Dark Void: The Shacknews Review

By Garnett Lee, Jan 19, 2010 7:40am PST Dark Void builds around the basic idea that if an action hero is cool, an action hero wearing a jet pack is even cooler. William Grey, the game's hero, boost jumps, hovers, and flies around the skies in addition to the standard ground-based exploration and combat. To take advantage of the flight element, Dark Void introduces what the developers call a vertical cover system. As the name implies it rotates the usual crouch behind cover and peek out to shoot mechanic to a vertical axis. Dark Void wraps this action up in a retro alternate history mid-20th century "world of tomorrow" atmosphere with the twist of stumbling onto an alien conspiracy in the legendary Bermuda Triangle.

The pitch sounds clever enough. It's pulling together the pieces, or for that matter even a piece, that proves to be too much for Dark Void. But all of the smaller issues away fall like dominoes compared to the central problem with the game's signature jet pack. It's not the liberating, fun-to-play blast around the sky it needed to be to hang the rest of the game on. Awkward controls, an uncomfortable default flight speed, and lack of visual reference cues make it a disorienting experience at best. More often it becomes a frustrating fight just to flail around the sky without bouncing off too many things.

Maybe the designers recognized this and decided the answer was to bring in more of the familiar peek-a-boo ground combat. Whatever the reason, for a guy with a jet pack, Grey spends too much time trudging around shooting generic looking shiny robot enemies. If the story had clicked that might have been at least a little more meaningful, but it too falls on its face. A rough idea of what's going on does develop but it's in spite of, rather than due to, the disjointed and unexplained events. Only the most dedicated jet pack fans need bother with Dark Void and even then go in with the understanding that the joys of darting about the sky are few and far between. For everyone else Dark Void is a skip it.

Developed by Airtight Games and published by Capcom, Dark Void released today on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. A downloadable demo can be found on PlayStation Network (PlayStation 3), Xbox Live Marketplace (Xbox 360), and FileShack (PC).

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  • Garnett, I really liked this short format for the review. It's about as long as a good chat-thread post. I would actually love to see you pop into the comments and answer some questions/respond to feedback on your reviews (perhaps using the review as a platform for discussion).

    I think it might be difficult to keep this short form up when anticipated releases come out though. Do you think you'll be able to break down all of your thoughts on a game like ME2 or FF13 into 3 or 4 paragraphs? I totally hope it's possible, but I foresee a desire on the author's part to delve deeper.

  • Bad Garnett. BAD GARNETT.

    That wasn't a review, it comes across more as a disappointed whine - I intend no offense, only sharp (deserved) critique of your methods.

    On a more personal note, I wholly disagree from my limited experience with the game's demo.. The speed seemed variable enough to control the jetpack quite successfully after some initial practise, the learning process seemed to be part of the character's path, too.

    The combat looked simple but with a kind of Capcom purity that makes things quite entertaining.

    Having expected another Lost Planet, I wasn't really disappointed. But I certainly won't pay more than half the RRP for it, I don't see it as a release on the same level as a quality open-world game like Assassin's Creed 2, for example.