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March 12, 2006
Black - PS2 Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
28/2/2006EA GamesCriterion1MMedium
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen
59KBDolby PLIIYesYesNoneYes

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Ohh.. particles.
When E3 2005 occurred many people were transfixed with titles on the XBox 360 due to its impending launch, and stunning videos such as Killzone on Playstation 3. One other game that received plenty of buzz, but which was only shown behind closed doors, was Black - a current generation game that looked next generation - or at least made next generation games not look so, well, next generation. Developers Criterion aren't strangers to hit games with the extremely impressive Burnout also developed by them. Can the company do to FPS's what they did to racing games? Read on.

In Black 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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Level detail is impressive.
To be honest, the storyline in Black is paper thin, and the cut scenes, all of which involve interrogation scenes with virtually no action, are pretty average. I expected a lot more here, and this is one area where Criterion, perhaps with the help of new owner EA, will be able to improve in future. But the intro and cut scenes are soon forgotten.

From the moment this First Person Shooter starts this is bullet laiden, grab you by the balls and never let go, styled action. Within the first few minutes you'll be showered in glass and debris, dodging rocket launchers, and causing some major damage to a stunning looking city street. At any time you can carry up to two weapons, and up to 9 hand grenades with switching between only taking a moment. One of the coolest features is that while reloading weapons the world goes blurry so you can concentrate on the reloading. It's a great effect and one which allows you to just see what is still going on around you, but still adds an element of strategy about when to reload.

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Explosions look neat.
AI in the game is pretty good, but certainly not something we haven't seen before. Enemies will run away from grenades, or if taking fire duck and run for improved cover. Still at times they do some pretty stupid things. Enemies with bulletproof shields will often just crouch right next to the grenade, inflicting major damage (or death) while other enemies have a habit of sticking their heads up from behind cover to check out where you are, making easy pickings if you have an assault rifle, or sniper rifle handy.

While Black is one of the most kick-ass FPS's we've every played it also has a host of disappointments. Primarily the length of the game is simply not enough. The eight missions take around 30-60 minutes to complete each which means, allowing for some replayed sections, the game can be finished in 8 hours or so. Sure, you can then attempt the Hard, and then insanely difficult Black Ops mode which unlocks some neat features, but when you've been through the game once there are few surprises to be had. Perhaps most disappointing is the realisation that there is no multi-player at all in the game. Criterion wanted to concentrate on the single player game, which means no online gameplay, nor even split-screen action.

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The bridge battle is awesome.
Without a doubt the graphics in Black are among the best seen on Playstation 2. Sure the interrogation styled cut- scenes were a major disappointment but when you get into the actual game you'll love every moment of it. Every bullet has an effect on the game world be it a chunk of building flying off, or a bullet hole in more solid walls this takes the "Geo-Mod" destruction technology in Red Faction and puts it to shame. Admittedly it has been almost 5 years, but it's amazing to see just how far the PS2 has been pushed along. Characters are all animated extremely well and while there's a few too many "scripted" moments such as people falling off ledges or out of buildings when killed it only adds to the thrills.

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More stunning explosions.
There's two areas where Black really shines more then any other game. The first is the particle effects. Be it glass shattering, or buildings crumbling it's absolutely stunning that the PS2 can push thousands of particles in such a manner. The second gorgeous effect is the smoke and dust kicked up. Throw some grenades and the room will often fill up with dust making enemies only visible by the muzzle flashes from their guns. All this is wrapped up with a silky smooth frame rate, at either 50Hz or 60Hz.

Audio is another area where Black excels. If you have a great speaker setup turn this baby up and get set to be blown away. I don't think I've heard a better set of guns in a game to date - and it damn well puts most movies to shame today.

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And some gorgeous lighting.
Black is such an accomplishment, and such a disappointment at the same time. On the one hand there's no doubt that technically this is probably the most accomplished title ever seen on the PS2. Not only are the graphics superb, but the audio is top notch, and the AI impressive. At the same time however you'll also lament the fact that the game is so short, there is no online gameplay, nor even split screen. There's certainly somewhere for Criterion to take the inevitable sequel at least. Should you buy it. If you love FPS's then yes, if you just want to see what's going on then perhaps a rental is best - most gamers could get through Black in a day or two - albeit without discovering all the secrets.

Review By: Dave Warner

Order your copy now from Gameswarehouse (PAL version) or Amazon (NTSC Version).
GRAPHICSProbably the best in-game graphics ever on the PS2. Particles galore.
92%
SOUNDHook this up to decent speakers and you'll be blown away. Stunning.
90%
GAMEPLAYIt's a FPS, but extremely fun with plenty of explosions and set pieces.
87%
VALUEAbout 8-10 hours to finish, plenty of secrets, but no multi-player
64%
OVERALLBlack is a great FPS that just falls short in terms of length and needed to include some multi-player modes to extend it's life - especially as Australians must pay full price ($AU99.95) unlike America where it was released cheaper ($US39.99 instead of the regular $49.99 full price).
79%

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