Dark Void: Demo Impressions

  I downloaded and tried out the Dark Void demo today. I had heard good things about the game, the premise seemed interesting and the whole jetpack thing cool. However, if the quality of the demo is anything to go by, this game is not good. Not good at all. 
 

 The flying controls are terrible. In a game where the jetpack is the main draw, that's bad.
The demo started off rather awkwardly, with this dude who I assumed to be the protagonist raging about something. All of a sudden, he notices a jetpack in the corner, and wants to use it. Another dude comes running, telling him that it's not yet finished and that he ought not to use it. But he persists, and moments later, you take control, and get sent off to take the jetpack for a spin.

My first complaint had already arisen here. I know that this is a demo, but I must still wonder why the devs didn't take the time to at least cut some footage together to let any of this make sense. Dude's just like "RAGE, JETPACK, LET'S GO!!!" They could have at least provided some context. But hey, it's just a demo and maybe they were pressed for time, so I can forgive them.

A larger problem quickly reared its ugly head though: the controls. In order to fly around, you need to hit Y twice (on the 360, at least), at which point you'll leap into the air and buzz off. Pressing Y down gives you a speed boost, pressing A will allow you to hover (and land, because simply flying towards the ground at high speed will kill you), the left stick aims and steers, and the right stick is used to do barrel rolls. Finally, you can lock-on to other dudes with LB.

It does not work well. At all. I quickly got into some dogfights, and while I could track the opponents with the auto-targeting, my dude did not auto-adjust himself to face the target's general direction. Seeing as how the fighters can fly just as quick or quicker than you can turn, you find yourself trying to get them between your crosshairs and failing miserably at it. You can do a one-eighty with a needlessly complicated command (Hold R3 and press the left stick and right stick in opposite directions! I mean, seriously, what the hell?) But that makes the camera do a barrel roll, further disorienting you.

 The on-foot shooting's not much to write home about either.
This is probably a force of habit, but I could not get my head around the fact that the left stick turns the character and aims his guns, and that the right stick makes him revolve in the air. In my opinion, aiming should always be on the right stick. Maybe you think that I'm just a noob for thinking so, but the control just didn't feel right to me. The dogfights were absolutely terrible. Perhaps, if I had practiced some more, I would've become more proficient at it and in turn make the dogfights more fun, but when you pull a stunt like saying "Fight everywhere!", make damn sure that the controls are somewhat accessible! You can avoid the pains of chasing other vehicles by flying past them and hitting B, which will initiate a QTE, but it's a dumb one and the same every time, as far as I can tell. In a cool twist, you can take control of the aircraft after taking out the driver, but flying them means facing those same control issues, so it's not much of an improvement.

The demo also featured some ground combat. It too, was not good. It felt like Dark Sector, only far worse and more clunky. The enemies are bland, even more bland than the Geth dudes in Mass Effect. Anyway, I shot my way into the tower, stomped on a control panel, which apparently causes the tower to explode, and flew out of there. Then, a quick cinematic tried to tease, but my desire to play this game has been completely obliterated. The devs better get their act together, or this game will be an incredible flop. The professional reviews already up are also hitting hard, with scores between 50 to 60. No light at the end of the tunnel for Dark Void, I guess.
15 Comments
15 Comments
Posted by Dudacles

  I downloaded and tried out the Dark Void demo today. I had heard good things about the game, the premise seemed interesting and the whole jetpack thing cool. However, if the quality of the demo is anything to go by, this game is not good. Not good at all. 
 

 The flying controls are terrible. In a game where the jetpack is the main draw, that's bad.
The demo started off rather awkwardly, with this dude who I assumed to be the protagonist raging about something. All of a sudden, he notices a jetpack in the corner, and wants to use it. Another dude comes running, telling him that it's not yet finished and that he ought not to use it. But he persists, and moments later, you take control, and get sent off to take the jetpack for a spin.

My first complaint had already arisen here. I know that this is a demo, but I must still wonder why the devs didn't take the time to at least cut some footage together to let any of this make sense. Dude's just like "RAGE, JETPACK, LET'S GO!!!" They could have at least provided some context. But hey, it's just a demo and maybe they were pressed for time, so I can forgive them.

A larger problem quickly reared its ugly head though: the controls. In order to fly around, you need to hit Y twice (on the 360, at least), at which point you'll leap into the air and buzz off. Pressing Y down gives you a speed boost, pressing A will allow you to hover (and land, because simply flying towards the ground at high speed will kill you), the left stick aims and steers, and the right stick is used to do barrel rolls. Finally, you can lock-on to other dudes with LB.

It does not work well. At all. I quickly got into some dogfights, and while I could track the opponents with the auto-targeting, my dude did not auto-adjust himself to face the target's general direction. Seeing as how the fighters can fly just as quick or quicker than you can turn, you find yourself trying to get them between your crosshairs and failing miserably at it. You can do a one-eighty with a needlessly complicated command (Hold R3 and press the left stick and right stick in opposite directions! I mean, seriously, what the hell?) But that makes the camera do a barrel roll, further disorienting you.

 The on-foot shooting's not much to write home about either.
This is probably a force of habit, but I could not get my head around the fact that the left stick turns the character and aims his guns, and that the right stick makes him revolve in the air. In my opinion, aiming should always be on the right stick. Maybe you think that I'm just a noob for thinking so, but the control just didn't feel right to me. The dogfights were absolutely terrible. Perhaps, if I had practiced some more, I would've become more proficient at it and in turn make the dogfights more fun, but when you pull a stunt like saying "Fight everywhere!", make damn sure that the controls are somewhat accessible! You can avoid the pains of chasing other vehicles by flying past them and hitting B, which will initiate a QTE, but it's a dumb one and the same every time, as far as I can tell. In a cool twist, you can take control of the aircraft after taking out the driver, but flying them means facing those same control issues, so it's not much of an improvement.

The demo also featured some ground combat. It too, was not good. It felt like Dark Sector, only far worse and more clunky. The enemies are bland, even more bland than the Geth dudes in Mass Effect. Anyway, I shot my way into the tower, stomped on a control panel, which apparently causes the tower to explode, and flew out of there. Then, a quick cinematic tried to tease, but my desire to play this game has been completely obliterated. The devs better get their act together, or this game will be an incredible flop. The professional reviews already up are also hitting hard, with scores between 50 to 60. No light at the end of the tunnel for Dark Void, I guess.
Posted by ZmillA

*goes to download demo*

Posted by TheMustacheHero

I can't say I'm surprised. This game hasn't looked good since it was first announced.

Edited by handlas

I had no problems with the controls other than the convoluted way they make you do barrel rolls.  You didn't describe this correctly.  You don't just use the right stick.  You HOLD down the right stick and then have to push left, up, down, or right with the left AND right stick at the same time in order to do barrel rolls.  It would be fine if it were just left and right stick at the same time but holding down the right stick while trying to move it left, down, up, or right is somewhat awkward (half the time I unclick the stick when trying to do it).
 
You hold down Y to burst forward in your jetpack.  I don't think you hit it twice.  You hit A twice to hover, tho.  A once to jump and then A again to begin hovering.  Hold down A to continue hovering upward but you have limited boost.  I found the lockon to be useless other than to see where enemies are.  It only seems to matter if they are directly in front of you and, since that is the case, there is not much reason to lock on. 
 
Other than these complaints, the air combat felt like most other plain games I've played.  The ground combat feels like ever other cover based shooter you can play as well.  Got your cover system, blind shooting, peaking out, up close melee combat, etc but with the ability to hover at any time and shoot guys from the air.
 
Overall the game seems decent enough.  The cutscene was terrible which gives little hope for the story.  It begins awkwardly and ends pretty awkwardly as well.  The tower seems to blow up for no reason and then the explosion on the plane was all blocky and ugly looking.
 
I'd say the most satisfying thing was the melee combat.  Hopping on to planes and hijacking them and smashing the robots faces in with your gun was rather good looking.  Think that shows that he animations are probably the strongest part of the game that I can see.  Seems like I'm the only one so far that would give this demo a passing grade.  While a little buggy at times, the gameplay was fun.

Posted by dogbox

That sucks that it doesn't seem to live up to the hype set out for it. I'm going to download it tomorrow on the PSN, but if the flying controls are that bad, I won't be playing the full game. Which actually might not be so bad; we've got a lot coming up in 2010!

Posted by Whisperkill

oh, i'll have to try it

Posted by cstrang

Been seeing a lot of complaints very similar.  Disappointing, but not all together unexpected.  I'll check out the demo myself later.

Posted by Thinktank
@dudacles: I agree with the OP's assessment of the game. I REALLY wanted to like this game but the controls were just not fun. I am willing to put in the time and effort it takes to master a games controls but only if the effort is rewarded with a satisfying gameplay experience (like Devil May Cry, God of War, more recently Darksiders). I just didn't see anything there worth fighting with the controls over. I guess my extra Amazon GC $ is destined for Bayonetta. 
Posted by ZmillA

Did not come away from the demo with much active desire for the game. Doesn't help that I've been in bayonetta land non-stop lately.

Posted by ZmillA

Did not come away from the demo with much active desire for the game. Doesn't help that I've been in bayonetta land non-stop lately.

Posted by SolidOcelot

I tried the demo, for the sole reason that Jeff has mentioned so many times as something that could be great, and well ... not so much, the flight is terrible way to loose hard to lock-on the control is surprisingly stiff. on foot shooting feels weightless, guns feel like pea-shooters and the basic third person shooting combat with a cover system has been done better in worse games, i hate to say this but DARK f'ing SECTOR, has a better third person shooter feel, than Dark Void, very disappointed, looked great, a diffearnt setting but in the end bad design ruins it all.

Posted by EvanFavreau

Agree with most everything you said. The more advanced flying moves (where you have to press R3) were ridiculous. Once the terrible ground combat started I quit. I know it's a bad sign if I don't even finish a free demo.

Posted by DarkGamerOO7

Ugh, worst Jet Pack controls ever, having to press down the right stick and then move both the left and right stick in the same direction to perform a stunt doesn't make for good dog fighting, it is awkward and terrible. I agree the controls felt so wanky for controlling the Jet Pack. Glad I had a chance to play the demo, because I will not be picking this game up, the controls are just too bad for a game that focuses on flying.

Posted by Jolt92

The controls are so awkward. I hate it. 

Was going to buy, but now - hell no!

Posted by Dudacles

I just realised the pics I put up to go alongside with the text are terrible: they have nothing to do with the subject or caption at hand. I couldn't exactly see what was going on in the image gallery, so I just picked something with fire and assumed it was the jetpack. :p Dumb impressions write-up is dumb.