Games such as Wii Sports and Excite Truck have shown that the Wii remote can be functional, but both were kind of niche uses. Once the novelty wears thin on such titles, can the controller benefit your Joe Average action game?
Before we get to the meat of the review however, which is indeed the control scheme, I had better lay the cards on the table. Blackhand is an important game for the Wii. While the Wii version indeed looks much better than the PS2 version, it isn’t as sharp as its XBOX 360 relative. Future games for the Wii will be in the same boat, so can the system’s magic-wand controller really make buying the Wii version of games justifiable?
In this case the answer is a resounding ‘YES!’ Although the 360 game is indeed the looker, Blackhand is just a much more satisfying experience. Walking around the city is pretty standard fare: run with the control stick and use the ‘A’ button for context sensitive commands. The game’s brilliance starts to shine when you whack people.
Played Wii boxing? Blackhand’s controls are better and more accurate. Jabbing with either hand will result in your character doing the same, but moving your hand across your body will trigger a hook. Holding the B and Z buttons will grab characters letting you punch with your free hand, shove opponents against the wall, hold them over ledges, slam them into nearby objects or throw them away. When you have rival mobsters/random civilians in your grasp you can also perform executions and strangulations by performing certain actions. Yes it’s violent; it’s also fun. It’s also hilarious to watch someone play for the first time.
There are weapons in the game, baseball bats, bottles and guns for example. But really these are all sideshows and the unarmed combat is the main event. That said targeting with the guns is easy to use and you can disarm or kneecap your enemies swiftly if desired.
The fact I enjoyed playing Blackhand is actually quite a complement in itself. I am over Grand Theft Auto to the point of my head exploding if my disc goes near the PS2, and let’s face it: Blackhand is the latest game in the genre GTA created. There really isn’t anything here gameplay-wise that hasn’t been done before. You walk around the city leaving mayhem in your wake. Mafia added a story and mobster angle and did it well. You do get to extort businesses and take over backroom requests though which is interesting. The only real downer is that I did feel the interactivity with the environment was slightly lacking.
Besides the simply brilliant controls, because it’s an EA game, Blackhand also features simply top-notch presentation. The menus are straight forward, and the characters and voices are very slick. The music is perfect for the game too; you really have to take your hat off to the developers for developing a brilliant atmosphere that sucks you into the game world.
If you love GTA-style games, gangsters (proper ones), or just want a game that proves how damn cool the Wii controllers wii-ly ((Ya-Wii-ly) -sorry) are, you can’t do much better than Blackhand.