elk's Dark Void (Xbox 360) review

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Dark Void Review

Adding a jet pack to a video game can open the window to some innovative ideas and unique gameplay mechanics, just as long as there's enough game underneath to hold them.

When a new game character comes around it's a chance for game designers to get crazy, there's no rules to follow about the world or its citizens, it's a blank page where anything is possible. In the case of Dark Void there sure is the feeling that the jet pack came first and then the world formed around it, but jet packs do have a way of stealing the show. Set in the early 1900's Dark Void's tale is a rather unique one with you as William Grey (voiced by the great but now slightly overused voice actor Nolan North) who enters the void to protect mankind from the Watchers. The strangest part of the story is the spoilers appearing on loading screens before the plot even starts to develop "When you enter the void..." or "The Watchers are from...", I'm used to having games spoiled but by the game itself, not that the story truly has much to spoil.

The show is started with a show stopper as you start by flying around with the jet pack, involved in some midair combat but you quickly jump to another part of the game and experience some of the worst that Dark Void has to offer, everything without the jet pack. Ground combat takes place in third person and feels way below average, the action feels sloppy and the majority of the guns feel unsatisfying as you unload entire clips into a target before they go down. The solution to this is to run up and melee your target since most foes can be taken down with a simple tap of the B button, as long you don't want to attack two right next to each other as B is also used for picking up a gun off the ground, so you'll get blasted while you frustratingly swap guns around. There's six different guns than can be upgraded twice each, some of these weapons are next to worthless without upgrades and you'll only get enough tech points (the unexplained upgrade currency) to upgrade a couple of guns all the way by the end of the game although these upgrades will be applied to any identical gun you find on the battlefield.

One trait that restores Dark Void from sub mediocrity is the idea of vertical combat when descending or ascending ledges, this wins points for at least coming up with a unique idea even if it isn't superbly executed. The cover in the vertical combat isn't very effective for either you or the enemy and often you'll wait for them to stop jumping around so they'll take cover, often in plain sight. Ideas such as this are interesting for a time but they seem to run on for about twice as long as you'd like them too. The jet pack sections can grow a little tiresome in places but the idea of it having two different modes, a hover mode and a flight simulator style fly mode. These flying sections are when the game is at its best, much like in the demo when you have to fly to a structure, enter it and destroy, actually its safe to say that the demo shows off all the best parts of the game.

I've not spoken much about the story and it's worth saying that it makes an old B sci-fi movie feel like it has a tight and intricate plot. The plot holes are numerous and it is not just poorly written, it's also badly executed. Characters animate terribly and move robotically without evoke no emotion, while some fantastic but out of place music plays along in the background.

Dark Void has some pretty big issues, but also some pretty big ideas. Difficulty is all over the place and most of the time the simple looking battles end up being the most difficult and fighting the same creatures over and over throughout the six hour story can really wear down on you. There's fun to be had here at the right moments and one can only hope that when the inevitable sequel comes the Dark Void team looks back and learns.

Originally posted to CitizenGame.co.uk on Feb 7, 2010    

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