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Jan. 8, 2006
Black - Preview
Release Date Publisher Developer Anticipation Players Price
28/2/2006EA GamesCriterion1$99.95
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Ohh.. particles.
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Level detail is impressive.
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Explosions look neat.

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Action on the bridge.
E3 2005 was a pretty exciting event with some amazing next generation titles on display (can anyone say Killzone for PS3!), but there were plenty of titles on current generation systems also wowing the crowds. Shown to a select few was Criterion's next big project outside their Burnout racing franchise. That title was Black, a first person shooter designed to set new benchmarks. The game was summarised perfectly by Criterion's creative boss Alex Ward: "Black is about shooting stuff and blowing shit up".

It's not all shooting, as there is a bit of a story which is as follows. You play SFC Jack Kellar, a member of the world's most brutal and enigmatic strike force. The BLACK tactical squad operates under the cloak of complete anonymity and deniability to protect the US from threats foreign and domestic. It answers to no one, allowing it to carry out brutal and overt operations around the globe. From manipulating politicians to controlling intelligence networks and militaries, BLACK operatives are trained at the highest level in psychological warfare, espionage, and lethal arts. Go deep into the world of clandestine warfare as you use any means necessary to get the job done.

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More stunning explosions.
Criterion are keen to stress that Black is a straight up shooter. There are no stealth sections, nor any squads to command and order around the battlefield. Go in with guns blazing and get the job done. The developers are also keen to stress that every single bullet fired will have an effect in the game world. If it hits an enemy they will get injured or killed, if it hits a wall a chunk will most likely be blown off it, if it hits something solid (such as steel) the bullet will ricochet off. With this in mind the game throws up some interesting aspects and options. If someone is taking cover perhaps shooting at something above them will cause them to be either hit by debris, or at least cause the enemy to move out from his cover.

One rather intersting aspect to this game is that it is single player only. There's no online gameplay, nor even split screen. Criterion have done this to concentrate on making the best single-player game and given the lack of online gamers still it's a decision we can't argue with despite the slight disappointment.

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And some gorgeous lighting.
So looking at these screenshots something is immediately apparent. This is one stunning looking title. Most impressive is the particle effects with every single bullet causing destruction and bits of scenery to fly through the air. We're not talking about a few particles either, nor dozens, but literally hundreds. The game also includes some impressive lighting and explosions which are well up there with the best seen on PS2.

At this stage Criterion are aiming for a February 2006 release for this game and if the game reinvigorates the FPS genre as Burnout did for racing then we're in for one hell of a ride. Black is one of the big games for 2006 and while some may find the lack of online gameplay disappointing (and even split-screen multiplayer) there's no denying that this is almost certain to be an essential title - let's just hope that Criterion provide as many gameplay thrills as they are graphical tricks. Impressive to say the least.