The History of Black (and Mystery of Black 2)

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A number of Criterion Games’ early projects put players in the driver’s seat of racing titles, high-octane adventures that helped the Guildford, UK-based studio slowly build a reputation for itself. However, it was 2001’s Burnout that launched the development group into true stardom. Burnout most notably served as a response to the simulation racers that dominated the genre at the time, such as Polyphony Digital’s Gran Turismo series on PlayStation. Instead of simulating refined driving experiences, Criterion focused on delivering an action-based thrill ride from start to finish, complete with the seminal Crash Mode that boasted over-the-top crashing sequences. The studio later decided to inject a similar level of extravagant action into the then PC-oriented first-person shooter genre, introducing console players on PS2 and the original Xbox to Hollywood-style shootouts in the often overlooked yet transformative Black.

According to Producer Jeremy Chubb, Black targeted what should’ve always rested at the core of any shooter—guns and destruction. It accomplished as much and more to great effect, due in large part to a well-crafted blend of detailed gun models and the ruination they caused once fired into deformable environments. Publisher Electronic Arts and the storied Criterion crew had high ambitions for the shooter and let said ambitions spearhead much of the marketing ahead of launch.

Some critics and players later argued that Criterion over-promised with regards to what Black had on offer. Meanwhile, others appreciated the project for what it did provide—a first-person shooter whose graphical detail, destructibility, and blockbuster movie-inspired gameplay attempted to push the genre forward. And since few games have followed Black’s lead, there remains a contingent of fans who remember the chaos and hold out hope for another round.

This is the history of Black.

00:00 Intro
01:59 Sponsorship
03:18 Criterion Shooting Project
06:10 Reinventing the First-Person Shooter
10:15 Better Than a Master of One

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