25th January 2010 - Dark Void's announcement was every sci-fi loving gamers dream; a great and unique sci-fi storyline mixed with a load of unique and rather interesting gameplay mechanics, with aliens. But the finished product was less than extravagant, giving gamers not what they were expecting, but rather a sloppy mix up of genres tied together with the still intriguing story, and aliens.
If you had been following Dark Void for the last year or so since its announcement, then you surely know the gist of it, but for those of you new to knowledge of the game; Dark Void is a sci-fi action game set in another dimension which just so happens to be inside the infamous Bermuda Triangle or as its known elsewhere, the Devils Triangle. You play the role of Will, a currier pilot during the start of WWII, whose plane loses power and crashes while flying through the ‘Triangle. But instead of landing in water as it should, his plane comes crashing down into a strange forest. With the help of other survivors from previous plane crashes, and a little assistance from the mystery-shrouded Nikolai Tesla, Will must take the fight to the strange alien warriors that riddle this strange land. Through a series of thoughtful twists and character study, the games plot thickens and really pulls you in which is one of the only highlights of the game.
Gameplay in Dark Void is primarily split into two sections - on the ground and in the air. With a little bit of on-the-wall thrown in for good measure. While you run about using the games few weapons (all of which are dull and uninteresting), the game takes the form of a cover based third person shooter, very similar to Gears of War in style, only no where near as enjoyable. You run here, take cover there, shoot when you can then run a bit further, and repeat. It makes all of the on-foot sections very repetitive and leaves you aching to get back into the sky for some dogfighting. Speaking of which, along with the vertical firefights, flying is the games only claim to originality. You see, aeroplane pilot Will seems to know exactly how to fly a Jetpack as soon as he finds one, so early in the game you’re up in the air letting alien scumbags really have it where they should be excelling. Jetpack flight in the game is very enjoyable once you get the hang of it, which can take quite a while to master. And as I just mentioned, the flying parts are somewhat original, giving you the ability to tackle the opposition from the skies by hovering up above or zooming around like a madman and firing in their general direction hoping to hit something. However you choose to do it, one thing is for sure; dogfighting UFOs with a machine gun equipped jetpack is without a doubt the only truly enjoyable part of the game.
Another notable part of the gameplay is the innovative Vertical Combat, which has Will climbing very conveniently placed ledges and paths along cliffs and certain structures. You clamber onto said ledges which you may take cover behind just as you would on foot, and blind fire or steady aim, just like you would on foot, get the picture? Only difference is, your hanging on by an inch and have the ability to leap massive distances to other ledges and whatnot for a more tactical advantage. Kind of hard to explain in words, but it is quite fun at first, then quite boring, and finally very nerve racking having to do this to get past certain points when you just want to fly around and shoot stuff. It ruins the games pacing, ultimately bringing it down significantly.
Once you play the first major flying and dogfighting section of the game, the first thing that pops into your head will most likely be ‘Why didn’t they make multiplayer for this?’. And by all rights ask that question. It will be immediately clear that some sort of multiplayer mode would have actually made this game something special. Quite a few games have a weak single player but are made great by a multiplayer experience to be reckoned with, and that’s just what Dark Void could have been if it included a multiplayer portion. The flying and dogfighting mechanics would have worked wonders in multiplayer, giving players options of fighting from the ground behind cover and taking it to the skies. Unless there’s some sort of multiplayer download like the versus mode in Resident Evil 5, then its not happening on this forefront.
As mediocre as the gameplay, Dark Voids graphics don’t tickle any sort of fancy of mine, yet don’t completely turn me away at first glance. They seriously don’t have any notable features to be praised, but look good enough to keep you playing if you can look past the rather rocky and repetitive gameplay. During the cutscenes, animation seems forced and blocky, which doesn’t help to immerse you in the game world. However, character and environment textures all look lovely and surprisingly detailed, but you can’t look past a jaggie covered structure simply because the colours look nice. All up, Dark Voids graphics are a major letdown.
To keep the Sci-Fi aspect of the game alive and well, rather than it pummelling down a jagged slope of razor wire vines and barbed grass blades like the on-foot shooting parts of the game, Dark Void presents to you a great musical score. Although it’s a little hard to hear as its never played at a suitable volume compared to the action, the score is one for the ages. It sets the mood perfectly and suit’s the theme of the mysteries that lie within the Bermuda Triangle.
Music aside, Dark Void has a decent set of voice talents behind that rough exterior. At least for the few main characters, as the rest of them don’t particularly like to speak, perhaps of a tight budget or just fear of the aliens hearing them. Who knows for sure. Unfortunately apart from the music, the sound part of the game is a letdown.
With a campaign lasting approximately 8 hours, which seems to be pretty standard these days, and no multiplayer to be heard of, Dark Void is seriously a black and white game in the value part of things. It comes down to just how much you want something new to play, because like it or not, Dark Void is not worth its full price tag. So to all of you who didn’t make the mistake of jumping at this one because of what you heard of its story and before reading any kind of review (like this one!), you will really want to reconsider getting your hands on it. Given that Bayonetta and Darksiders were just released and this week sees the release of Mass Effect 2, you shouldn't be starved of gaming goodness.
Dark Void was promising. Very much so, with its decent overarching storyline and gameplay innovations, such as Vertical Combat and jetpack vs. UFO dogfights. Unfortunately, despite expectations the final product falls short of its promise. The cover-based ground shooting of the game is far too unfleshed and quickly becomes boring, leaving you to loath the times when you can't just jet around. The same goes for the innovating Vertical Combat, which starts off fun but soon becomes nothing more than a gimmick. With no multiplayer in a game that should have had some, mediocre gameplay and graphics at every turn and nothing to keep you coming back to play it over and over, or even for the first time, Dark Void is a severe disappointment and even one sci-fi fans won't be able to get into. Expect other companies to utilise the Vertical Combat aspect in their own way in the future, because although a smart idea, Dark Void couldn’t pull it off.
AAG SCORE: 5/10
+ Thoughtful, able and interesting story and ideas
+ Jetpack is awesome when you get used to it
+ Has some cool Aliens, with some cool background
- Mediocre gameplay, graphics and everything in-between
- Way too short for a game that has nothing but a campaign
- Aimed too far, which resulted in a disappointing mix of genres
Reviewed and Written By John Elliott