Black (Xbox) review
"Letís talk about realism for a minute. The video game industry is ďsupposedĒ to be moving towards realistic everything. Realistic gameplay thatís so technical it isnít fun (Ghost Recon anyone?). Audio realism thatís so accurate youíll swear youíre actually on the battlefield. Photo-realism with girls and cars that look ďbetterĒ than the real thing (check out Gran Turismo). Weíre told that we shouldn't want games that look like cartoons anymore, and that we should want super-detaile..."
Letís talk about realism for a minute. The video game industry is ďsupposedĒ to be moving towards realistic everything. Realistic gameplay thatís so technical it isnít fun (Ghost Recon anyone?). Audio realism thatís so accurate youíll swear youíre actually on the battlefield. Photo-realism with girls and cars that look ďbetterĒ than the real thing (check out Gran Turismo). Weíre told that we shouldn't want games that look like cartoons anymore, and that we should want super-detailed, hyper-realistic looking environments and guns and character models that look just like the real whatever-they-ares. In this respect, Black succeeds completely. The guns look real enough to touch. The enemies that you battle against look superb. The environments have fantastic draw distances and excellent texturing. All of these fantastic features run at a solid framerate. In terms of audio, the game again delivers an incredibly realistic experience. As you sit in front of your television, youíll swear that you can really hear bullets whizzing by your head and man, that score really pulls you into the game.
While Black may have an outstanding presentation, notice that I never once mentioned "realistic gameplay." This is because Black is clearly made by people who do not have a proper understanding of the first-person shooter genre. For starters, you canít jump in Black. Now, the game is designed so that you donít really need to jump, Iíll admit that, but the exclusion of a jump ability hurts the feel of the game. Itís incredibly annoying and frustrating when you walk off of a ledge and canít turn around and go back to where you just were. The exclusion of a jump ability makes it hard to strategically plan the use of health packs because half of the time you canít get to health packs that you've left behind for later use. Since you canít jump, you canít launch surprise attacks on enemies on lower-levels. The only thing you can do is snipe them from above, which isn't nearly as thrilling as launching a grenade down into a crowd of terrorists, waiting for it to blow, and then hopping down upon them with guns-blazing.
Black is also obnoxiously linear. There is no guess work when planning on where you need to go next, which takes a lot of fun out of being an elite counter-terrorist trying to track down a very notorious terrorist who is ďalways one step ahead of the authorities.Ē Generally I donít mind linear gamers (F.E.A.R. was incredibly linear and incredibly sweet), but again, the inexperience of the developers shows. Please, game developers, do a better job of creating an environment than just corralling me into an area with a shin-high ledge that any normal human being could walk over but for some reason our oh-so-elite counter-terrorist character canít handle.
Even worse, you canít fall off roofs or into holes in floors unless the game lets you. In one particular sequence in the ďlaterĒ portions of the game (later in quotes because the game is a measly five hours long), you have to cross a partially destroyed bridge. This scene could have been incredibly intense and easily could have topped the very entertaining bridge sequence in Half-Life 2, but since thereís no risk of falling into any of the holes in the partially destroyed bridge as you fight in vicious gun-battles, the whole thing feels fake and plastic. Without having to be aware of the environment around you, do you really think youíre going to appreciate how awesome they look?
Community review by asherdeus (May 10, 2006)
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