Over the years, there's been quite a bit written about Criterion's canceled follow-up to the PlayStation 2 and Xbox first-person shooter Black, but rarely have any of its former developers talked at length about the project.
Now, though, courtesy of thatHITBOX's Jonathan Garrett and a detailed retrospective featuring interviews with former 'Black' developers Joseph Hodges, Michael Othen, Richard Bunn, and Ben Minto, we have a wealth of new information on what could have been.
We know, from what's been covered in the past by sites like Unseen64, the pre-production on Black 2 started while the first game was still in development in 2005, with one idea for it being that it would pick up straight from the end of the first game as the protagonist Jack Kellar continues his hunt for the former CIA operative William Lennox. Shortly after the first game was released, however, in February 2006, a new idea began to form within the studio to develop it as a spiritual successor instead.
According to this new article, this version of the game would have been almost entirely unrelated to the original Black, with the sound designer Ben Minto stating:
“I think the subtitle was going to be 'Rendition'. The idea centered on American troops going overseas, kidnapping people and bringing them back across borders. The subtitle 'Rendition' was sort of tying into that. I’m not sure that there was a fully-fledged story mapped out though. For me, it was just weird that a car studio made a gun game, and then never made another one."
The designer Richard Bunn, meanwhile, states that this sequel would have also featured more realistic scenarios and assassin-type gameplay. Something he now compares to IO Interactive's Hitman games:
“One of the aspects of pre-vis that stood out was they wanted to have more realistic scenarios. More of this assassin-type gameplay, where you’d go into real locations that were a bit more alive, with other people, and take out a target. Essentially a bit like [IO Interactive’s] Hitman”.
Criterion was also going to add co-operative multiplayer, with Bunn elaborating:
“They had something where if one player was downed, the other player could grab them, pull them into cover and revive them. The downed player could also shoot while being dragged to safety by their team-mate - effectively giving you 360-degree fire. It seemed natural that the team would start exploring multiplayer."
You may be wondering at this point why the game was canceled. Well, as designer Michael Othen states, it was likely just a matter of bad timing:
"At the time they [Criterion] were also working on Burnout Paradise, which was a huge game that required a lot of resources. There were a lot of other shooters coming out, even within EA. Bad Company was experimenting with destructible levels. It might have been difficult for them to see where a 'Black 2' fitted in with other games in their publishing schedule”.
If you want to find out more about the development of the original Black, we recommend checking out the full article on thatHITBOX. There's a ton of great information about the development of the first game and its Hollywood influences.
As for Black 2, are you upset that we didn't ever get to see it come to light? Let us know in the comments!