Criterion Games has been making video games since 1996’s PC-exclusive action game Scorched Planet, but they made a name for themselves when the original Burnout was released in 2001. The intensely frantic racing game (with a focus on ramming other cars and causing destruction) became known and praised for its technical prowess and tight gameplay. This prompted Criterion to later develop and release three sequels—Burnout 2: Point of Impact, Burnout 3: Takedown, Burnout Revenge—by 2005. Soon afterward, Criterion announced they were making a first person shooter, promising that players could blow up everything their little hearts desired. The game was called Black, and it was amazing!
Like most games, Black had a story and some characters, however they were NOT the focus of the game. Black was about guns; nothing more, nothing less. In fact, the back of the game case blatantly states “All Guns Blazing,” “Guns are the Stars,” “Every Bullet is your Baby,” “Bigger Guns, Louder Explosions,” “Leave a Trail of Destruction” and “Get Creative with your Kills.” Due to this, Criterion even coined the game’s genre as “gun porn” (Please don’t Google that at work, okay?). Back to the whole “louder explosions” thing, one of the other trademarks of Black was its sound design, as the sound effects of the weapons just “pop,” and the explosions are STILL amazingly deafening.
Here’s a quote from a preview from IGN’s Jeremy Dunham from January 2006 praising the destructible environments (a novel concept back in 2006):
That can is probably one of my favorite aspects of BLACK so far, and it’s the straightforward ability to blow up just about anything. Apparently the rule at Criterion when making the game was, “if players saw an object or structure they thought they should be able to destroy then they could.” If you see a gas station with a couple of pumps in front of it, for example, you can kiss that sucker goodbye and engulf it in a massive ball of flame. If you see a mine on the ground next to an enemy target that is blocking the next spot on your objective list, you can shoot it to set it off (and others around it) for huge chain reaction results. And if your enemies are taking cover behind wooden crates or buildings, you can be sure that it will chip away while you shoot it.
Back in the early days of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, there was some talk about Black 2 but we haven’t heard much about that title in that last few years. It’s likely buried as Criterion isn’t the same studio anymore; a bunch of the staff were laid off or transferred in 2013, and several chief creatives left in 2014. Oh well, at least I have Black sitting a home, ready to play…