Dark Void has potential. I want to enjoy the game, but I just can't with the redundancy and gameplay issues.
The new year is starting off with several heavy hitting new IPs, such as Bayonetta and Darksiders. Capcom and Airtight Games decided to throw their new third person action game, Dark Void, into the mix. With Dark Void, a game that gives gamers a chance to fight in land, air and hanging from several ledges, Capcom hopes that they start of the busy year of 2010 with a hit.
Dark Void follows Will Augustus Grey, a cargo pilot who crashes in the Bermuda Triangle. After crashing, Will finds himself and Ava in an unknown area filled with aliens. They encounter the Watchers, a group holding humans as slaves.
The story isn’t very compelling. Playing through the game may remind you of the same dry story that has followed several movies and games prior to this. The good part about this story being dry is that it doesn’t take very long to get through as the game lasts roughly five or six hours.
Character development is the one thing that Dark Void does adequately. For Will, Capcom enlisted Nolan North, recently known for his work on Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and then every other video game ever made (almost not kidding for that one). Polly Walker was also brought onto the project; she’s best known for her work on HBO’s Rome and will be in the 2010 version of the Clash of the Titans. Both North and Walker do a great job at creating believable and compelling characters.
There are several aspects of the gameplay that you will love… and several others where I assure you that you will pull your hair out.
Dark Void gives gamers great freedom at approaching situations. Will is equipped with a jetpack that he can use to climb heights, hover or fly. By including this feature, Airtight Games and Capcom have opened up their game beyond the regular third person action game. Instead of simply relying on ground cover, you can decide to fly out from the area to assess the best situation to take down the watchers. Maybe the best approach is to spray the enemies with machine guns on your jet pack. Or possibly hovering above the Watchers and sniping them from a higher vantage point. This game takes a step beyond some of the generic third person action games, but at the same time these new forms of gameplay weren’t developed to the point that I would have liked to see it.
The jetpack, although offering some creative, has its handful of problems as well. In some instances there are no easy ways to use it to effectively move around the area. Will becomes very vulnerable when he is flying in a closed space, such as a hanger. Every effort that I used to utilize the space around me would lead to my inevitable death as I was left open for enemy fire. Also, effectively defeated enemies in dogfights became a repetitive and at times excruciating process. The guns and aiming were frustrating to use and hijacked a UFO become very repetitive.
Along with the jetpack, there are several aspects in Dark Void that I would like to have seen fixed. Within the game, there is an opportunity to upgrade your armory. As Will defeats enemies, he earns tech points that can be put toward purchasing different upgrades. Without the upgrades, the game would have been abysmal. Actually, even with the upgrades, the game requires more babysitting. Enemies absorb bullets… and not just in the chest. In Dark Void, you can shoot Watchers in the face several times and they won’t go down.
Vertical combat is also a big portion of Dark Void. Airtight Games created a new situation to the game. Instead of huddling behind a concrete slab, Will can jump under a ledge and cover himself to escape fire. Another great thing about vertical combat is that it isn’t limited to hiding behind a piece of concrete. Players can launch the jet pack and hover around, shooting enemies that are behind vertical cover. Vertical cover is great, but there are several instances where it feels more like a gimmick than an actual feature. Vertical combat is introduced early in the game; however it is not utilized as much as it was advertised.
Dark Void is a good looking game. Although the gameplay is not up to par, Airtight Games and Capcom have created a game that looks amazing in various aspects. Dark Void utilizes the Unreal 3 Engine, which allowed the developers to create several enemies and vast environments. Environments change frequently as Will finds himself fighting off the Watchers in forests, massive canyons or on an enemy soil. There are moments where this game will give you the “wow” effect, especially when Will is participating in dogfights with multiple enemies and allies.Flying some of the sequences is amazing as Will and enemy ships fight in massive canyons.
The character modeling looks almost (and I will emphasize almost) to par with some of the better adventure games on the market today. Will looks great as he moves through areas with fluid movements. One of my favorite moments was when Will first gets his jetpack. He jumps into the air, firing a off his personal flying machine. Will’s legs and arms flail around as he attempts to gain stability in the air.
This animation helps develop Will as a believable character. He doesn’t automatically know how to use some jetpack that he just got his hands on. Unfortunately, that animation continues to be used during the rest of the game, thus showing a lack of character development.
Another gripe that I had was with the camera. During flight sequences, it was almost impossible to easily track down UFOs or flying enemies. Dark Void does utilize a lock-on button for targeting enemies; however, this button only locks Will’s vision onto the closest enemy. He is not automatically positioned in a way where he can take down enemies. Instead, it is put on the player to manage this confusing view point in order to be successful in a dogfight.
Towards the end of the game, I did notice some glitches and screen tears. It is somewhat annoying, since this game was purposefully delayed to prevent it from releasing during the busy month of November 2009; guess they still had some bugs to fix as well.
Enlisting Nolan North was a great idea by Capcom. It provided them with an A-list voice acting celebrity that would help to develop the main character. However, at the same time, Nolan North’s role as Will is almost exactly like Nathan Drake. I constantly found myself thinking “well, this is kind of cool, since the game is like UNCHARTED 2: Among Thieves… if Drake had a jetpack”.
We had a long conversation on this week’s podcast about having Nolan North in all these AAA games. I don’t mind seeing his names on Assassin’s Creed II and Dragon Age: Origins because he is not very distinguishable in the game. However, in Dark Void, North is auditory all the time, and sounds exactly like Nathan Drake. For any gamers who have played through UNCHARTED: Drake’s Fortune and UNCHARTED 2: Among Thieves, North’s voice will be a constant distraction.
The music in the game creates an epic hero story feeling (if that is even a category). Bear McCreary, who previously worked on Battlestar Galatica, created the score that sends gamers through a flurry of emotions. Dogfights become even more hectic as Will attempts to take down armies of enemy ships with the backing sound of a 63-piece orchestra ensemble.
Dark Void has amazing potential. I mean, who doesn’t like the idea of having a jetpack added to an action game? Unfortunately, the gameplay and story don’t hold up well. The game does look good, as Airtight Games made good use of the Unreal 3 engine. Also, enlisting prominent voice acting talent gives gamers more of a reason to sit through the entire story. In short, I want to like this game for the ideas that are put behind it, but the execution is lacking, thus making me want to say that this is a rental at best.
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Release: January 5, 2010
Reviewed on: PS3
Also available on: Xbox 360, PC
Developer: Airtight Games