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SummaryLots of strange design decisions make this visually and aurally impressive game a flawed one.
The GoodWhere can I start? First, I guess I must confess I still have not finished the game, I've completed several missions, but I have no idea how far into the game I have actually progressed. The game is a bit too hard for me, but that isn't a negative point since I love challenging games which takes a long time to complete.
Now, on to the actual review:
When you start up the game, you are greeted by an excellent intro video, with movie quality visuals and soundtrack. Short clips of terrorist attacks, scenes of war, dead bodies in the streets, accompanied by a fantastic score featuring industrial rumble and marching drums. The intro cinematic sets the tone perfectly for a dark, violent FPS game.
You then get to the title screen, where the only sound is off the various weapons the game features, emptying their clips. This too is a great touch to set the tone - this is a game more about violence and weapons than intriguing storylines. Next up is a very good looking menu system and you then get into the first mission of the game.
Every mission is introduced by more great looking and well edited video clips, and when you get the mission started you are stunned by the fantastic graphics, well above anything you though the Playstation 2 was capable of. Sure, there are better looking games available for the next generation consoles today, but this game won't ever be considered a bad looking game, not even in 10 or 20 games when the industry has probably achieved photo realistic graphics in games.
There are so much great looking details, sunlight shining through the blinds into a dusty dark room, smoke, fire, the explosions are huge and impressive and there are some very detailed natural environments, with good looking trees, grass, rocks and everything you'd expect.
A lot of the things you see in the game are destructible, fire a few rounds on that car on the street and it explodes (OK, they do not do that in real life, but it is the world of Hollywood we're playing in), fire a rocket into a building, and you get a huge explosion blowing out all the windows, "hmm, the corridor is blocked, but those walls look pretty weak, maybe I can blow a hole in them?" - and you can.
The weapons are very well modeled, and feel pretty realistic when you shoot (as realistic as it can feel with a gamepad), the AI isn't too stupid, they often take cover and generally behave somewhat intelligent, they often see you when you expect them too, and often do not notice you when you hide from them.
The levels contains several primary and secondary objectives, the primary objectives always have to be completed to finish the level, and the others depend on which difficulty level you play on, but completing can result in some bonuses.
And now for the bad stuff ...
The BadAgain, I don't know where to start, this game is filled with really strange design decisions. The most stupid of them is that you can't jump. No, really, you can't do that little thing you've been able to do in every other FPS game created after 1995. Sure, the jumping isn't done in a realistic way in most of those games, but not being able to jump over an obstacle that is at most 30 centimeters high is just ridiculous - and they use the lack of jumping in the most annoying way to lead you in the 'right direction' I've ever encountered. In one level, you walk down some stairs, then you notice "hey, that last step of the staircase seems to be missing" - and yeah, that little missing step makes it impossible to walk up the stair again. Congratulations! You've progressed to a new area of the map, and since the game designers thought you were too stupid to understand that you should progress further, they made it clear by making it impossible to go back the way you came in. I don't think I've played any FPS this linear ever before. There are a lot of mission scripts in the game that assume you play the game the way they want to.
Your fellow soldiers shout "Hold position and wait for reinforcements. Don't go in there", if you follow their orders and wait - nothing happens at all. Everything is silent, your allies are just standing there, doing nothing - until you do as you were expected to, walk into the building, fall down the broken floor to the floor below, and then you get your next objective.
There are no alternate solutions to any problem in the game. Try to avoid being spotted by the enemies on that bridge by swimming across the river below them - you can't since the river is closed off by a non-climbable railing and some small stones. You have to go over the bridge, fighting off 20 soldiers at once on your own. Great.
Maybe I expect too much after just having played Deus Ex on the PS2?
No, really, I think they should at least give an explanation of why the alternate routes I see on the map are not possible - something like - patrol boats in the river? Piranhas? Strong currents? No, nothing. The river looks peaceful, and on the other side I can see a shore that you shouldn't have any problems getting to in real life, but here are stopped by the inability to climb over a low railing.
Enough on that point, now on to my next problem with the game: The lack of in-game saving or even (since this is a console game after all) save points. The game saves your progress only after a completed mission, you can not save manually anywhere in the game, if you don't have the time to complete a mission (and some of them are fairly long, I'm not a fast player, but I do think that several of them would take over an hour to complete even for the experienced console FPS gamer, even though someone could surely do a speedrun in 10 minutes or something, but how funny are those?), you have to start again, from the beginning. This is really annoying for those multi-part missions where you kind of expect to at least come to a save-point when you complete your first main objective and get your next one. And you can't keep your weapons between missions, even though they - according to the plot you get in the cinematics - are supposed to follow each other directly.
You go from the city, through a forest, to an industrial area, and can not keep the good weapons you've found from one area to the other, but start with one rather weak weapon at the start of every new mission. And, about weapons - and I know this is my personal taste only - they use that "you can only hold two weapons" system as made famous by Halo and Cold Winter. Sure, it's kind of the standard for console FPS games, but I personally don't like it.
Of course I think it's silly when you can carry 15 heavy weapons at the same time as in Half-life of Red Faction, but surely you would at least be able to carry 3 in real life?
This gets really annoying when the game expects you to have a particular weapon at a particular place in the game, like - you have to have the RPG and shotgun to kill that RPG guy on the roof and open that door (no, you can't open any doors in the game without shooting at them, another strange design decision), but you'd prefer to have the AK-47 since there are a lot of enemies around.
You have to drop the weapons you want to pick up the weapons the game wants you to use - and then, you can only hope that the game does not put some boulder or broken floor between you and your favourite weapons when you want to get them back.
Well, now to my last and least issue with the game, you look around, turn and aim really slow in the game, and it does not seem to be configurable in the options.
By the way, the game does not have any multiplayer mode. Not even split screen. That is really sad since I think that might have added some replay value to the game.
The Bottom LineThis is, in my opinion, a rather poor game when it comes to gameplay, it lacks a lot of features you expect a modern FPS to have, it is so linear it should be criminalized, and require you to have a lot of patience, in completing your missions in one run - since you can't save in a mission.
On the other hand, this is the most visually impressive last-generation console game I've ever seen. I really did not think that these kinds of visuals were possible on the Playstation 2, and the music and cutscenes are great as well.
I think that whether you would like this game or not is a lot up to your personal taste, for people who do not have any issues with playing extremely linear games (and I know this isn't the only linear FPS game out there - the non-linear ones are pretty much the exception from the rule), but remember that the replay value of the game is very limited - you can find some bonuses - but there is no multiplayer available.
Check it out if you love FPS games, especially console FPS games and if you'd like to see what kind of visuals your PS2 is actually capable of.
If you find the game cheap, it might be worth to check out for other's as well, but to most people I think I'd recommend Cold Winter instead, a not-too-different but in my opinion much better FPS (even though it's graphics aren't as stunning as in Black) for the PS2 which also includes multiplayer.