Dark Void Video Review
Technical issues and a very short story stand in the way of Dark Void shooting off into the stratosphere, but it is still enjoyable for what it offers.
In the beginning there was fun. Then as time progressed that fun just went down and down, which is ironic seeing how Dark Void is all about high flying combat. The prologue sets the scene of what the game could have been but then strips the centre point of the game out of it and gives you a gun to play around with.
Dark Void has the same problem that Bionic Commando had a year ago, it relies on one game mechanic. In this case it's the jetpack which should never be apart from you as most moments that are exhilarating are those which make you feel like your Iron Man flying around a battlefield shooting enemies from above. These are however balanced with ground combat where Airtight Games have tried to add their own take on cover based games adding a vertical cover system to the battles. Which means instead of putting your back to a wall you lay yourself on a platform and shoot down, and whenever you want to move down a level one button press is all it takes to traverse yourself to the next platform. It works surprisingly well, however, for the most part you are placed on a battlefield with your standard array of boxes and collapsed ruins for cover. The up side to these is that in the latter part of the game you have a jetpack, which means you can hover above the battlefield, and shoot from a distance or find a vantage point from which you can take out enemies. Or in my case fly away from the battle, turn around 180 degrees and go back on raining in the fire from above with the guns on my jetpack. These where the moments which grabbed my attention and made the battles feel fresh each time I played them.
The jetpack does take some getting used to as the controls can be a little fiddly but once you get to grips with the rockets on your back then you will see that battles can be tackled very differently from your normal cover based game. Switching from hover to flight mode gives you stability to find your next target or even during aerial battles gives you time to plan a flight path to hijack enemy ships. That's right you can hijack a UFO, or even your allies ships. These ships control very similar to the jetpack and again if you’re used to flight games then this will just come natural to you as you will have to manoeuvre your ship to get behind the enemies ships to shoot them out of the skies. However, nothing compares to a little human man flying around with nothing but a backpack and a gun taking on fully armoured alien ships.
Speaking of the weapons you can get your hands on your usual assault rifles, sniper rifles, shotguns and even an electric gun which all can be upgraded through the games tech system. The system works as you would expect. As you kill enemies they leave behind a red orb which can be gathered which gives you points to spend on the upgrades of your choice.
All of this is tied together with a story which on one hand is a clever and imaginative concept. On the other hand it is a story in which all the characters are mental and are so stupid that they accept anything. You play as Will Grey, who in the beginning crashes his plane in the Bermuda Triangle with his ex-girlfriend Ava onboard. You quickly except that you have crashed and come across natives to the world, known as the Survivors, who worship shiny mechanical creatures known as the Watchers. Along the way you meet Nikola Tesla, who acts as your tech savvy and reengineers Watcher technology to work with humans and so you are acquainted with the jetpack and join the Survivors to rise up against the Watchers and find your way out of the Void.
The story is surprisingly intriguing and kept me interested to the end, but along the way I was screaming at the fact that everyone accepts what is going on, especially Will your run of the mill average Joe who should be screaming at the fact that there are aliens in the Bermuda Triangle, and Tesla is there, with survivors. Doesn't this sound crazy or is it just me?
The whole game suffers from two key elements, which if sorted would make this a game worth recommending. Firstly, the length. Normally I am not one to argue about the length of a game, but if you are spending £40/$60 on one game and you receive a five hour campaign with no multiplayer or replay value to the single player then you have a problem.
Secondly is the technical side of Dark Void which isn't too pretty. Several times the dialogue would get repeated making it sound like the characters had a bad stutter. On the visual side the frame rate seemed to fluctuate and in one case during a hectic battle the frame rate dropped so low that it froze and after ten seconds it showed the next frame. Texture pop-in also plagues the game just like any other game using the Unreal Engine, but this is now expected. On the bright side the orchestral sound track is actually some of the best out in any game and is backed by solid voice acting, even if it does stutter.
Dark Void is an afternoon of fun. It will leave you satisfied with what you have played but you won't be craving for more. The story has some clever ideas but the technical issues which plague the game creep up much too often. I don't like saying a game is a 'rental', but sadly in this case it is. With no replay value to be found, a five hour game does not cut it in today's gaming space.