The Demoman: Darkest of Days

Have you ever gone to a hunting resort in the age of dinosaurs and stepped on a butterfly? Have you ever visited Hill Valley in 1955 and cock-blocked your dad? If so, you've probably learned the one simple rule of traveling into the past: don't change anything or you'll wind up changing everything. But what if the past has /already/ been changed? Is it then okay to bring a sweet-ass assault rifle to the American Civil War and start chewing up Confederate soldiers with white-hot futuristic lead?

This question is handily answered in the time-bending Darkest of Days demo. It begins by plopping you into The Battle of Little Bighorn, where, after a few minutes of chaos you take an enemy arrow in the junk. Before you die, however, a space-age commando appears and whisks you away to the future, where you're recruited by a mysterious, mostly unseen woman to become a protector of the past.

It seems the inventor of time travel has disappeared and something fishy is happening to the timeline. Luckily, as with all delicate problems of the past, present, and future, the solution will involve shooting people in the face with really big guns.

This is about ten seconds in. Don't worry. You're not expected to survive.

After some brief training ("Can you throw a grenade? Great! Then you're ready to protect the space-time continuum!") I'm whisked off to the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest conflict of the American Civil War. I'm looking to protect a fella named Welsh who, historically, should not have been anywhere near the fighting but has somehow wound up on the front lines. I also have to keep an eye out for enemies who originally survived the battle, and ensure I don't kill them. Everyone else I'm free to gun down, as their deaths are supposed to happen anyway. I'm doing them a favor, really!

If a chick has the camera this close to her face,
you just know she's a fattie. It's Myspace 101.

Initially armed with just a period-appropriate musket and rifle, tracking down Welsh takes a while and puts me right in the midst of the pitched farmland battle, where an impressive number of enemies and allies crowd the screen. The battle is huge and chaotic, with smoke from muskets and cannonfire filling the air, soldiers on horseback bursting from the cornrows, and scores of men falling in the waves of gunfire.

SAY HAYLO TO MY LEETLE FR-- oh wait, I'm in the past. No one will get that reference. Damn.

Eventually, my combat instructor blips in from the future. He's quite excited about the thousands of brave Americans massacring each other in this tragic conflict, but thinks we can hurry things along a bit. He hands me an AR-55 assault rifle so I can start mowing down soldiers with the aid of a gas-powered reloading system and a laser scope. Since none of my companions seem to question me suddenly bearing a weapon of unprecedented power, I'm free to empty clip after clip into the enemy ranks. Eat lead, history!

Gotta say, this is kind of a great concept. Who hasn't played some historically accurate shooter and suddenly wished you could drop your slow-loading, bolt-action rifle and pick up a minigun? It's like enabling cheats in Half-Life 2, equipping the super gravity gun while in the train station, and stuffing that one Combine soldier into the trashcan. You know, the dickwad with the soda can? That dickwad.

I know this seems unfair but if I don't shoot them all in the back, someone's gonna have to rewrite a shitload of textbooks.

While the demo is a novel and fun shooter, there are a few annoyances. At one point, for some reason, the game didn't trust me to march through a cornfield and actually propelled me along against my will. Reloading is weirdly like a golfing mini-game, where you have to click the mouse when the progress bar reaches a certain point or your gun will jam (even for the assault rifle from the future). And, of course, there's the built-in irony of the demo for a time-travel game only giving you an hour of playtime.

Still, this demo convinced me to buy the full game, so it did its job and gets a full 8 rating. I can't turn down the chance to take down Roman soldiers with a shotgun or stomp through Pompeii with a laser-guided rocket-launcher. Finally, a game that makes history come alive, and then lets me kill it.

Download the Darkest of Days demo on FileShack.