Massive Black Volume Two Review

Genre: Art
Platform: Paper
Publisher: Ballistic Media Publishing
Released: Pre-Order

Inching your way through every room and hallway, anticipating the next scare, you’re not thinking about the lengthy process to decide whether or not Henry Mason should wear glasses or not in Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. However, even minute details such as that are carefully and articulately considered during the development process of a game. It is up to the concept artist and the rest of the design team to create a believable world that you want to be engaged in, dwelling on every single detail and pixel. The teams at Massive Black and their publisher, Ballistic Publishing, have taken it upon themselves to assemble artwork from various games and IP’s (some that actually never saw the light of day) for you to enjoy to your heart’s content.

As a fan of art and video games myself, anything by ballistic publishing especially game related is huge on my to get list as there are not that many publishers out there that cater specifically to our genre.   It’s been four long years since the release of Massive Black Volume One, but now, you can experience more intriguing insight into the world of Massive Black in the world of video game development and more in Massive Black Volume Two. Featuring fourteen different games and IP’s worked on by Massive Black, there is a ton of information that can’t be found anywhere else on the games they have worked.

For those who have not heard of Massive Black they are a studio located in San Francisco USA providing quality illustration, artwork and animation for the entertainment and advertising industry since 2003.   With hit game titles such as League Of Legends, Zombie Playground and the InFAMOUS series they have worked on many well-known and widely played games.

The Massive Black Volume two as with a lot of the Ballistic books comes in three versions.  The first version is the Slip Cased Edition which is a standard guide type binding, it also comes with a hard covered slip cover for protection, this edition sells for $65.  The second is the Special Leather Edition crafted in hand bound  black Cromwell Bonded Leather, has silver foil text and a larger than normal full color image ‘tip-on’ this edition sells for $129.  The final version of this book is the Folio Edition Featuring a Cromwell Bonded Leather and has Silver Foil for the cover and spine, with a larger than normal full colour tip-on. All of the text on the cover and spine are silver foil. It has a matching hand-crafted presentation case with a ribbon to easily remove or place the Folio Edition in its box.  This edition of the book is Limited edition and comes with a certificate by Massive Black and is individually numbered (numbered between 1 to 400) and sells for $300.

The Massive Black Volume two book features a lot of 2D, sketches, concept art and 2D/3D renders however much of its character focus is on 2D sketches and animations.  There are a lot of nicely detailed 3D images mostly based around vehicles and weapons and some pretty decent selection of environment scenes as well.

So onto the video game aspect of this book, amazingly for an animation art book and I guess no surprise since its Massive Black about half the book or more is video game related.  There are a total of 31 actual art sections in this book and 17 of them are Video game related, you might even go as far as 22 sections if you consider the work they did on characters that either have games or comics.  The game sections in this book include the following:

  • Starhawk
  • Dust: 514
  • InFAMOUS 2
  • Untitled Sega
  • Untitled Void Star Creations
  • Red Faction: Armageddon
  • Risen 2
  • Ace Combat: Assault Horizon
  • Warco: The News Game
  • Home Sony
  • Silent Hill: Shattered Memories
  • Untitled Konami
  • League Of Legends
  • Zombie Playground
  • Proxy
  • Mothhead


Each section of the book or chapters starts off with a commentary about the section you are about to read and above that within the section there are also small notes, tidbits and descriptions of how the characters came about, how they where designed, what the designer had in mind etc.. this book is very detailed in the sense of not only being an art book but an educational one that allows the reader to also understand how the art was conceptualize, designed and sometimes even background on the actual character.

From Starhawk to League of Legends and the uber popular kickstarter funded project Zombie Playground!, this is a group that has a pretty impressive catalogue of AAA games they have worked on.   It’s a good thing then that they claim to all have loved video games at some point in their lives.

So you want to check out the concept art for an Untitled Sega IP that was never announced? Or all the interesting original directions for characters like Cole or Emmett Graves from Starhawk? This is definitely the book to be checking out.  If your not convinced you can always head over to ballistic medias web site where you can do a full preview of the book on their website, yes every page of the book is viewable.


  • Video game art in a book
  • Very unique and detailed work both visually and verbally
  • A lot of Video game focused sections
  • Well constructed, the cardboard sleeve was a great touch


  • Price was a tad bit high, would have liked to see entry level at about $50
  • Thought some games such as League of Legends needed more content 
  • Would have liked to see more full color in some of the sections

[xrr rating=8/10] 8/10

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