Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Criterion Games
Genre: First Person Shooter
|FIMP: Black [PS2]|
That's what designer Alex Ward, of Criterion Games, presented Black as. After two hours of playing this game, I just have one thing to say to that.
F.E.A.R. is gun porn. Black doesn't come close to F.E.A.R.
That said, Black really does put the gun front and center. It's quite obvious that Criterion put all the emphasis on shooting and the results of shooting when thinking about the gameplay. There's this severely satisfying kickback when you fire any gun, especially the shotty. All crazy effects - both gritty and sparkly - that are present in great action movies, such as John Woo's greats, are applied liberally here. Muzzle flare, empty shell casings, dust when bullet makes contact with concrete - it's all there, it's all visceral, and it's all breathtaking.
That is, until the firefight is over and you're making your way through the level to your next firefight. Really, Black so far seems content to throw guys your way, let you shoot it out and duck behind a tree whose wood is chipping away ever so slowly but equally surely, and then tell you, "Ok, go somewhere else. We won't tell you where." God dammit people, level design - guidance - something. I griped about this with Halo, and I'll pipe up about it here. When you make a forest level look dark and almost exactly the same everywhere you go, it doesn't make for happy gamers. At least leave a noticeable landmark or a skimpy map or something. I'm sincerely hoping that the situation improves during hour 3.
Truthfully, this was only the first part of that second level. However, it's less about monotony and confusion and more about progression and enemy design. This game wants to be a realistic, grittier version of classic Doom, Painkiller or Serious Sam. At least, that's how I see it so far. Yet, what those other games did far better than this one was to make things hectic and hyper. Those games sent wave after wave of a combination of dumb and smart or at least competent enemies. The enemies in Black? Not so smart. Not always competent. I've gone through periods where an enemy saw me from 20 feet away and opened fire on me. I'd then hit him with very rapid single shots from my AK-47. Ping, ping, ping. He'd take around literally 10 hits to die (that's some heavy body armor), all the while leaving me to wonder why the hell he wasn't running to find some cover while I was pea-shooting at him from behind a tree. In another fit of enemy stupidity, I chucked a grenade at two guys standing behind a shelf of some sort. They stood there, then right before the 'nade blew up, saw me and my teammate at the last second. Huh? If something clunks by your feet, shouldn't you run or at least look at it?
This stupidity carries over into intense gunfights, where many enemies gang up on me. Sounds like fun, right? Sounds like those shooters of old. Unfortunately, because they're so half-witted, you'll die only because there are too many bullets to avoid - not because they're flanking you, throwing your grenades back at you, circle-strafing around you or finding cover. That shouldn't be a problem, given that these types of first person shooters pride themselves on throwing things your way and making you plow through them with plentiful ammunition. The problem is, I haven't run into a situation where there were a huge amount of enemies coming at me unless I was in a sniper tower. I often found myself able to march right towards a group of hostiles, strafing from side to side, hitting them with my rifle and then plugging them full of holes wihle they were stunned. You'd think that they'd move out of the way and group around me if I was coming right at them with reckless abandon, but no. Again, I hope this changes. But for now, four or five enemies ganging up on me at a time with little-to-no intelligence does not a great FPS make - "gun porn" be damned.
I haven't spoken about the destructible environments yet. That's mainly because, well, I'm still pissed about the lackadaisical enemy behavior. It's to the point where the destructible environments mean almost nothing to the gameplay, merely adding to the visual experience. If you're going to whittle a tree trunk down to its core while I hide around it, why don't you come after me when the tree trunk is decimated? It also seems everything comes from the John Romero camp of "dude let's like put an explosive barrel here and here and here and here and then set off a chain reaction." Yet, the level design and progression doesn't come from that camp. Romero's barrel placement works with Romero's excellent, exciting level design. It does not work when you try to make the FPS version of Burnout. When EVERYTHING blows up, it dampens the excitement.
Suffice it to say, it'll be hard to review Black. On the one hand, it handles destructible environments, the visual effects of a wall-crumbling firefight and the act of shooting pretty well. On the other hand, F.E.A.R. does the last two aspects ten times better, and the destructible environments - like Red Faction - don't seem to add enough. But do I compare this game to one of the elite shooters that's on an obviously superior platform for controlling an FPS? Is it fair to rag on this game for being dumb and slow, when it's highly possible that it wouldn't make sense to make it any smarter or any faster because we're dealing with a dual-analog setup? I don't know. I'll say this though, chances are I won't finish Black to even have the right to review it. I'm already getting bored. But in closing for this first-impression, I'd like to say something to Alex Ward, who scoffed at PCs when he was asked about this game coming to a mouse-and-keyboard setup near you: you've got a lot to learn about shooters.
The entire contents of this Web site, unless otherwise noted, are Copyright © 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 Triumvirate Games. All Rights Reserved. ™ and © for all copy, products, characters, and indicia related thereto which are contained herein are owned by the companies who market or license those products. This Web site is not endorsed, sponsored, nor otherwise affiliated with ANYONE unless specified otherwise. It has been created for the sole purpose of entertainment, knowledge and hobby. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form without consent from Trigames.NET is strictly prohibited and is punishable by law.