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TECHNOLOGY

Amped-up mayhem is the new 'Black'

Creators bring Hollywood-style action to video game

By Sid Lipsey
CNN

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Ads for the first-person shooter video game "Black" tout guns as "the star of the show."

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(CNN) -- Amid all the hand-wringing and debate over violence in video games, there's one point of view not often heard: a call for even more carnage and mayhem.

But the makers of "Black" proudly take the latter approach with their soon-to-be-released action game about a U.S. black-ops military leader who shoots his way through Eastern Europe in a hunt for terrorists.

Advertising for "Black," a first-person shooter game, unabashedly declares that "guns are the star of the show" and "every bullet is your baby."

The creators from Criterion Games take those descriptions a step further with the eyebrow-raising term they often use to describe their new game: "gun porn."

"Having played a million video games with machine guns and pistols, nothing came close to copying the experience of shooting a [real] machine gun," says "Black" producer Jeremy Chubb during a phone interview from Criterion's studios in the United Kingdom.

Before beginning work on "Black," Chubb and his creative team sought inspiration from an unlikely source: a shooting range in Las Vegas, Nevada.

"We're from England, and they don't let us have [machine guns] here," Chubb says, playfully adding that "we had to go to America, where you love guns."

The "Black" creative team hoped their across-the-pond shooting expeditions would help them replicate the sights, sounds and overall sensation of firing a gun.

Despite all the talk about realism in gunplay, however, Hollywood was the true inspiration for "Black."

"We drew from a lifetime of experience of watching action films," Chubb says, recalling movies such as "The Terminator," "True Lies," "The Matrix" and "Die Hard" as influences. "We started to obsess over the way [movies] delivered action and destruction on-screen."

The result? "Black" features all the action-movie cliches so familiar to fans of the genre: terrorists who spin around and fall five stories after getting shot; abandoned cars that blow up when they're so much as grazed with a bullet; a randomly placed fuel tank that's only apparent purpose is to explode into a gazillion pieces at the slightest impact.

Experienced gamers may not bat an eye at "Black's" content, but they'll certainly do a double take when they find out the company releasing the game.

"Black" is published and sold by video game giant Electronic Arts, which now owns the developer, Criterion. In an industry swimming with violent and sexually suggestive games, EA is one of the more conservative game makers. (It also happens to be the biggest.)

While EA games often score a family-friendly "T for Teen" rating from the Entertainment Software Rating Board, "Black" will be one of the few EA titles to rate "M for Mature."

The guys at Criterion claim their U.S.-based corporate parent didn't have a problem with "Black's" profanity and violence (which, though intense, is mostly bloodless). "EA is a great company," Chubb says. "They let us make the game we wanted."

Some gamers are quick to shoot holes in the notion that "Black" signifies a change for EA.

"I wouldn't call 'Black' a poster child for any indication that EA is going in a different direction," says Tom Byron, editor in chief of Official U.S. PlayStation Magazine.

Bryon says he likes "Black" but that it pales in comparison with classic first-person shooter games such as "Halo" and "Doom." Still, he says he credits EA for doing something "a little outside their norm."

"Black's" creators ultimately say their game is not about shifting corporate strategies. "We want to shoot guns and blow things up," says lead designer Craig Sullivan.

Amid all the hype about rapid-fire bullets, ear-splitting explosions and massive destruction, "Black's" creators insist the game is all in good fun.

"Black" comes out February 28 for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox.

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