Every now and then a game in the "Beer and Pretzels" subgenre comes along. There has yet to be a "Beer and Big Ole Hunkin' Stogie" game, but perhaps that genre should be created for Black Dawn - a game that epitomizes everything everyone who doesn't play games denounces about every video game: excessive, violent, loud, irresponsible, and largely geared to lowest-common-denominator male machismo.
And: It. Is. Absolutely. Terrific.
Black Dawn is a helicopter-combat arcade game in which players pilot a single, mythical, muscled-up combat chopper against, well, everybody. In a series of air/ground battles spanning the globe, players take to the air in a "Mohawk" and torch everything from Iraqi tanks, to South American drug havens, to unarmed Cessnas, to Los Angeles crack houses. Players can toggle the viewpoint between third-person or first-person views, but either way the immediate airspace is soon buzzing with deadly airborne 3-D enemies, incoming SAMs, and spinning defense/weapon power-ups. The top of the list is graced by the awesome Tactical Nuke (beginner's note: Don't even think of firing the Tactical Nuke at a nearby target). Deployment of this mighty weapon results in a gorgeous, screen-devouring shockwave that sprays away from the impact point in a glorious, expanding 3-D crown. In fact, every explosion in this game is a joy to watch and hear, and players get lots of them before the first mission is out - possibly even some they planned.
It's the many "little touches" that transform a good game into a game worthy of greatness. But no game this macho and hairy would ever be caught dead with "little touches" of anything. In this game, it's more accurate to say the "big noogies" make the difference: Mission intros that say things like, "Your objective is to eliminate drug lord without the hassle of congressional approval"; the meaty, satisfying foom and shriek of missiles as they hurtle toward their locked targets; the screen-blurring jig the players make at the last microsecond to ditch incoming heat-seekers; the crystal-clear, no-cheese radio voices bellowing such helpful tactical advisories as "Let's get the hell out of here!" and "We're getting hammered!"; the senseless, over-the-top barrage of missiles, rockets, and tracers that pummel a downed 'copter even after it's crashed and dead; and the occasionally-glimpsed flock of F-111s that escort the player in, their swing-wings visibly locking into attack position before the wholesale massacre begins.
While largely an arcade-type experience, Black Dawn features a more realistic flight/combat mode which players have to be nuts to actually use. This game is what loud, engaging gameplay is all about. If this appeals to you, then Black Ops has you covered.