Black 2 is the cancelled sequel to Criterion Games‘ 2006 shooter, Black, which was being worked on by the same developer for publisher and IP holder, Electronic Arts. It was planned to be a co-op shooter for the Xbox 360 and PS3 with a release in late 2007/early 2008.
The Original Idea For Black 2
Despite recurring rumours of Black 2 rumbling for several years after the release of the original game, its development was, in actuality, rather short-lived and it never was able to leave pre-production. As it turns out, EA and Criterion had plans to expand Black into a franchise for some time before the first game was even released. Preliminary work on the sequel commenced as early as April 2005, a whole 10 months before Black was finished.
Artists were contracted externally to produce conceptual documents for the game, including drawings of the protagonist, Jack Kellar. According to one of the artists who spent a short period of time on the project, there was some debate over the direction the follow-up would take. One possible path, for example, would have continued the story of the first game, as Kellar continues his hunt for Lennox at the behest of the US government.
Jack Kellar concept art:
A Reboot of The IP?
As we have come to understand, Criterion’s time drafting concepts with a third party art studio ended around October 2005. It was then put on the back-burner until the first Black was completed. Apparently, the team was also considering another, alternative direction for the sequel that would have been completely separate and self-contained from the original in terms of narrative. This is where the idea of making it as a “co-op shooter” game originated.
To our knowledge, the specifics of the story behind these characters was not figured out, but they would have been the basis of this other new version of Black, had it been made.
According to one of our sources, formerly of Criterion, pre-production on Black 2 after the release of the original initially lasted several months before grinding to a halt around May 2006. The source claims that there was a disagreement between key members of Criterion and EA over how to proceed with the game and the direction it should take. Allegedly, Stuart Black, a senior designer on the first game, actually left the company over the matter.
“As I recall, Stuart Black left over a disagreement with the direction it should take” “…he wanted it be more closely tied to Black and they couldn’t reach an agreement over it”
Despite this, it appears that plans to produce another Black game remained in the pipeline for some time after this. Following Stuart Black’s departure, work on the project steadily continued and it began adopt the latter route of a co-op shooter, abandoning the story elements of the first game.
It was in November 2006 that EA somewhat quietly announced that it was officially happening. During their quarterly review on November 2, chief financial officer Warren Jenson was quoted as saying:
“There’s a new SimCity game in the pipeline and the next-generation version of Black”
Jenson’s wording (“next-generation version”) is perhaps worthy of note, as it seems to support our source’s suggestions that Black 2 would have been something of a reboot with little ties to the first game other than on a gameplay level; as opposed to a direct sequel. Regardless, it appears that it was shortly after this fiscal statement when the title fell apart. It has never again been mentioned publicly again by EA staff and was absent from all of their future financial reports. Had development moved forward successfully, it would have been released during their 2007 fiscal year, which ended March 31, 2008.
The finite details of what exactly went wrong with the project have yet to be divulged by Criterion, but our sources indicate that it was EA’s decision to terminate the project over a “lack of direction“. It never advanced past pre-production, although a decent amount of material was created for it, including a “concept trailer”.
The Mysterious Target X
Years later, Black 2’s concept trailer was discussed by Alex Ward, formerly Criterion’s creative director, on August 5, 2013 via Twitter. Ward unfortunately declined to share the video, but thanks to the pleas of Geoff Keighley, he released two screenshots of the trailer. He has since deleted these tweets, but we were able to preserve the images before hand.
According to the developer, the video was titled “Target X“. When asked why he didn’t wish to upload it to the public, he explained “by today’s standards, it probably wouldn’t hold up if truth be told. Times have sure changed”.
We spoke to one former Criterion employee who contributed to the Target X trailer, who elaborated on it for us:
“We were experimenting with how lighting could come into play during gameplay. The trailer showed how different effects such as that could make combat more interesting and dynamic…”
Apparently, this concept belongs to an earlier stage of Black 2’s pre-production period and is more reflective of Criterion’s original vision for the game, as opposed to what it ultimately became.
Additional concept logo variants:
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