REVIEWS -- Dark Void -- PC
Dark Void almost loses itself in turbulence
by Nicholas Totton
Fun factor: Average
Worth to: Rent
This bland shooter with flawed gameplay isnít all bad, but itís best borrowed, or rented for a weekend, and admired for its attempt at doing something new.
In a time when the video game industry is seeing an abundance of games being re-skinned and thrown out the door in a new package as the next big thing, Dark Void is a nice, albeit ultimately flawed, change of pace.
The game begins in the early 1930ís where our protagonist, Will Grey, is a cargo pilot who finds himself taking on a job couriering cargo for a lady friend from his past. It isnít long before Will finds himself crashing his plane while flying through the Bermuda triangle, and awakening to find himself in a very strange, yet beautiful, world filled with weird robots that want him dead, an enslaved native population of humans that need to be saved from their own beliefs, and Will trying to find a way back home. While the game has an interesting story, premise, and enough unique gameplay hooks to make it sound like it will be a top tier game, it sadly falls apart very quickly under the weight of too many interesting ideas that are marred with horrible controls, and bland level design.
Nolan North has to be in everything
The game starts by introducing you to the basic mechanics of any typical third-person cover-based shooter, however it isnít long before you get the gameís first gameplay hook, that of the jetpack. Once you get the jetpack the game stops being a traditional third-person cover-based shooter, and opens up to what the developers had hoped to be gameplay that involves as much vertical combat in the air, as it does with ground combat. Due to frustrating controls while hovering, and an inability to aim at anything while hovering or flying around on your jetpack, it soon loses its novelty as you will find it much easier, and more efficient, to simply stay on the ground and play it as a traditional cover-based shooter.
However one interesting aspect of the game that the jetpack allows you to engage in, is the vertical cover system. When in one of the select areas designed for it, the player is allowed to jump from cover to cover along the mapís walls, scaling the sides of giant buildings or cliffs, all while fighting enemies that are doing the same thing. However as with almost every aspect of this gameís gameplay, the novelty of the perspective change soon wares off, due to its lack of continued use beyond a few early, and late, spots in the game.
Halfway through his adventure Will finds a more advanced jetpack that will allow him to actually fly, and not simply hover for short distances. Once this unlocks, the game slowly begins to abandon ground combat altogether, and the last half of the game is pretty much all based around flying around big open maps with the jetpack.
It takes a mighty leap andÖ fails to ignite
While you will enjoy the first few times you fly onto an enemy UFO, and use a quicktime event to highjack it from its occupant as you bust open the hatch, shoot its robotic pilot in the head and gain control of the craft, it soon loses its appeal as you come to realize itís pointless to do as the UFO controls exactly the same as your jetpack does, with absolutely no differences in gameplay. Furthermore, this aspect of the game is all but ruined by a complete lack of control while steering Will around in the air. It appears as if the developers intended for you to always feel as if you never had full control over the jetpack, and unfortunately they succeeded in this respect a little too well. Trying to aim the guns mounted on your jetpack to kill any UFOs in these flying sections of the game is a test in the endurance of your keyboardís ability to not break under the repeated punches you will no doubt inflict upon it after countless reloads of dying, due to the lack of control.
No matter what the aiming sensitivity is set at, flying always feels like itís either so slow enemies fly right past you before you can even point your crosshair at them long enough to fire, or that itís so finicky it is impossible to aim at anything, as your crosshair will wildly swing past everything you want to hit. Thankfully there are only a few maps where you are forced to strictly fly around with the jetpack and fight UFOs. Every aerial fighting map at a certain point has a turret that you can occupy and use instead. Sadly this just leads to the game going from being frustrating, to being boring, as enemies simply fly right at you.
Despite its many flaws in controls, and in its bland level design, the game does have a few standout features worth noting. One of most obvious ones is that of its beautiful art direction in the look of the games world, and of its blending of early 1900ís clothing with the high tech look of many of the gameís characters. While walking around the campsite of a group of fighters you meet up with early on in the game, and help fight with throughout, it is very easy to spend time just standing around looking at the various items around the site, and the design of the fighters inhabiting it.
One other surprising feature is how well it runs on the PC. Sadly these days most games that get ported to the PC have little to no effort put into its optimization for the platform, but Dark Void is a shining example of a game that has had the effort put into its port, and it shows. The game runs smoothly, looks beautiful and I found no instances where it would slow down, or have any textures and shadows display inappropriately. It should be noted that at one point the game did make my computer lock up, and forced me to restart it, but it only happened one time.
Overall the game starts out very strong as you are introduced to the premise, its characters, and its unique gameplay hooks; however it isnít long before the shine wears off, and youíre left with a mediocre game at its core. It has a lot going for it, with its unique take on the third-person cover-based genre of shooters, but the shoddy controls and uninteresting level design just brought the whole thing crashing to the ground faster than Will forgetting to start his jetpack after he leaps off a cliff. Hopeful the developers will be in a position to make a sequel to the game, as for a starting franchise Dark Void sets itself up to be a very serious contender for being one of the big names out there, if only its control and gameplay were to get a good look over. Unfortunately as it is, Dark Void is a game that is best borrowed, or rented for a weekend, and admired for its attempt at doing something new, and to hope that others in the industry can use Dark Voidís mistakes as a lesson to build from.
Developer: Airtight Games
Release Date: January 12, 2010
Review Date: 27-01-2010
Numbers of Players: 1
Players Online: No
While you can see that various elements of the gameís design had a lot of thought put into them, the bland levels ruin the rest of the experience.
Even with the unique hook of a jetpack adding vertical combat, it still feels like a mediocre third-person shooter.
From the beautiful vistas, to the interesting period designs of items and characters, the premise in this game is top notch.
The gameís music does its job of imparting the necessary feelings it is supposed to during battles and events, but nothing about it is too memorable.
While some might find a little bit of fun in replaying one of the big battles, there really isn\'t any reason to make yourself play this game more than once.