuals and audio, they are pretty much fulfilled. The settings and the guns of the game look fantastic, both from the artistic and the technical viewpoint. Light effects definitely get the biggest standout here, as they basically set what mood the current area should have. During the entire game, there will be a gun on your screen, so it's a real bonus that all guns look incredibly realistic (reloading some of them is made a pleasure thanks to this). All of this sounds almost as good as it looks. The tension in shootouts is greatly increased by the sounds of guns, explosions, your enemies screaming in pain, and walls being torn apart. Also, the soundtrack follows the action in a beautiful way. Unfortunately, the same thing can't be said about the voice acting, which includes some cursing language by the end of the game - and cursing feels completely unnecessary here.

Again about the voice acting, the game has some cutscenes between levels. Not computer-animated cutscenes, but instead scenes filmed with real actors in a real set. It's hard to tell the purpose of this, since neither the style resources nor the story pull you inside. The acting is decent, but that's not enough. Also, the storyline in Black doesn't help at all: weak clichés and a cliffhanger-ending conspire to make something not as engaging as you'd want it to be.

After all of this, you'd at least expect some sort of twist in the gameplay to make the game stand out - but there isn't such a thing here. You can carry two guns and some grenades, perform all the basic actions of a FPS (except for jumping), and use a certain type of health pack on-the-go. Sounds utterly simple? Well, it is. The one thing the gameplay has going for it is the waste of ammo: you pick up copious amounts of ammunition, and you are encouraged to shoot them as much as you want to. You'll rarely - if ever - run out of ammo, so you can shoot as much as you want to kill a single enemy. The box of the game says that "there's no need for stealth here", but that's a blatant lie, as your AI-controlled allies will "order" you to use stealth. Of course, you can still go and shoot the hell out of everything with no worries, as the AI of your enemies doesn't give you too much of a hard time.

The biggest flaw in Black is its length. The game only has 8 missions, which can be easily beaten under 8 hours on the Normal difficulty level. Each new mission is better and more fun than the last one (in fact, some level designs are utter crap when compared to other ones), but that makes it feel even shorter. To back that up, there's no multiplayer feature whatsoever.

All in all, Black makes for a great rental - and that's it. After all the hype and anticipation, it feels disappointing. The game can still provide entertainment, but you'll be wondering how better it could be. Perhaps this project could be greatly improved, if only it was pushed into the next-gen.

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