Black Conference Call Report

Black Conference Call Report

Written by Cyril Lachel on 2/17/2006 for

Aliens.  Terminator 2.  The Matrix.  Die Hard.  The longer you listen to the developers of Black speak, the more you start to understand the influence of these successful action movies.  Black, the new first-person shooter from Criterion Games, aspires to be everything that those top-grossing films were, especially when it comes to full-on, balls-to-the-wall action.  A lot of games promise that kind of Hollywood experience, but after spending some time talking to the people responsible for this game, one gets the feeling that they might just pull it off.

To promote this much-anticipated current generation game Jeremy Chubb, the producer of Black, made himself available for a phone interview with Gaming Nexus.  As the game nears its launch some of the last minute aspects of the game are being ironed out, and Criterion was more than happy to fill us in on how it's been going and what they were trying to do with this game.  Needless to say, Criterion has set the bar high and expects big things from Black.

Black is a single-player action game with a strong emphasis on guns and explosions.  This isn't about you taking out guards from 30 yards away, this is run-and-gun action the like you only see in big budget action movies.  You command a wide variety of huge guns that are ready to not only take down your enemies, but also do some serious damage to the backgrounds.

When Criterion talks about destroying the environment they aren't kidding, this game is overflowing with huge explosions, destructible walls, and debris flying every which way.  With cars, walls, and everything else blowing up all around you, this is one experience that really makes you feel like you are actually there in the middle of the action.

When you play the game it's easy to see that a lot of time and effort has gone into making each weapon feel unique.  Black is not the first game to emphasize its arsenal, we would be remiss to ignore all the other action games doing their part to introduce more powerful firearms.  But it's not the weapons that make Black so amazing; it's how powerful each one feels.  Each gun has a different feel, a sense of style all its own.  Over the course of the game it's easy to grow attached to particular weapons, making it sad when you have to give it up for another.  Black gives you that sense of power you feel when you're shooting a gun, something that has been missing from many of today's first-person shooters.

But just because Black looks and feels like a fast playing shooter doesn't mean you have to experience it that way.  Nearly every weapon has a silencer, giving you an opportunity to sneak around before getting into huge firefights.  You can also perform the traditional melee attack, which will take your enemy down in only one or two hits.  But don't be fooled, this game is definitely geared towards getting in huge fights and having a lot of stuff explode around you, it's a visceral experience that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Black has a lot going for it -- amazing graphics, a sense of style, and some of the coolest effects ever seen in a video game -- but it has left itself open for a number of hard hitting questions.  For example, why isn't this game online?  After all, these days it's hard to get your first-person shooter noticed if you don't offer some kind of multiplayer experience.  Jeremy explained that for "this version" of the game they wanted to focus on making the best single-player experience they could.

Wait … this version??

To follow up the question I made it a point to find out what they meant by "this version".  Are they working on an Xbox 360 port for sometime down the road?  Well, if they are Jeremy wasn't ready to let us know.  He joked about his bad choice of words and explained that many of the developers at Criterion were hard at work on another project … a game he failed to name (or even hint about).  Could Black be a future Xbox 360 game?  Let's just put it this way, he never said no.

When asked why they decided to stick with the current generation rather than focusing on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, Jeremy asserted that it was just too early to be thinking about the next generation.  He understood that people are excited about the company's next generation projects, but at this point the Xbox 360 has only been out for a few months and there's still no firm date on the PlayStation 3 and Revolution.  Personally I would have loved to see a next generation version of Black; this is one game that hardly looks dated.  When it comes right down to it, Black is easily one of the best looking games on the PlayStation 2.

In fact, the PlayStation 2 version of the game not only looks amazing, but it also manages to keep up with the Xbox in nearly every way possible.  It's this PS2 version that Jeremy is most proud of, talking at length about how impressed he was that they were able to pull all this off on a six year old system.  With only a few noteworthy first-person shooters, the PlayStation 2 is far from the first choice for fans of the genre.  But if you're a PS2 owner who has been waiting for a worthwhile FPS, then it's time for you to rush to your store and put your money on Black.

Black's biggest surprise is not its action or huge explosions; it's the way the story elements are inserted into the game.  Criterion Games has decided to cast real people for live-action full motion video sequences, one of those odd little quirks you don't see in video games these days.  Like the first-person shooter elements of the game, these cinemas are full of style and have a very distinct look to them.  Inspired on TV shows like 24 and Alias, these cinemas fit perfectly with each level's all out action.

After having a taste of Black (and talking to the people responsible for making it), it's safe to say that this is one game that is trying to be as big and explosive as a summer action movie.  With all of the chaos going on around you, it's hard not to be reminded of the movies of Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay; it's an experience like no other.

GamingNexus looks forward to playing through the final version of Black in the next couple of weeks.  Expect a full review around the time of release, and more information as the days count down.  If you've been waiting for the most chaotic first-person shooter around, then it's time for you to get excited about Criterion Games' Black.

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.

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About Author

It's questionable how accurate this is, but this is all that's known about Cyril Lachel: A struggling writer by trade, Cyril has been living off a diet of bad games, and a highly suspect amount of propaganda. Highly cynical, Cyril has taken to question what companies say and do, falling ever further into a form of delusional madness. With the help of quality games, and some greener pastures on the horizon, this back-to-basics newsman has returned to provide news so early in the morning that only insomniacs are awake.
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