Taking a break from its highly successful Burnout franchise, Criterion has stepped it up once again with its ultra-intense, adult-centric FPS known as Black. While not particularly innovative or revolutionary, Black is certainly a fun ride within the short amount of time that it lasts. Much like the Burnout games that have gained Criterion so much fame and respect, it's fast, beautiful, and violent.
Welcome to Black!
The essence of the name: simplicity
Variety is definitely not the name of the game in Black; the majority of the time you'll find yourself running through any given area, gunning down enemies who cross your path. It's not exactly repetitive, but the game does not make much effort to switch up the tasks and game play. The game may require a change of strategies from time to time, especially when an enemy with an RPG pops up, but for the most part, the strategy here is staying back enough so as to not get overwhelmed by the hordes of enemies on screen and advance when the time comes.
Black never resorts to the lengthening strategies employed by Call of Duty 2, such as the 'hold off the enemy' missions, and other console FPS developers should take note of Criterion's strong grasp of pacing. Everything about this game is brisk and smooth, each mission connected through a highly stylized movie cut scene. There's never any downtime, something that some may appreciate, and some may hate. Speaking of which, the voice acting is very good for a first person shooter, rivaling the best of both console and PC games of the genre.
The mission structure breaks down like this: the player is given a main objective that usually consists of making it to a specific point on the map, with nine or so secondary objectives requiring the player to find documents or destroy safes, aptly called 'blackmail objectives.' While it does contribute a bit to the overall military and black ops feel of the game, these objectives feel fairly pointless, and it can sometimes seem as if the secondary objectives were just haphazardly tossed about the level, as I found myself just sort of stumbling upon them without developing any real strategy or will to purposely go searching. It would've also helped to have had a map, especially considering the context. You're an advanced, highly trained black ops soldier. Wouldn't you have some kind of a map?
The structure of the game also happens to be one of its flaws. The missions tend to have two primary objectives, each in consecutive sections. The two primary objectives also count as checkpoints, and since they're roughly every twenty minutes, deaths can be very frustrating. Later in the game the enemies are almost completely overwhelming, coming in from every angle with automatics and rocket launchers, not giving the player any time to step back and breathe. A steep difficulty can be good, as evidenced in such games as Ninja Gaiden, but the enemies in such a ridiculously high amount just feel cheap in Black.