In addition to your primary objectives--which don't get much deeper than simply making your way through the level--you'll have to complete at least some secondary objectives to finish levels on the normal, hard, or unlockable black ops difficulty settings. But these objectives are really just loosely hidden objects in the level that you either need to collect or blow up, so they're never involved. However, the objects you find are usually pretty funny. The game is full of a bunch of references to other fiction based on shadowy government stuff, so you'll find objects that can be traced back to movies like Sneakers and WarGames and TV shows like Knight Rider. You'll also find some real "ripped from today's headlines" sort of stuff, like photos of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, information on the New York City subway system, photos of President Bush's Texas ranch, and so on. You won't actually see the items in question, though; you'll just see a message on the screen about what you've found or destroyed. If you've ever wanted to prevent the rendering secrets from the Burnout series from falling into enemy hands, fear not. You'll get your chance.
While there are a lot of things you can blow up in Black, that doesn't keep it entertaining from start to finish.
The eight levels in Black don't take long to complete. Experienced first-person shooter players will be able to blow through the game in six or seven hours the first time. The harder difficulty settings are, as you might expect, more difficult, though the primary difference is that you can't carry any health kits with you on these settings, so you won't be able to heal on command if things get rough. While you'll unlock black ops mode for beating the game on hard, as well as silver versions of the weapons, which have unlimited ammunition for use in any setting you beat the game on, there aren't any additional modes or multiplayer, and there isn't any serious replay value here. After playing through the game once on normal, it's tough to get excited about a second run-through on hard, let alone a third on black ops.
Black stands out as a solid graphical showpiece for both the Xbox and PlayStation 2. The game has great lighting, with realistic sunsets and glares. Of course, the explosions are the star of the show. The gun models look pretty good and have authentic-looking animations for reloading, which is a nice touch. The environments, mostly an array of catwalk-filled disused factories, look sharp. The game runs at a smooth frame rate on the Xbox. Though the PS2 version doesn't bog down very often, it happens enough to be noticeable. Also, while it's great that plenty of things can blow up, there are too many cases where you can see seams around and in objects that can blow up, which really ruins the effect. It's almost like a Scooby-Doo cartoon, since you can tell ahead of time which items in the background can and will animate. Considering the game is already rated M and has more than its fair share of cursing, it's downright silly that the game doesn't have any blood. Even with all that said, though, this is still one of the best-looking shooters on the Xbox and PS2.
Black earns its M rating with a boatload of cursing, but it still doesn't have any blood. That's just weird.
Black is designed to sound like a big-time Hollywood action movie from top to bottom, and it does this pretty well. The soundtrack plays a big part here, as it's full of the sort of big-time orchestral music that you'd expect from The Rock or another modern big-budget action movie. The sound effects go a long way toward making the guns sound like they're doing damage. Along with the gunfire noise, the sound of bullets hitting cement pillars and other objects is pretty cool, too. There's a smattering of voice acting in the game, mostly in the form of radio chatter, most of which is too loud, especially in the second level, where you sound like you're shouting into the radio, even though you're trying to keep quiet and there are enemies directly below you. Though in the grand scheme of things, that's only a minor problem in a game that otherwise sounds fantastic.
Overall, Black's strong first impression is bogged down by its repetitive and often-standard gameplay, weak enemy AI, and short length. There are some good ideas here, and the technology is cool, but you can't help but think that there's still a bunch of untapped potential throughout the game.