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Black PlayStation 2

Published by Electronic Arts
Developed by Criterion
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £39.99

Black, an introduction.

Criterion, the developer who bought us the Burnout series have turned their collective hands to a different genre. Instead of bringing us a high speed, adrenaline pumping and destructive racing game they've given us a first person shooter that's complete with destructive environments, intense shoot-outs and plenty of action. Above all else though Black is a lot of fun and one of the most polished FPS games on the PlayStation 2.

What's the game about?

In Black you'll play as Jack Kellar, a veteran of the US military who is now a leader of a Black Ops team. The game is played out as a series of flashbacks as Kellar, who is being held, is being questioned by a government official in regards to the events that occurred when Kellar and his teams went after the head of the Seventh Wave terrorist organisation. As Kellar begins to explain, you're dropped into a level to play out that episode. Black is a single-player only game that offers around 8-10 hours of play time.

What's good about the game?

Most PlayStation 2 FPS games tend to be big disappointments. In fact it's usually a genre I would personally avoid on the PlayStation 2. Black is one of the better FPS games on the console and Criterion have done a great job in making the game enjoyable. Right from the beginning the action is intense and whilst there are some tutorial messages these are kept to a minimum so as to not break up the pace of the game. In many ways Black is a no fuss FPS that's easy to get into and easy to enjoy. A lot of the environments that you'll play in have a lot of destructible objects. These are not just there for decoration though and can actually make light work of taking out your enemies. Each mission requires you to do primary and secondary objectives. Whilst the primary objectives always have to be done, the number of secondary objectives you have to complete is dependent on your chosen difficulty level. Play on the easier difficulty levels and you can mostly ignore the secondary objectives whilst playing on the unlockable Black Ops difficulty level means you'll have to complete every objective. This is quite a flexible approach to take and it's good that the higher difficulty levels do more that simply turn up the enemy AI.

What's not so good about the game?

The biggest disappointment will be that there is no multiplayer element to the game which means you're stuck with replaying the single-player on a more difficult setting if you want to get any replay value out of it. The AI is a bit of a letdown too and won't really provide much of a challenge to those who regularly play FPS games. The AI just doesn't seem to react to your actions in the way it should do. For example if you take out an enemy, those enemies who are near him will simply remain there to be taken out rather than finding cover and making it difficult for you. On the harder difficulty levels, this is somewhat better but there are still times when the AI isn't what it should be. There's also an over reliance on using big explosions to effectively clear a mission. Whilst the explosions are great, and are a very effective means of taking enemies out, it does give the game a rather repetitive feel.

How does it look?

Whilst there are areas of the game that could have been better, the graphics are pretty much as good as they're going to get on the PlayStation 2. The explosions look great and you'll see great smoke effects and damage modelling as a result of these explosions. The character and weapon models look great too. What makes all of this so much better is that the game manages to mostly retain a smooth frame rate which is impressive. When you compare Black to games such as Killzone, which not only look poorer but also have an inferior frame rate, you have to commend Criterion for their ability to obtain so much performance from the console. 

How deaf gamer friendly is the game?

Black is sadly a very poor effort for deaf gamers. There are no subtitle options. The cutscenes aren't subtitled (and you can't skip them) meaning you'll miss out on the game's story which means the missions won't really make that much sense. During a mission you're shown tutorial messages in text. Objectives (both primary and secondary) are shown in text. You're also shown in text when an objective has been completed and when a new objective has been issued. Any communications (some of which are rather useful) you receive are not subtitled though, which means that deaf gamers aren't really getting the full experience. Red arcs show the direction of enemy fire but there are times when these don't appear and with no radar to show you where the enemies are, this can make things a little frustrating.

Final thoughts.

Whilst there are some problems with Black I have to say that the game is enjoyable and it's one of the few FPS games I'd be happy to play on the PlayStation 2 console. The explosions look great and the graphics for the most part are impressive. There are some issues with the game though such as the lack of a multiplayer component, low replay value, suspect enemy AI and poor provision for deaf gamers. Still there aren't many better FPS experiences that you can have on the PlayStation 2.

Overall Game Rating: 7.5/10

Deaf Gamers Classification:

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Black is an entertaining FPS and a great first effort in the genre from Criterion. Provision for deaf gamers is poor though, which is unfortunate.