Tuesday, September 21, 2010

'Dark Void' - Review

When I was younger I saw a movie that made me love jetpacks, 'The Rocketeer.'  I don't really recall much of the movie, as it's been at least seventeen years since I've seen it, but the imagery stuck with me.  While there were video games based on the movie, they were mediocre at best.  Finally, after 19 years, a game comes out that feels like it would fit being called 'The Rocketeer.'

That game is 'Dark Void' and was developed by Airtight Games and published by Capcom.  'Dark Void' has no real connection to 'The Rocketeer' with the exception of the time they take place and, of course, jetpacks.  In 'Dark Void' you play a cargo pilot, William Augustus Grey, that gets pulled into another world via the Bermuda Triangle.  That other world is full of other trapped humans, who've all adapted a primitive lifestyle, and an oppressive alien race known as the Watchers.  Will's first encounter with these two groups is in the form of a sacrificial type offering to the Watchers.  Will, being the noble hero, can't allow this to occur and proceeds to attack the Watchers.  This leads to Will's acceptance into a group of rebel humans called the Survivors, lead by a famed scientist, they fight back against the Watchers in an attempt to make it out of the Void.

Immediately after joining the Survivors you're given a jetpack, which initially can only hover, to help you attempt to salvage the parts necessary to repair your plane.  Naturally you are unable to repair your plane, but after the first mission the jetpack is upgraded with full flying capabilities and this is where the true game really begins.  You're able to seamlessly transition between flying, hovering, and ground movement.  The controls may take a short while to get used to, but once you do, it feels great.  It probably could have be done better, but it works well enough.  Unfortunately, the air combat is fairly dodgy.  I played on the hardest difficulty and it felt like there was little to no aim assist and there are no weapons with true "lock on" ability.  Also, there are no enemy indicators on the sides of the screen so you're forced to use the radar.  Several times I spent over an hour on a flying mission that should've only taken 15 minutes.  It gets slightly better at lower difficulty levels, but it still isn't perfect for a game that isn't trying to be a realistic combat flight sim.

In addition to the jetpack, you can also hijack enemy UFOs and are occasionally forced to start missions in Survivor planes.  These sections are fairly mediocre though it's sometimes advantageous to use these over your jetpack as they have somewhat better weapons, at least until you can upgrade the jetpack's weapons.  However, I would occasionally die when hijacking enemy crafts.  I can only assume that the craft either took enemy fire during the hijacking QTE minigame or it ran into a wall.

Ground combat is nothing really special.  It's purely run-of-the-mill, cover based action.  Even the game's other unique feature, vertical cover, isn't really that special.  Sure, it's fun to kill an enemy in vertical cover and watch his body fall past you, but aside from that, it's not that different than any other "chest high wall" cover sections in any other game.  When in cover there are no crosshairs, however, that's fairly standard, so it's not that big of a deal.

The game has a few glitches, though nothing really game-breaking.  The worst was a patching glitch that would cause the game to crash if you didn't install it before allowing it to patch.  The game uses the Unreal 3 engine, so texture pop-in is a minor issue.  At a few points in the game I got stuck on a small ledge that I should've been able to easily walk over.  The game crashed a few times and, despite having mid-mission/chapter checkpoints, when it crashes you have to start the mission over at the beginning instead of the last checkpoint.  Finally, there are some inconsistencies when you die... the game would randomly give you full ammo and, during the ship escort/protect missions, it would randomly fill the ship's health.  However, I don't know if these two examples were glitches, or by design.

Trophies are fairly standard for a single player only game.  A lot are just "Complete Chapter" trophies, there's one for completing the game, and one for completing on the hardest difficulty.  There's collectibles in the form of journals that net two trophies once you collect them all.  Once you complete the game your radar is upgraded and shows the location of tech points and journals, which makes this trophy fairly easy to get.  There's two for upgrading weapons.  The latter, "Upgrade all weapons", is potentially glitched, it will occasionally not unlock when it should and the cause it unknown.  If it glitches, the only solution is to delete your save and replay the game.  Even if it doesn't glitch, it is fairly annoying to get, seeing as one would need to complete the game several times to acquire the needed tech points to completely upgrade all weapons.  However, it's possible to farm tech points by replaying specific chapters.  They could've negated this slightly by giving more tech points based on the difficulty, but the difficulty has no bearing on the amount of tech points you get when killing an enemy.  There are a few more trophies that one wouldn't normally acquire during a standard playthrough, but they are fairly easy to farm later on.

In conclusion, the game has a few issues, but it is a fun ride for the right price.  The story is a bit of a let down, as Yahtzee puts it, it really seems the developers gave up near the end.  Flying is incredibly fun, but is marred by aerial combat.  Ground combat, despite the innovative vertical cover, is nothing special.  Overall, I would rate this game 7/10.

This review is based off a complete playthrough of the PS3 version of the game on the hardest difficulty level.  

100% of the main trophies were collected.

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