We've devoted more than a fair amount of time and coverage to Black over the past few months and frankly, can you blame us? Not only does it come from Burnout wonderboys Criterion, but we've long maintained that it's going to raise a last magnificent hurrah for the FPS on current gen.
Despite rogue code slipping out onto the 'net recently, Black's full debut is set for this very Friday and not so long ago we joined Criterion's Lead Designer Craig Sullivan and Producer Jeremy Chubb at a top secret locale in Budapest to get the very last word on the game.
In the course of a long but intriguing and occasionally hilarious interview, we talked about the birth of Black, the philosophy behind its inception, how major decisions were made to keep it on the current gen and why it's been kept to a single-player experience rather than being sacrificed on the altar of online. But there's also plenty of intriguing talk of what might happen to the series if it does make the move to next gen, how Criterion managed to squeeze the most out of the Burnout engine and AI and indeed the very future of the FPS as a genre.
As the old saying goes, enough talk, let's see some action, so lock and load - this is Criterion's definitive word on Black.
Black's seized a lot of headlines, but how did the idea for the game originally come about?
Craig Sullivan: It originally came about during a visit to a gun shop in Vegas.
Jeremy Chubb: Well, originally it was tagged a modern day Medal of Honor. Medal of Honor was a brilliant game, with brilliant audio and a brilliant sense of being there. We wanted to deliver something like that but more contemporary. That sort of chipped along for a bit, but it was the visit to the gun store which turned it into a particular direction for the gameplay.
CS: Alex Ward had already been working on the idea for the game for about six months before I came aboard, knocking around some ideas based around Medal of Honor - you know, where was Black set, it's got to be modern weapons etc. Everyone had just about had their fill of shooting World War Two-style weapons and didn't want to see guns with bits of wood on anymore. So he was thinking, we've got to do modern weapons, there hadn't been a game which had done justice to modern weapons in terms of the visceral kind of experience you get from firing them. We've been firing blanks today, but imagine what it was like firing those real weapons, firing real rounds, or having real rounds fired at you. You get an adrenaline rush just from being around them, you know the smell of the gunpowder, how loud they are.
There's the realistic side of it, what it's actually like to fire a gun, and then of course there's the Hollywood treatment. When they make really big Hollywood films, they don't just model exactly what they do, they go over the top and really make it obvious that the hero of the film is being shot at. Not because you can see the bullets flying through the air, but because everything around him is being ripped to pieces.
So one of the first things I did was to look at the way Hollywood was treating big gun battles and what was exciting and what wasn't. I've seen a lot of FPS games and I had my own thoughts about how they handled weapons. To me, there's been a very big disconnect between the intensity and the feeling that it should be really scary to be shot at. It should also feel really cool and really powerful to shoot at someone else. It's not about who's firing the weapon in an FPS, because actually the characters not on the screen, it's the gun which is one the screen. The gun has to be the major thing and the bullets that are flying back and forth between you. It's not the bullets that hit you which are important, but it's what happens to the ones that miss you too.