By Ferry "Sadhonker" Adams on March 13, 2015
On this week's timemachine, I'd like to start off with asking your permission for something. You see, when I started this little category of mine, I decided I would only write about games that are more than 10 years old at the time of writing. I have slipped up once before, although I think none of you have noticed. Wait, if none of you noticed this, then why the hell am I telling you now? Wouldn't it be better to just pretend it never happened? Nevermind, what's done is done, so please forget what I just said! Where was I...? Oh yes, permission! So I know the next game I had in mind doesn't quite fit the criteria I had in mind, but it's only off by a day or...349...damn! OH PLEASE, can I write about it?! please, please, PLEASE! Pretty please with a cherry on top?! PLEEaa...huh, sorry, what's that? You couldn't care less? Well, that's kind of harsh, isn't it? Then why am I putting in all this effort? BECAUSE YOU TELL ME TO?! Now let me tell YOU something, missy! You know, if you're not careful, I'm going to... what? Oh, ok... I'm sorry. Yes, I'll get right on it... consider it done... I will tell them... yes ma'am! Certainly ma'am! Thank you ma'am... (closes door) Ha, that'll show her!
Ladies and gentlemen, what you've just witnessed transpired a little over a week ago. It was my MORE than heroic attempt to convince our board of directors, and especially madam chairwoman, to bend the rules a little. As you may have guessed from reading, I'm lucky I didn't get fired, or get my ears pulled down to my knees. Mind you, I am getting punished though! I was forced to grant my time travelling crew a two week vacation, while I had to take the timemachine for a spin all on my own. They didn't even give me a blanket and a hot coco for the journey... bastards! But have no fear, the cheater's here! I devised a cunning plan to get permission for my article. I took the time machine to March 2016, casually handed in my request form, and got it signed. HAHAHAAAAAAA, so long suckers! So off I went, into the big multicolored yonder. 2006, here I come! Get out your PS2 and let's play some Black!
Originally launched for the PS2 and XBox systems on February 24, 2006 by Criterion Games and Electronic Arts, Black just bulldozed right through the competition! It featured the best looking, best sounding, best playing First Person Shooter action the world had ever seen. It has even been labeled as 'Gun Porn' by some people, because of the sheer amount of detail that went into creating Black's realistic guns. Developed by Criterion Games, mostly known for their racing game, Burnout, Black focused mainly on looks, sounds and action. And boy, it was loaded with all of it! It looked and sounded spectacular, especially the guns, which were all (almost) lifelike replica's of real world guns. A few features may have been enhanced or exaggerated, but they mainly looked like the real thing. And what looks real, should sound real. To this end, Criterion sampled some of the finest sounding guns in cinema history, and used these sounds for the in-game guns. This, together with a destructible environment, gave the player a huge cinematic experience, without sacrificing anything in terms of gameplay or controls.
In Black, you play as Sergeant First Class Jack Keller, a special ops member with a lack of discipline and a short temper. After disobeying a direct order on his previous mission, Jack is brought in for questioning, and reluctantly tells his side of the story. Jack's testimony is presented through cutscenes in between missions, and slowly builds a picture of the events leading up to this faithful day. Jack explains details about a part of his mission, after which you play the mission in question yourself. It's a nice touch, and really helps to get you in the right mindset for the stage you are about to play. Well done, Criterion, well done! Jack's mission takes us to Ingushetia and Chechnya, both part of the Russian Federation, in pursuit of an elusive arms smuggling and terrorist organization called Seventh Wave. The set pieces are absolutely spectacular, ranging from a simple border crossing to a Russian Gulag. Every environment is richly detailed and, most importantly, very destructible. Walls and terrain actually get damaged by gun- or mortar fire, which gives you a sense of vulnerability never before seen in a game to this extent.
Another part of the cinematic experience was provided by the game's score. Just like in a action movie, the score enhanced the on-screen action. But to have a full score and lots of guns firing at the same time, presented the good people of Criterion with a conundrum; how to incorporate each of these sounds, without turning the game's soundtrack into a cacophony. After thinking long and hard about this problem, they came up with a nothing short of brilliant idea. If you create different tones for different guns and match them just right, they work together instead of against each other. This created what Criterion dubbed the 'Choir of Guns'. And I can assure you: it worked like a .45 charm! Even when under heavy fire, the sound never gets deafening or annoying. You can still hear the score through the sound of dozens of bullets whizzing around your head.
In Black, tactics are equally as important as guts. The spray-and-pray principle usually results in only one death, and that's yours. Pick your targets carefully, use cover as much as possible, and hope you never run out of bullets! As Jack Keller, you can only carry two guns at the same time. This means that you really want to think before swapping out your current gun. Two long range weapons may not have the desired result when in close-quarters combat, but two short range weapons can make it a little difficult to get that pesky sniper in that tower over there to rethink his life and consider a career change before giving you a permanent ventilation hole. Jack can also carry grenades. Now, you may think; "that's not that spectacular, I've seen many game characters do that", and you would be right. However, our boy Jack had learned to throw these puppies without having to switch weapons. This, I would like to point out, gave him a definite edge over other bad-asses of the same time period. Jack! Jack! He's our man. If he can't do it, no one can! Ok, ok! Maybe Arnold Schwarzenegger could, but hey, I'm just trying to make a point here!
So to cut things short (before I go into overtime, and have to fill out another request form for extra pay... which I never get of course... sometimes I wonder why I still work here... Ah, to hell with it, I just love it!), Black is a fantastic game, that I've personally played about a dozen times, and will keep on playing for at least a dozen more. If you have never played this game, do yourself a favor, dust off your PS2 or your XBox and get your hands on a second-hand copy of this game. It is well worth both your time and money. If you have played this game, why aren't you still playing it?! So suit up, gear up, and let's destroy this sh*t, all guns blazing!!!