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Which Console Did You Buy/Receive Over The Holidays?

Xbox One X
Nintendo Switch
PlayStation 4

Game Profile
GENRE: Action
Not Rated
 Written by Alex Fitzgerald  on April 03, 2003

First Impressions: I didn't know there were nine shades of black, did you?

Few games in the long history of video games have been able to successfully integrate RPG elements with shooter gameplay. Deus Ex meshed the two together wonderfully, and future games like Chrome for the PC, where you can upgrade your character like in an RPG with implants, also look like they'll attempt to do what Deus Ex did. One of these upcoming games is the recently announced third person shooter Black9. Though it will be possible for players to kill many of their enemies, ala traditional shooter titles, gamers will also be able to engage in a skill-based system that will build up your mercenary-like character.

The people who are developing Black9, Taldren (the same people who made the Starfleet Command games for the PC), have had Black9 as a concept since 2000. In all that time, Taldren's CEO Eric Bethke has had a good amount of time to develop Black9's story, which goes like this:

In the year 2080 a new secret society called the Illuminati has taken the place of the world's nations as the driving force behind technological growth, prosperity, and space exploration. There isn't just one division of the Illuminati though, as the Illuminati instead have 9 different groups to its name. You, being a mercenary, can benefit a lot from this by working with and against various divisions of the Illuminati to earn a profit.

Here's where the game differentiates itself from others of it's kind - before you dive into Black9's gameplay you'll first have to pick between 4 different character types (two human type characters, one big brute of a human, and an elf-like character). Depending on which character you pick you will be given different character attributes. If you picked the elf character you will be really quick and nimble but a little weak, while if you picked the buff character you will be really strong but also very slow, and if you picked one of the two humans you will be a cross between the two.

After you're done with that you will then get to assign skill points to your character throughout the rest of the game. By assigning skill points, you will add points to one through four of the game's stat categories, which include Strength, Agility, Dexterity, and Constitution. This will greatly affect gameplay, as the stat points you assign will directly affect you while you're playing the game. Stuck behind a door? If you just built up your character's strength than go ahead and give that door the ol' Hulk treatment and bash it down. Oh, what's that you say? You're really low on health and you're about to die? Too bad, if you'd built up your Constitution levels you would have more health right now. See, everything you do in building up your character will come back to help (or haunt) you later on in the game, and because of this character building-up system, Black9 should have more strategy in it than your traditional 3rd Person Shooter.

How you build your character will also determine what kind of path you take in your Black9 gaming experience. Gamers can blast through Black9 as a Rambo-like one-man-army, a Solid Snake-like stealthy character, or an Otacon like hacker using nanotech magic. Each will greatly affect the way you play the game, and will also make the story take different paths (although the multiple-path design isn't expected to be as deep as the upcoming Deus Ex: Invisible War).

Gamers will also see some RPG-like gaming ideas in the way you fight in Black9. In order to fight your way through the hordes of enemies you will have to equip the weapons you have in your three-weapon slots. The weapons you can assign to these slots can be one of the many guns and swords available to you throughout the game. You can even throw everything together into one mega-gun to get you through the levels if you wish.

If you're not into the whole big guns thing though there are plenty of spells you can use - 16 to be exact. These spells can be used to do a variety of things, but only through hard work in a nanotech school will you get some of the more powerful spells like earthquake and tsunami. If you wish to dig further though for even more powerful spells you can get more by working for certain divisions of the Illuminati for a long time, where they might give you extremely powerful spells that wouldn't be available to you otherwise.

When you're not fighting on the ground, Black9 will allow you to hop in a vehicle and fight that way. Though this won't be a gigantic feature in the game (except for the Seoul level where Taldren has a planned street battle in store). Regardless of how big a deal Taldren will make the vehicle driving gameplay, it will be interesting to see how Black9 stacks up against the countless other shooter games that are planning driving sections in their games.

Taldren is also planning to make game modes that will adorn to multiple players gaming (if you're getting tired of playing by yourself that is). Not only will you get to play through the game in co-op with a real live person at your side, but you'll also get to play co-op with another person online (in case your buddy can't lug his lazy ass over to your house). Beyond cooperative play, Taldren also has a variety of competitive multiplayer modes that are in development. However, little is known about these other modes so far, so we'll just have to wait and see how far Taldren will go with these competitive multiplayer modes

One thing that is essential in all shooters, third person and first, is great level variety. Fortunately for us, Black9 possesses this in spades. Taldren plans to have 15 levels in the final version of the game, including levels that take place in a moon base, A Mars base, an industrial complex, the streets of Macao, atop an asteroid, and the castle rooftops of Shanghai.

Black9 at this point is showing off above-average graphics, but with some rough patches. At this stage in the development cycle Black9 all ready displays a lot of detail in its vast variety of environments, although there seems to be some drawbacks to using the Unreal engine, as evidenced when you see the awkward tile system for indoor areas.

Final Thoughts
At this point Black9's deep RPG elements and promising Third-Person Shooter gameplay is showing promise, while the graphics and multiplayer modes look like they could be better. However, Taldren does have time to fix these problems up before the game comes out, and it's gameplay is already looking like it will be much better than others in its genre, so don't count Black9 out just yet. Keep your eyes peeled for more information on Black9. This game looks like it just might be the big title Taldren is hoping it will become when it releases this fall.

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