Fire up your jetpack and get ready for some serious adventuring in Capcomâ€™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. Itâ€™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, youâ€™re soaring above a mist-shrouded forest and ducking between mountains and shear rock faces. Then, with barely time to try out your jetpackâ€™s new boosters youâ€™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.
Once the opening sequence is over we go back a week to meet the gameâ€™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 gameâ€™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 gameâ€™s cover system and is also for getting up and down the worldâ€™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. Thatâ€™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, youâ€™re up on the ledge. Itâ€™s the same to get down. Look over a ledge and if you can drop down safely, up comes the little square icon. Thereâ€™s no lining anything up, no timing, you just press the button and youâ€™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 itâ€™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 â€“ itâ€™s all disappointingly easy. This is compounded by the fact that the robots donâ€™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, Willâ€™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-fuâ€™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 itâ€™s easy, but itâ€™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 donâ€™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.