#687 Black

Posted: 15th September 2013 by Jeroen in Games
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270th played so far


Genre: First Person Shooter
Platform: Playstation 2/Xbox
Year of Release: 2006
Developer: Criterion Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts

Often, ‘by the makers of’ indicates an ongoing quality. A game in the same genre, by people who know the area and can do it well. Bioware, say, has a reputation for good RPGs and by the makers of Mass Effect means you can expect a good RPG.

Sometimes, however, ‘by the makers of’ just makes you wonder how their style will end up mixing with the genre. This is the case with Black. Most interesting we could find in our initial research is that it’s by the makers of Burnout. FPS Rube Goldberg kills anyone?

Our Thoughts

Because of how our available time works (that is to say, because we’ve both got jobs and like money, in part to fund the games for our blogs), we tend to batch our games and play two or three games at a time, usually on a Sunday afternoon (Saturday is reserved for movies). This often works brilliantly, but sometimes, when we’ve got bad luck in picking our games, it sometimes backfires a bit. If you’ve kept up with our blog, you’ll notice that the previous two entries – Freak Out and Super Street Fighter II: Turbo HD something something – are not standouts for us. The former simply because of how it plays, the latter because it felt redundant. Black, then, could do with being an improvement.

For its first level, it is. There are many massive rushes of enemies that keep you worried as you try to kill them before they get you, taking you some time to meet up with your teammates for added protection. While items are dropped fairly freely, surviving long enough to get them feels like a challenge. Not a major one – I survived everything in the end – but it’s tough. You can sort of see the Burnout influences here – frantic, chaotic, lots of people and things going on.

This is added to through the reactive environment. It’s not the huge explosion style we saw in Earth Defense Force 2017, but more subtle and integrated – wooden fences slowly fall apart as you shoot at them, walls get dented, a lot can be destroyed, but in a natural way so you don’t actually realise it. It’s hard to explain the details, but the scenery isn’t indestructible (as you usually see), but doesn’t feature the over the top breaking most games that offer destructible environment have. It’s here, but it’s not in your face.

Aside from surviving and reaching the end, the game adds in a ton of sidequests – mostly of the ‘find the macguffin’ type, but also some destruction style things, all in all rewarding exploration. On lower difficulty levels, you can mostly ignore these, but as you ramp up the difficulty, you are expected to complete more of them and reaching the end of the level won’t necessarily guarantee a success.

So the first level was fun to play. Then came the second (oh god).

We must have tried it four or five times. We made it through the first section, but after that it felt the game became impossible. Basically, you arrive at some big border camp… and they spot you. Cue dozens of soldiers rushing you. They sort of come out in smaller groups, but it’s easy to get overwhelmed and no matter how you play, it seems impossible to get through. Add to that that the soliders that add in cover the places where you shot the previous ones, meaning that topping up your health and, in this case more important, ammo becomes nearly impossible.

Oh, and there’s no checkpoints before this point. Death meant restarting the entire level. Based on some warning texts, it seems like there should be checkpoints during the game… we just hadn’t been far enough in to reach any. That’s criminal when you do complete a primary objective before then (‘cross the border’).

I’m sure we could have made it through eventually, but it got so much, so fast that we couldn’t get much further in the time we had (or our quickly dwindling patience). And with the day not being our top day, we decided to leave it. It might be a game we’ll get back to privately at some point, see how far we get this time (when we force the difficulty down further). A bit more give would have been nice.

Final Thoughts

I suppose we complain about bad difficulty curves with some regularity and to some extent, you could blame impatience for this, as well as inexperience (although I’d argue we’ve developed our FPS skills enough). The second level, however, should not stump us as much as it had, and that’s actually what’s so bad about it. It sucked the fun out of a game that we were really enjoying until that time. It’s just a shame.