There aren't many hills I would die on, but here's one for you: BLACK is one of the most underrated video games of all time.
EA and Criterion's 2006 first-person shooter was lightyears ahead of its time, but ultimately faded into obscurity thanks to the bigger, shinier franchises like Call Of Duty and Battlefield. That's a damn shame, because what Criterion put out on PlayStation 2 and Xbox was a masterclass in level design and arse-achingly tense set-pieces that refused to let up, even for a second. You think All Ghillied Up is intense? You know nothing.
A Black Ops shooter years before the idea had occurred to Call Of Duty, BLACK sees rogue CIA agent Jack Kellar embark on a series of 24-style missions that would make Jack Bauer think twice. As far as video game stories go these days, I'll admit BLACK is nothing special... but by 2006 standards? It was one hell of an adventure packed with twists, turns, and plenty of explosions.
Of course the story isn't really what made BLACK stand out from the crowd. Criterion's ambition was to create the ultimate first-person shooter experience, one that would completely immerse players in the chaos. To that end, players were stunned to see things like destructible environments, weapons that all behaved differently, and firearms rendered with so much attention to detail that some critics referred to it as "gun porn".
These are all things we expect to see in a shooter these days, of course, but it was completely mind-blowing to see this level of detail on a console shooter in 2006. The game's sound design also quite rightly won a handful awards, with particular focus given to the sound of the gun's themselves. Rather than throw players into firefights that were made up of meaningless noise, Criterion put together a system in which weapon sounds would "harmonise" to produce something truly unique.
It wasn't all perfect. The campaign left little room for replay value, and there was no multiplayer mode of any kind. In an age of split-screen shooters, it's highly likely that this key omission is one of the main reasons so many gamers forgot about BLACK so quickly. It just didn't have the replayability that comes with multiplayer action to stay in the memory as long as the likes of Halo or Battlefield 2.
Despite strong reviews and decent sales, a sequel to BLACK never quite got off the ground. The game's co-creator and designer Stuart Black had previously explained this was simply down to creative differences with EA, but we can't help but wonder what might have been. With a refined campaign, more gameplay modes, and a focus on multiplayer action, could BLACK have taken off in the same way as Call Of Duty and Battlefield? Unlikely, but it's nice to dream.
Still, BLACK will always have its fans. Even 15 years after the game first launched, I know I'm uniquely obsessed with the idea of a next-gen remake or sequel. Just imagine that same attention to detail and passion for creating a completely unique FPS experience married with the power of modern consoles? There's so much more BLACK has to offer in 2021. I remain hopeful that one day, we get to see exactly what a modern overhaul of the underrated classic can do.
Chosen for YouChosen for You
Most Read StoriesMost Read