Dark Void

Fire up your jetpack and get ready for some serious adventuring in Capcom’s high-flying hybrid of airborne thrills and ground-based combat. Set on the other side of the Bermuda Triangle, there is plenty of alien hardware and faux 1938 experimental technology as the game takes you through imposing rainforests, flying saucers, underground compounds and hoards of battlebots, in the hope of defeating the evil alien Watchers and getting back to the Bahamas. It’s a game that promised a lot and looked great in the previews, but unfortunately it may have tried to do too much and ultimately struggles to get off the ground.

The selling point for Dark Void is the jetpack, and the game wastes no time in getting you into a leather jacket and into the air. Without any explanation, and barely an opening credit, you’re soaring above a mist-shrouded forest and ducking between mountains and shear rock faces. Then, with barely time to try out your jetpack’s new boosters you’re launched into combat against half a dozen fast and maneuverable flying saucers. The early inclusion of this sequence serves as a short tutorial that gives you a good idea of the very user friendly control system. In the Void flying is a simple matter of steering with the left stick and firing with the right trigger. Clicking the right trigger also activates special moves such as barrel rolls to evade enemy saucers and loops to switch directions and return fire.

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Once the opening sequence is over we go back a week to meet the game’s main character. Will Grey is a man with a head for heights, a recently ended affiliation with the Black Ops arm of the armed forces, and a remarkable ability to take things in his stride. To begin with he shrugs off the sudden appearance of his ex Ava, then he calmly accepts getting lost in the Bermuda Triangle and ending up in some weird alternate dimension called The Void. With Will, and Ava, there is no panic, no disorientation or shock; their first and only reaction is to grab a laser gun and jetpack and to start kicking robot and alien butt.

Without too much trouble the fearless twosome make their way through the rainforest to a small village. This short trek serves as another training run, this time allowing you to get used to the game’s fairly straightforward shooter mechanics. Movement is controlled with the sticks while firing, reloading, grenades and scopes are accessed with the triggers. The square button initiates the game’s cover system and is also for getting up and down the world’s many towering cliffs and platforms.

Like all the controls in the game the climbing mechanism is very simple. All you have to do to climb is press the square button. That’s it. Look up at a ledge, and if you can reach it a little icon appears. Press square and a tidy little animation later, you’re up on the ledge. It’s the same to get down. Look over a ledge and if you can drop down safely, up comes the little square icon. There’s no lining anything up, no timing, you just press the button and you’re there.

But if climbing is easy, the things you climb look pretty impressive. Aside from towering cliff faces and immense alien structures, a lost battleship also turns up in a rather awkward, and vertical, position. There are also plenty of enemies around so taking cover while shooting up and down makes for lots of vertigo inducing moments. When Will leans out over a ledge you get a great feeling of depth and distance. That is until climbing is replaced by flying. Will gets his fully functional jetpack fairly early on and when this happens, the great heights tend to lose their sense of majesty and danger, as a quick tap on the X button will allow you to hover safely in mid-air.

The flying in Dark Void is nicely done. In flight Will can peel off some tight acrobatic moves and has unlimited ammo. He can also grab hold of enemy saucers and break into them. Flying enemy saucers, and your own ships, is an enjoyable alternative to the jetpack; however, the most fun you can have in the game is taking off. Hitting the triangle button twice will see Will flail around, out of control for a second or two as the acceleration kicks in, before getting the whole flying thing under control. It is funny and takes a few attempts (and a few headers in a few rock walls) to get used to. The pace of the jetpack makes flying up cliff faces, rather than climbing them, a challenge, but in a game short of challenges it’s hard to complain.

So, together with the flying and the climbing, it seems that Will and Ava were right to not be too concerned about ending up in the Dark Void – it’s all disappointingly easy. This is compounded by the fact that the robots don’t pose much of a threat either. Firstly they are all fairly predictable, tending to go to the same positions while you pick them off. Also, Will’s melee attack is practically indefensible. Mashing the circle button will generally get you out of any tight spot as the robots simply stand around as Will kung-fu’s them into oblivion with his three finishing moves.

Although their A.I. is poor, the robots do pose a danger in some missions, especially where you have to protect a fuel dump, or a ship, or a person. The number of robots, the vulnerability of what it is that needs defending, together with the time it takes to get into position, can sometimes cause a few problem, but not often. In the end Dark Void is an easy game.

That said, being an easy game is not an insurmountable problem. Some of us less adept gamers rely on those very easy settings to get us through to the end. But there are many other issues with Dark Void. Sure it’s easy, but it’s also short, it has a linear story without much room for exploration, and has no multiplayer. There is no incentive to do it faster or more efficiently (this is a game that gives you a trophy for watching the opening cut scene), in fact if you rent it for the weekend, you may get through it twice anyway.

Dark Void promised plenty, but in the end trying to be Uncharted, or Crimson Skies, or Jak and Daxter meant that the game it could have been may have got lost in the confusion. My copy also suffered from some technical problems. I lost the sound effects for an entire battle and ended up fighting to just the soundtrack. And though the music was stirring, I don’t think it was done for dramatic effect. So instead of screaming off into the wild blue yonder with a blaze of rocket fuel and an appreciative cheer, Dark Void may have just spiraled headfirst into a rock wall. Ouch.

"Fun to be had, but ultimately disappointing."
- Dark Void
Follow Own it? Rating: R16   Difficulty: Too Easy   Learning Curve: 15 Min


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Comments Comments (6)

Posted by Oliver
On Tuesday 26 Jan 2010 10:20 PM
Is it just me or do those screen-shots look pretty awful?
Posted by sweetasman01
On Wednesday 27 Jan 2010 4:38 PM
Its a shame, I really wanted this to be good. But when Capcom said they were taking all new IP back to there Japanese studios and wouldn't be getting western devs to do new IP I guessed this game was going to be crap :(. Oh well more money for God of War 3, Yakuza 3, final fantasy 13 and heavy rain.
The Host of Chaos
Posted by The Host of Chaos
On Wednesday 27 Jan 2010 7:48 PM
27 January 2010, 04:38 PM Reply to sweetasman01
Its a shame, I really wanted this to be good. But when Capcom said they were taking all new IP back to there Japanese studios and wouldn't be getting western devs to do new IP I guessed this game was going to be crap :(. Oh well more money for God of War 3, Yakuza 3, final fantasy 13 and heavy rain.
Why do you say that? Capcom's Japanese studios make awesome games. Or was someone else previously working on it?
Posted by SpawnSeekSlay
On Wednesday 27 Jan 2010 11:19 PM
Certainly worth a rental just to try out the jetpack. But im more looking forward to trying Just Cause 2 with the grappling hook and parachute mechanics
Posted by Ruptunex
On Wednesday 27 Jan 2010 11:58 PM
Just finished this and i must say i thoroughly enjoyed it. The combat was ok, but the weapon were very neat. Flying was coool, but i hated the dog fights with a passion. The hovering and vertical cover sections made the game stand out in my eyes. I really enjoyed it. Story was piss poor though. Coulda fleshed it out so much more. Overall i'd give it a 8/10 Nice review though Dene. More critical than Conrad. Good work.
Posted by Rapidity
On Thursday 11 Feb 2010 7:59 PM
27 January 2010, 07:48 PM Reply to The Host of Chaos
Why do you say that? Capcom's Japanese studios make awesome games. Or was someone else previously working on it?
Dont think so, looks like a capcom game from the ground up