I’ve tried several times to write this introduction, and I just can’t seem to come up with anything I like. You can blame writer’s block, but the truth is that I always try to start an article with what I find most interesting about a subject, and nothing about Dark Void is interesting. With the exception of some sound glitches, nothing in Airtight Games and Capcom’s latest is a complete failure, and in the same vein, nothing is a success. There were plenty of times that I was screaming at the game because the main character wasn’t taking cover and there were others where I was smiling while punching the heads off robots, but all of these moments drifted into the ether after the experience was done.
Dark Void is one of those games you’ll play, beat, and forget ever existed. There’s nothing noteworthy here.
Fight for your life.
I’d love to boil down the tale of Dark Void to a sentence or two like I do in most reviews, but presentation is one of this game’s most obvious flaws. You’re Will, a guy who was a pilot in the service but got “dishonorably discharged” for something, and you’re now running courier missions. A gal named Ava shows up for one of these missions, and it turns out you have a history with her. You take off, go down inside the Bermuda Triangle, and are suddenly in another dimension filled with tribal people and alien slug creatures in robotic suits… well, some are slugs in suits, others are robots who are just robots and then there are these aliens with lisps that are hard to understand. Here, a guy who looks like Walt Disney gives you a jetpack but never introduces himself or explains his actions. Things only get weirder and more convoluted from there, and unless you’re willing to read the instruction manual and do all the legwork, the story will never come together.
Dark Void’s hook is that it gives you the chance to be the Rocketeer. You’ll get the jetpack early on and be able to leap into the sky to hover over the bad guys or fly around at breakneck speeds. When you’re hovering you’ll have access to the same two weapons you’re allowed to carry when you’re on foot, and when you’re flying you’ll shoot with the unlimited machine guns on your pack. Neither mode is all that spectacular.
When you’re flying you’re going to be up against ships that are only programmed to get behind you. You’ll start to get shot at from behind, do a 360-loop to get behind that ship, and try to get a few hits in before it falls behind you again. When you’re close to a ship you can perform a “skyjacking” and hop onto the aircraft to try and bust in, but the process of doing this is a drawn out, repetitive affair. By the end of the game, I had gotten so sick of taking ships down this way (and getting cheaply killed while doing it) that I found the equally repetitive mission of trying to dogfight them to the ground to be the better alternative because it seemed faster.
Die, UFO No. 213.Although you can fight while hovering, the ability is just kind of there as a transition between the ground and the sky and vice versa. When you’re down on the ground and obeying the laws of gravity, you’ll find that Dark Void is your typical, generic third-person shooter. You take cover on objects, blind fire, hurl grenades, and so on. These robots you’re up against take a ton of shots to take down in the early goings of the game, but that really shouldn’t matter because you can one-hit kill most of the jerks with your melee attack.
Of course, in true Dark Void fashion, there are only a few melee animations, the one where you shoot the robot in the back rarely lines up to look correct, and most of the enemies will stand there while you swing at them. Even if you’re shooting them from a distance, many of your enemies will just sit there and take the beating until they’re dead. Combat’s just there — it’s not exciting or fulfilling.
Capcom tries to put a new twist on the action with “vertical combat,” but this is both absurd and the part where most people start getting motion sick. Here, our hero will hover up to a hanging platform ledge, grab on, and somehow make his body parallel to the ledge. Imagine standing flat against a wall — that’s how he’s hanging from the underside of these overhangs. It’s physically impossible. Anyway, while hanging from this perspective, you’re looking up at the action and popping out to shoot baddies and advancing to the next platform with a button tap. This whole shimmying, jetting, rotating, and shooting part gave me a headache. I was able to adjust to it, but I know some IGN editors have not.
A whole new world!These “eh” moments of dogfighting, melee attacking people, and vertical combat might not be so grating if Dark Void didn’t beat the concepts into the ground. This three-episode game isn’t that long (two solid play sessions should polish it off), and you will do these same things over and over again. By the time I reached minute 30 of escorting a massive slow-moving ark down a tight corridor — I was blasting UFO after UFO from the ark’s turrets, dogfighting anti-aircraft guns, and a whole bunch of other annoying stuff — I was on the verge of tears. When I was using vertical combat to make my way down a hangar and escape the alien base, I was praying for the level to end. These are not the feelings one has when playing a good videogame.
Beyond all the presentation and gameplay fumbles there are actually a few “eww” moments on the technical side. Lip syncing is off, shadows look bad, cutscenes don’t run very well on the 360, bland environments are all over the place and sound glitches pop-up quite a bit (the PS3 had a couple of segments of choppy, in-and-out sound while the 360 had static on some of the voices). Although it’s nice to have Nolan North on board for the voice of Will, North sounds exactly he does as the lead in the Uncharted franchise and the fact that Will looks just like Nathan Drake does little to distract from the fact that you should be playing that game instead of this one. Do these issues sink the game? No, before this stuff popped up I knew it was a lackluster experience, so this was just par for the course – another cog in the machine of “meh” that is Dark Void.
It’s Nate and Chloe… wait a minute…
Dark Void is all over the place. The story’s never explained adequately, the combat’s pretty much always a chore, and flying isn’t nearly as fun as it should be. I don’t hate Dark Void, but I don’t care for it, either. This is one of those titles that just exists; I doubt few will remember it this time next year.