Developer: Airtight Games
Platforms: Xbox 360 (Reviewed), PlayStation 3
Release Date: January 19th, 2010
As a kid did you ever dream of flying through the skies with a jetpack on your back? Most likely some of us even do that still now. However what would you do if that jetpack also had machine guns on it?
Enter the world of Dark Void brought to you by Capcom, and the developers at Airtight Games, who brought us the amazing Crimson Skies for the original Xbox.
In the prologue you play an unknown man flying through the skies attached to a prototype jetpack, from there though you are instantly thrown into a battle against mysterious UFOs intent on your death. While the story takes you and your jetpack to great heights, it runs out of gas halfway through.
After the prologue you meet the game’s true protagonist, William Augustus Grey, who is a cargo pilot best known for smuggling, who also takes along a female passenger named Ava who mysteriously has a past with Will, as they know each other as soon as they see one another.
Though after take off, Will takes the plane through the Bermuda Triangle to avoid detection by Fascist forces, only many strange things start to occur. The gauges in the plane start to go haywire, a UFO vaguely similar to that scene in the prologue zips past you, then your plane tears apart and crashes into the Void, leaving you to fight against the Watchers to make your way home.
The story is quite linear, though there are parts of the game that allow for flying exploration, though the flying is limited by invisible walls, forcing a U-turn without player input, and there are journals scattered throughout the levels which unveil small parts of other’s lives in the past who have crashed into the Void and survived.
However the story suffers severely by one thing, pacing. The story is moving along at quite a nice pace, and most things make sense, until suddenly something crazy happens which I will not explain *NO SPOILERS*. Then *SPOILER* is made literally meaningless seconds later. There are also many other small things that are completely left to the wind with zero explanation. Then the final area of the game comes so abruptly, there is literally no explanation, nor is there any sign of the ending approaching. While the ending itself has a few twists, they mean nothing either as they are proved meaningless within a few words.
The level design is very interesting for Dark void, since it has to take in the full surroundings, and make use of them. For the vertical combat, they needed to incorporate ledges, and the developers did quite a good job of not making these look out of place. The first half of the game feels vaguely unique, as there is lush rainforest-like landscape all around you. While the second half of the game has you exploring various canyons with nothing but a gray void beneath you, each level design looks quite amazing. One level that deserves mention, although a short one, is a level where you have been swallowed by a giant beast and must find a way out before being digested.
The character models are smooth and realistic looking, though nothing very fancy is done with them. Each character has a unique look and no one looks quite the same when it comes to main character models. The main characters animation as he takes off shows the amount of force the jetpack is exerting on his body and does it lovely. Though the enemy design is quite another story.
There are various types of infantry which perform differently depending on their color. Though you read that right, their color only. There are 4 types of enemy infantry you will fight against, and each one looks so similar to the others, you can barely tell them apart minus weapon fire. The main enemy you will fight looks like a standard gray robot, while the second enemy you fight has more advanced looking gray armor with a big glowing eye with a lazer. While the third enemy you will encounter will look exactly like the first, except with a jet pack on its back. The only variation of these are different colors they may have, such as gold or red instead of the standard gray. Then there is the unique parasite looking creature that will try to tear your head off repeatedly.
Then there are the two aerial enemies, the standard UFO’s that you fight all the time will be appearing quite often. And then the same UFO, but with a shield on it! That may seem partially cynical but there is little to no difference between the two UFOs, minus maybe an extra light here or there on the cockpit.
The final enemy types are heavy vehicles which brings on signs of an AT-AT walker from Star Wars, including an achievement linked to it. This is called an Archon, though they are very scarce, forcing only three fights with them throughout the game, they are designed quite interestingly and would be preferred if more of the enemies were modeled as such. Then there is the Knight which is another interestingly designed enemy, which begs the question if they could have made more unique Watchers to help keep things unexpected.
Dark void brings plenty of unique battle aspects into the game, including exploration as well. With the addition of the vertical cover system and the jetpack, you have plenty of places you could explore. However the game does not utilize this well, as most areas are condensed only into where you need to go, giving the only exploration options of going up tall structures of cliffs to see what may lie atop them.
The vertical cover system may make someone feel a sense of Vertigo at first, because the camera swings around during the shooting, which requires you sometimes to shoot both above and below you as Watchers move around you. This is a unique feature, though under utilized as the game grows on. Then you have the tried and true basic cover system, when you are near a wall you can take cover by, Marcus Phoenix, I mean Will Grey, will take cover behind it. Needless to say the normal cover system is extremely similar to Gears of War, allowing all the same movements and cover transferring.
Though shooting at the enemies may be a moot point, as the enemies can take quite a lot of damage from your arsenal of weapons before falling down and dieing. A much faster way is to simply melee the enemy, which kills nearly every enemy in one hit. Once discovering this, everything from vertical combat to normal, is much simpler with simply meleeing the enemy to death.
Each of your guns is upgradeable, though the variety of the guns is far from extraordinary. You are equipped with your standard machine gun, standard plasma rifle, plasma sniper, plasma grenade launcher, and two weapons you may rarely use more than once. A magnetic gun that is unique in launching enemies into the air helplessly, and an electric gun you may only use once for the entire game. Though the upgrades for these weapons very little, and make you feel like you barely did anything with the weaponry.
The hovering ability of your jetpack gives you a unique battle aspect as you can fly above your enemies heads and rain gunfire down from above, but it also exposes you to their fire as well. Though you also have the ability to hover straight at the enemy, and melee them to death immediately upon landing.
Here comes the big selling point of the game, the aerial combat and flight with your personal jetpack. However you can only get this lovely dream after completing nearly half the game. At first your jetpack can be used to hover simply from place to place, until through story progression it is given full flight capabilities.
Flight is quite simple and the controls are easy to master. You have the ability to perform aerial stunts and maneuvers by pushing both thumbsticks down and in any direction, as well as switch easily from flying, to hovering, to free fall, and back to flying. And flight combat is just as simple, as pushing one button fires your machine guns, and with upgrades, can also fire missiles to your foes.
Aerial combat is superb, which from the makers of Crimson Skies, we should expect such greatness. You can use one button to lock onto the closest UFO and follow them until you shoot them down. You may also enter a Survivor fighter, or even hijack a UFO from your Watcher enemies.
Hijacking is a great part of the game as you boost your jetpack onto the back of the UFO and tear off the control panel, revealing the Watcher inside to your wrath, giving you control over the UFO to shoot down other UFOs. That is to say if there wasn’t a glitch involving this as well.
6 out of 10 times Will will be able to hijack the UFO without a problem. However there are times that out of nowhere, you will suddenly fall off the UFO and die. There is no motion of being shot, or thrown off the back of the UFO, you simply fall off and die out of nowhere. There is also a problem with re-spawning immediately before your death, resulting in a broken checkpoint.
Dark Void gives you the joy of flying around in a jetpack, blasting enemies out of the sky, while giving little variation in its game play. A handful of bugs and an abrupt end to the story may leave the player cheated. Combat is simple and especially fun once you obtain the hovering jetpack, but lacks complexity.
I rate this game a flying 6 out of 10 Capsules
This review is based off of the Xbox 360 version of the game.
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