Thursday, January 25, 2007

Black: Second major level

I finished the second major level, some name I couldn't pronounce, in Criterion's "gun porn" game Black. A few notes:
  • It's fun to be back in the shooter groove again. I don't like all shooters all the time, but I do enjoy it reasonably often and I've not had nearly enough lately.
  • The swelling, orchestral music during the breaks between firefights is really quite good. I am not sure it's developed any themes that have been repeated yet, but I've not heard music this good in a game since Metal Gear Solid 3.
  • Clever or stupid: You cannot interact with the environment except through violence. Seriously, there is no way to open a door short of blowing it open. You don't have a generic action button that interacts with the environment for buttons, doors, items, etc. It's not even like the auto-open-close doors in Quake. You can run up against special items (secondary objectives like collected enemy paperwork) but that's it.
  • Despite its attempts to mask it with a story, this is really just distilled violence. I almost wonder whether it might not have been more interesting to simply make "Robotron with guns and RPGs" where enemies come in waves and you simply have to knock them down. Something akin to the continuous-attack mode (can't remember name) in Max Payne 2. Get rid of the wandering around giant environments and concentrate the violence just a bit more until it's just continuous shooting, reloading, upping your health.
  • I do wonder if there is any game which pushes the PlayStation 2 much harder than this one. I played 49 minutes through a large, sprawling environment that started in a detailed, hilly woods and ran through caves, through a station border crossing with trucks and towers and buildings, through a tunnel, more woods, across a fortified bridge, and ultimately onto a farm, complete with silos and outbuildings. Other than before the level began, there were no visible load times. Models and textures looked sharp, without being at a low screen resolution to compensate, and there are even special effects like a sepia/black-and-white effect when you get seriously wounded and need health packs.
  • Ambient sound is wonderful. Occasional breezes blow around you and aren't important to the game but do help with the immersion. Helicopters can be heard somewhere overhead, but never seem to come close enough to the action to be seen. And, of course, stuff blows up with solid-sounding explosions.
  • This game has, perhaps, the most satisfying RPG I've ever fired. Beautiful to watch.
  • More later.

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