Retro Monday: Black

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Retro Friday: “Black

Developer: Criterion Games

Publisher: Electronic Arts

Released: 24th February 2006 (EU and me)

28th February 2006 (North America)

Black” was the first modern shooter, or more affectionately known as ‘spunkgargleweewee’ by some, that I played way-back- when on the PlayStation 2.  But that leads me into a predicament. I am not a fan of the modern shooter, but I must have mellowed in the last few years because I just don’t like “Call of Duty, ” I don’t mind “Battlefield” and I’ve always liked “Black”. Why must my mind torment me so!  So, while I’m talking about “Black,” let’s have a look at what it does right and get to the bottom of this mental conundrum.

Black” is a first person shooter set in the modern age, with you playing as black ops agent Sergeant First Class Jack Kellar; same protagonist then as always. The story leads you though Chechnya and has you fighting the evil terrorist organization ‘The Seventh Wave’ being led by ex-CIA agent William Lennox. Almost the same villain. Least it’s not those Ruskies being all commie. It’s less CoD and more “The Expendables [2010]”. And that’s not in the only way.

One of the big mechanics in the game is that most of it can be blown up. Not in the spectacular way,  but in a ‘there’s a man up there, take the building down’ way. You’re given and can find RPS and grenades in most levels rather abundantly and even unlock an infinite amount of under-slung (or’ Noob Tube’ for the less educated people out there) 40mm grenades so you can blow stuff up to your heart’s content.  I like that. Rather than the game holding your head in place and saying ‘look at this explosion! Appreciate the game engine!’ and acting like a Michael Bay movie, you can just blow stuff up. That’s the point of a shooter. Look at the new “Grand Theft Auto V”. What did most people do when they first played it? They looked for the missile launcher or just the biggest gun they could find to blow stuff up and cause a minor disaster.

The cut-scenes in the game are live action. It was the thing back then. And yes, we Brits can film this sort of Americanized espionage stuff. All of the live action was shot in one plain white room because it is only Kellar recounting events after being ‘arrested’ and all of the actors were American actors but still. This leads to an interesting thought. There are no cut-scenes that take control away from you in-game. You play, it fades to black, goes to live-action cut-scene and then it loads the next level. You don’t have control wrested from you to have exposition spouted at you. This leads to something film critics have said recently as well. Many modern films over-do the CGI and just film stuff because it’s going to be filled in with huge CGI monsters or explosions later.  In the cuts of the past, there was only puppetry, animatronics, prosthetics and actual explosions/gunfire. Just look at the recent “Pacific Rim [2013]”. The shots of the giant-ass mechas/monsters complement the CGI rather than just being another shot.

You may have noticed that I’ve talked about films in the game review. That’s because they wanted the game to have a film feel. Another way they did this was in the sound editing. They use gun noises from films and pitched the noises when there are multiple enemies firing.  I noticed neither of them when I was played, but someone must have noticed because they were nominated for a BAFTA and won another award (jointly with their other, slightly more famous, series “Burnout”, you may of heard of it) for sound.

I can’t help but look at “Black” and think that is a spunkgarggleweewee game, but it is a good spunkgarggleweewee game. So I am torn between praising it for it’s not being like one, or crucify it for being one. I can come up with a recommendation rather than a compromise.

If you’re in the camp that doesn’t like modern shooters and calls them spunkgargleweewee at every opportunity, play “Black” and see if it is the substance of spunkgargleweewee you don’t like or if you just don’t like spunkgargleweewee. Because, frankly, I don’t mind spunkgargleweewee as long it’s “Black”.

And if you don’t get the spunkgarggleweewee reference, watch “Zero Punctuation” on the Escapist.Com and come back tomorrow.

Retro Score: 4/5

Today Score: 4/5

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