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Customer Review

18 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The FPS players' FPS game?, 27 Jun. 2006
This review is from: Black (Xbox) (Video Game)
Black is an uncomplicated first-person-shooter. The gamer has become accustomed to copious cut-scenes, convoluted back-stories, real-life tactics and baffling team management. Black dispenses with just about all of this. The user manual runs to about 2 pages...and even they more or less just redundantly explain how to save and load a game. The main idea of Black is to run around shooting people in the face with a variety of weapons. There *is* a small cut scene with some attempt at plot exposition at the start of each level but it's about as crucial to the ensuing action as the plot exposition in an adult movie - indeed I have seen Black described as 'gun porn'. So, given its limited scope in what tries to do, is it any good? I think most of the development dollars went on making the scenery look nice and, above all else, making the firearms look and feel worryingly sexy. And they do. But it is not without its faults.

Firstly the first time you load up the game, you are obliged to sit through some very long-winded titles indulgently indicating how much money has been spent on the soundtrack and cast. Subsequent gameloads similarly force you to sit through the entire pre-level cut-scene. It's not such a massive chore, but it is irritating that you're playing the game on the developer's terms - of which this is not the only example. I have a problem with the lack of saveability in the game, and the fact that the player is left with no idea how long they'll consequently be playing. Though you have a number of secondary objectives at the start of every mission - and so you can keep tabs on progress as you go along - you crucially don't know how many primary objectives you're going to have to do to finish the level. The progress screen just says, "Complete all primary objectives"....it doesn't tell you how many you've got...you only see the one you've currently been given. once you complete this one, you're given another, then another. So when you fire up the game, you don't know the size of the task in front of you, nor consequently how close you are to completing it. What compounds this problem (and it IS a problem) is the fact that you can't save the game until you have completed the full level. You do get checkpoints as you progress, from which you can restart if you get killed, but these aren't 'saves' on your hard disk slots.

This all means that every level has to be completed and saved *during that playing session* or all progress is lost. That's fine if your average Xbox session is 2 unbroken hours (the levels can be very long and arduous), but I'm a dad with two kids, a wife and one TV and I'm rarely afforded such luxuries. That's what I meant about playing the game on the developer's terms. The game is not sufficiently flexible or user friendly to suit all player's personal lifestyle and playing habits. Yes I can play for half an hour then pause the game and leave my Xbox switched on until I find time to come back to it, but that's not great is it?

The game plays OK, but suffers from the same malady as all FPS console games in that the control pad just isn't suited to the genre. FPS games like this need the immediate and intuitive control of a mouse for looking around and aiming - the thumbstick is simply too slow and imprecise and makes looking and aiming fiddly and frustrating. Enemy AI and animation is pretty rubbish. The enemy seem to hover or moonwalk and their AI stretches to them repeatedy floating out from cover and back again with rhythmic regularity. They're also darned hard to kill, especially from range. I started the game playing conservatively - firing my AK47 on short bursts, conserving ammo and trying to use cover and kill from a safe range. I pretty soon learned that this was not the way forward in Black. With the aforementioned limitations of the thumbpad control, and the seeming immortal toughness of the enemy, shooting them tactically is a fool's errand. I found only two fruitful approaches: the first was to blaze away from distance with all the assault rifle ammo you have at anything which looks like movement until it either stops moving or everything around it explodes in a 200 foot mushroom of flame; the other approach is to run directly at the enemy shooting at them from a range of 2 feet with your Spas 12 and lobbing any grendades you happen across. Finesse gets you nowhere.

The deformable scenery is fun to play with and is very useful for taking out enemies - windows smash and actually get blown out spreading shards everywhere, gas cylinders vaporise anyone within range, grenades and mines go off with a satisfying and understated 'krump!' and often set off a domino-effect of secondary explosions. The maps are well designed, with the subtle use of blocked paths to contain and channel the player whilst making the maps seem open is really well done. The maps are nicely rendered too with good detail and some attractive lighting effects and generally contribute to the atmosphere. The weapons are varied and interesting - assault rifles include the ridiculously rapid firing P90 and the simple but very effective Magnum revolver (one shot usually throws the enemy several feet and kills them - if they're on a balcony they may try to hang on by their finger tips for a few seconds before tumbling to their deaths...)

You have a wing man (actually a woman) who is often giving cover from range (out of sight). She gives you heads up warnings and takes out the odd enemy from time to time.

I played the game on the normal difficulty setting and found it fairly easy - you get plenty of ammo and plenty of health so that you're never really that worried about either. Only one or twice during the 90 minutes of a Mission do you come really close to dying (running from cover to cover desperately looking for first aid) or completely run out of ammo (and have to use the butt of your rifle). But the result is never in question. The only things which really makes the game difficult is the lack of saving. In a way this makes you more careful and raises the stakes of the game which I guess is perhaps what the developers were aiming at - after committing 40 minutes of frenzied combat to a Mission you *really* don't want to get careless and die.

In summary then, the game seems to be a dedicated, traditional, all-out, no frills first person shooter. You can't jump, climb, operate machinery or drive vehicles. All you can do it aim, fire, thrown grenades and crouch. In short it is ideally suited to offer the game player casual bouts of aimless violence when they have a spare 15 minutes to kill. Unfortunately the save policy disallows this.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 5 Apr 2012 11:12:48 BDT
Droneonandon says:
What a windbag!

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Apr 2012 07:32:01 BDT
You think this is bad? You should read some of my other reviews!
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