Games We Love: Black (GWL 1)
Hi guys! As you may have noticed, we have upgraded our site and purchased our domain, which means we now have a better platform for our content. One of our plans for this year and beyond is to post blogs on a more regular basis than before. Whether it be about our new episodes, movie reviews, or even opinion pieces, we’ll do our best to as much as possible!
To start it all off, we will be posting the first of a (hopefully) long series of blogs called Games We Love. As the name suggests, Game We Love is a series of blogs that talk about video games that have taken a special place in our heart and have created some wonderful and awesome memories over the years of gaming. The very first game in this series of blogs is one of the most explosive and destructive FPS games of the 2000s: Black
FPS games during the mid-90s to early 2000s was truly a time when the genre became a part of the gaming mainstream, with numerous titles being released for both consoles and PCs alike. During this time, games like Halo, the first Call of Duty games, Quake, Unreal Tournament, Far Cry, Timesplitters, Serious Sam, Red Faction, Half-Life 2, Deus Ex, Medal of Honor, Metroid Prime, Goldeneye 007, Battlefield, System Shock, and Doom helped propel the genre into critical and commercial success for their respective systems.
In the middle of this shuffle came numerous competitors that wanted a piece of the incredibly successful FPS pie. Some of these games became underrated gems that have gained significant followings that ensured they would not be forgotten, while some failed to capture the audience and fade into obscurity. Among those games is a wonderful destructive gem called Black.
Back in the 90s and early 2000s, much of the information that most gamers (me included) receive come from gaming magazines. From the pages of classic magazines such as Electronic Gaming Monthly, Official PlayStation Magazine, and Gamepro, to local editions of K-Zone and Gamesmaster that I get from the nearby National Bookstore. In one of those issues, I came across a game preview for Black, which was slated to be released around late 2005.
Not many games get me hyped up for their release date back then quite like Black. Previews described it as a game that has levels designed to be blown up and shot to bits, with weapons as tools to aid you in achieving that goal. After seeing screenshot after screenshot of gorgeous looking weapon designs, and an environment that you can reshape using bullets and explosives, I made sure to get this game as soon as possible.
An Orchestra of Guns and Explosions
After the game was out for a month or two, I was finally able to get my copy and finally see if the hype was all worth it. Short answer: it definitely was.
Black’s first level consists of narrow streets that formed a straightforward path to the end. Linear as it may be, it was a level that was able to showcase the amount of destruction that you will be able to cause in the game. An enemy taking shots at you from a nearby church tower? Hit him with an RPG and see the whole thing crumble to the ground. Someone hiding behind cover? Blast a whole clip of your AK-47 and see that cover disintegrate into wood chunks. The number of opportunities for you to blow things up are plenty, and during that time, it was surely one of the most destructive games around, along with the likes of Red Faction and Mercenaries.
The weapons in the game are your standard modern weapon loadout that is common in any modern FPS, with your standard selection of pistols, SMGs, assault rifles, shotguns, machine guns, and launchers at your disposal. Like most FPS games of the time, you can only pick up 2 guns at a time, but with plateful ammo and lots of explosive barrels and cars, you wouldn’t really feel short of options. Graphically, the guns look really great as well, with each weapon having that intimidating feel that ensures you that it will surely deliver destruction upon your enemies.
You can view each gun in impressive detail in the menu screen as well, with each gun being showcased while you navigate the game’s options. The sound effects are spot-on and really help make that symphony of bullets and explosions sound so satisfying.
Other than the guns and the destruction, the game also had some decent AI allies and opponents. While the AI opponents have tendencies to go near things that blow up, the more powerful ones know how to charge forward and deal great damage if you’re not careful. As for your allies, they are surprisingly effective at taking down enemies, hitting accurate shots on enemies that might be out of your sights. I also want to point out the paper-thin story of the game as well, which is just there to connect every level in the game and try to incorporate a story that you probably forgot by the second level.
One of the best parts about Black is that each level adds new elements to keep you on your toes. One level has you hiding behind gravestones and using a sniper rifle, while another level has you going through narrow corridors that require you to get up close and personal with a shotgun. But perhaps the two best levels in Black is the bridge level, the factory level, and the final level.
The bridge level has you cautiously moving from one segment of the bridge to the next, taking cover from snipers and RPGs that can take you out at a moment’s notice. The verticality of the level is impressive as well, with some shootouts taking place both under and on top of the bridge, making it a great setting for long drawn out gunfights.
One of the factory levels has you going through a minefield where you use your gun as a minesweeper. This level is where Black shows explosive chain reactions well, as each explosion becomes the link to the next one, just as it would happen in real life. For the final level, you are tasked to eliminate a target inside the underground complex of a Soviet-era gulag. The mission is the hardest in the game, with multiple armored enemies armed with magnums, shotguns, and machine guns that deal enough damage to take you out multiple times.
This level is also very memorable for me because of what happened while I was playing through it. During my run in the level, our neighbor was playing really loud karaoke music late in the afternoon, which was really getting on everyone’s nerves in the house. As a way to combat their noise, I turned the volume of my TV up too 100 and played through the final sequence as loud as possible. It came to a point that the game was so loud that our neighbors just turned their karaoke machine off just as soon as I finished the game. Not only I got through the toughest part of the game, but I also solved one problem with our neighbors as well.
While Black may not be as well-remembered compared to other FPS games of the same generation, it stands on its own as a game that pushed the technical limits of the PS2 and Xbox, showing that these consoles still have a lot to give in terms of graphics and physics. While I have played a number of quality FPS games over the next few years, I have still yet to play a game that has a destructive quality that Black offered. There are so many good FPS games in this current generation, but every now and then, I take a look back and remember the wanton destruction I enjoyed during my time playing Black.
That’s it for this very first edition of Games We Love. For more nostalgic discussions, take a listen to our episode, entitled Reboots, Remakes and Remasters on Spotify.