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Black: Dark, Dirty and Destructible
Company: EA Games

Later this month, EA and Criterion Games will release a new, nitty-gritty FPS. So what will make Black more than your standard hum-drum, first person shooter? Quite simply, it is the construction (or more precisely, destruction) of the levels and how well the world's destructible environments play into the overall feel of the game. The ability to destroy pretty much anything will become more than just a gimmick, but can actually become a major game mechanic.

It is apparent that the developers were by no means trying to create a stealth game, but they were also not focusing on allowing the player to just run into a room, set the weapon to fully-automatic and just spray-and-pray your way through the game. What will be the key to getting through the war-torn streets and environments is the ability to use the enemies' cover against them. If there is someone crouching behind a car, blow it up. Got someone sniping you from on-high? Shoot at their feet until they fall out the window.

Black's bullet-riddled, explosive environments are only outdone by the sheer amount of armaments available. Not only will you be able to pick up any weapon that your enemies use, but all or most of the weapons have three fire-modes (standard, semi-automatic and fully-automatic), letting you choose just the right way to tackle a situation.

The demo started me off with a pistol and a SPAS 12 (a high-powered shotgun), but I quickly found everything from grenades to AK-47s. Ammo didn't seem to be much of a concern, though. Even though I had to physically reload, I rarely (if ever) found myself without another clip to slide into my firearm.

Black follows a group of elite soldiers who believe that there is no need to sneak around a battlefield. They don't seem to believe in doing things the quiet way. Instead of sneaking your way down a corridor or slinking from shadow to shadow, you will find yourself running and gunning your way from one barricade to the next, trying to deal out as much damage as you can in the process.

The brief scene that the Black demo provided painted a rough world where there were literally wars in the streets. Crumbling buildings and charred cars litter the streets. The fire erupting from the various objects is flat out stunning. I can only remember one other instance where flames looked this good, and that was in the Xbox 360 version of Peter Jackson's King Kong.

Black also attempts to follow the current trend of removing the HUD in shooters (a feature seen in Call of Duty 2 and Kong), but doesn't take it to the extent of these other games. Though the game shows a health bar and ammo count, the screen will also flash red when you get shot. This is an odd mix of the HUD and HUD-less displays that allows you to know exactly how badly off you are, but also gives you a visual queue when you are taking damage.

In the end, Black seems like it will stay true to its FPS core, and instead of trying to change its gameplay to be something more than just a first person shooter, it takes the FPS concept to the next level. Look for this M-rated title to hit the shelves on February 28th.

-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer
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