Dark Void Review (PC)

Posted by Jim Cook, Jan 21, 2010 05:48

Important Note on Gamepad Support: Conventional PC-specific gamepads may not work properly with this game; I found it basically unplayable on a Logitech RumblePad 2. A call to Capcom’s technical support yielded a comment that they had only tested this game with Xbox 360 controllers, and sure enough hooking one of those up to my PC caused Dark Void to play just fine.This is obviously a flaw, and one you should keep in mind if you plan to play Dark Void with a gamepad.

Dark Void tries to mix the story themes one would find in ’serial adventures’ and films like The Rocketeer, with the ’epic action’ of titles like Halo and Gears of War. By letting you control a character who can switch between fighting on foot or using a jetpack, the developers actually did a fairly good job and the result is a decent game that is only marred by a few significant issues. Initially set on Earth in a time close to World War II, Dark Void quickly takes a turn for the supernatural.

Essentially a third person shooter, Dark Void simultaneously takes ideas from a variety of sources and then adds its own unique take on them. It starts out as a basic action game whose main mechanic seems to be copying the cover system from Gears of War, but it adds new touches along the way until it stands out as a fairly creative game. A simple routine of shooting up aliens possessing sci-fi armor and weapons gets much more interesting once you acquire the jet pack, which initially just lets you hover around but quickly upgrades to be capable of high-speed flight. Dark Void’s slogan is that it lets you fight anywhere, and it does a pretty good job of living up to that; you can be dogfighting UFOs with your jet pack and mounted guns one moment, then landing to infiltrate a power generator afterward. It’s done very smoothly, and the player gets to decide when they use which mode; there’s nothing stopping you from flying indoors (aside from it being a very bad idea, since you’re likely to have a fatal head-first crash into a wall) if you want.

Thus, while most stages are fairly linear and expect you to kill certain enemies to proceed, you have some freedom on how you do that. And even when you’re not flying the jet pack still has value, letting you hover around and use vertical cover. This is important because in some stages you will come under attack from nearly every angle, and vertical cover lets you dangle beneath a platform. With that platform overhead, you’re now protected from some attacks and can break the shoot-out down to various chunks that are more easily managed. That may sound like a gimmick, but it’s actually quite well done. Combined with a basic variety of guns, this mix of mobility and unusual cover makes for a decent action game.

Aerial combat is almost as well done as the on-foot fighting is. The controls are nearly perfect, and a single tutorial flight should be all you need to get familiar with them. Dogfights with UFOs are probably the main attraction here, though you’ll also be doing strafing runs on anti-aircraft towers, shield generators, and so on. It is fun, though several minor to moderate flaws hold back its full potential since the in-game sun will often get in your eyes (making it hard to see what you’re doing), and the AI sometimes has unfair accuracy; no amount of evasive action will help you in these cases. There are also a few escort mission segments that are kind of rough at times, though at least one of them is made easier when you discover you can climb inside a turret on the ship you’re protecting and just blast away at the attackers.

Unfortunately, Dark Void has several issues that prevent it from being a top-notch game and instead making it merely decent. The most obvious is its length; I hesitate to put an exact hour count on it since there were a few segments I had to replay several times, but for $40 you’re getting a fairly short game. Solid animation is marred by bad backgrounds, but perhaps more significant is that there are a few cases where Dark Void just sets out to be mean to the player. In one instance I was told to head for a certain door. Having nothing else to do, I went straight there at best possible speed... and the door opened up to let out several enemies who quickly killed me in close combat. It turns out the designers expected me to take longer to get there, and doing so let the enemies spread out some. Even more bizarre, there are segments where you can hijack an enemy UFO. This plays out as a boring ’press the right button at the right time’ style mini-game, but it has two major issues. First, a failed hijacking ends in the UFO shaking you off... and bizarrely you plummet to your death, unable to turn your jet pack on. Second, these UFOs apparently have no issue with crashing into terrain just to kill you, and they did it more than a few times before I decided to just dogfight them normally.

With various minor to moderate flaws and a lack of length, Dark Void ends up being a fairly good game that missed its full potential. It’s certainly fun, and I enjoyed both the story theme and the game play. The question is whether it’s worth your $40, in light of its somewhat short length. I think it will be worth that to some people, but if you’re in a situation where you have to make every game purchase last you a long time then you may want to look elsewhere.

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Our Rating for Dark Void Review (PC)
4.5 Replay
Various weapon upgrades and hidden journal entries aren’t quite enough to encourage a repeat play.
5.0 Graphics
Excellent animations clash with bad color contrast and ugly backgrounds.
8.0 Sound
The music is suitably ’epic’ when you’re fighting, and it’s joined by decent voice acting and satisfying sound effects.
7.5 Gameplay
The jet pack lends itself well to both interesting dog fights and exciting shoot-outs hovering over the ground, making for a flexible action game.
0.0 Multiplayer/Online Content
N/A; this is a single-player game only.
7.0 Overall
Various minor to moderate problems and a relatively short story hold this title back from greatness; it’s just decent.

Rating: 0.0, votes: 0

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