mildmolasses's Dark Void (Xbox 360) review

Dark Void review

Bland. There isn't really much else needed to say about this game.

Let's see, it's set in the 30's, has Nolan North playing Nathan Drake again, only this time he's called Will, and it's a rip off the The Rocketeer. I will admit that amidst the really dull visual style of the game, I am enjoying the character models. There's a slight Disney-by-way-of-Unreal Engine element to their features that gives them a hint of exageration, mainly in the eyes. But wait, that isn't the only bright spot. The music in this game is quite good. It is suitably subtle when it needs to be, and ramps up quite nicely to match the intensity of the aerial combat or firefights.

Now for the bad. The main hook behind this game is the jet pack you get to play around with. In theory, this opens up all kinds of new gameplay opportunities by allowing enemies to exist on multiple planes. The game will even throw vertical combat at you with a cover system that lets you hide below ledges to shoot people higher up, or vice versa. And for the most part it works well, although in reality it isn't all that interesting to play through. It really feels like going through the motions of a standard cover-based shooter. And the real problem with the combat is that it's all been done before, and better. And it probably also had Nolan North in it.

Things really take a turn for the worse when it comes to using the jetpack. The flying controls are very loose which makes the aerial combat extremely frustrating. Even when the look sensitvity was turned way down, the reticle would still go zooming past whatever the intended target was. It got to the point where actually trying to shoot down enemy ships was too time consuming, and that hijacking the enemy ships became more effective. This produces a really simple mini-game which, for some reason, still allows you to be killed by random gun fire that you can't see coming and have no way of avoiding. Awesome. There was a rather big aerial battle in the second episode that required numerous retries simply because of ridiculous deaths that occurred while trying to steal enemy ships, and not one of these deaths was the result of me failing at the mini-game. That type of thing should not happen.

Probably the most conflicting aspect of the game is the story versus the pacing and design that go with it. The game is broken into three episodes. Very little happens during the first episode beyond some bad camera controls and a few instances of being in dark locations where literally nothing could be seen in terms of level geometry that would indicate where to go next. The second episode really ramps it up with the aerial combat leading into major set piece battles and a heavy spike in difficulty towards the end of it.  The story itself starts to get interesting by introducing the evil element that you are up against and giving explanation as to how and why these events came to be. The third episode is all over the place. The probem is that the levels that accompany the plot are disjointed. The final stretch of the game is essentially four set-piece battles, including an arduously long turret sequence, and two boss battles which are extremely out of place with everything else in the game. These are broken up by short cut scenes which made it seem like two completely different games were sewn together. By the time it was over, it was almost hard to believe that that was the intential direction that the developers took with this game.

There was a lot of promise in the concepts behind Dark Void, but ultimately the design of the game does not meet that. From the sparse plot to the uncooperative controls, almost everything in this game falls flat. Considering the sea of high profile releases to be found in the weeks leading up to and following its release, its definitly a wise choice to give this one a pass    
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