Dark Void has been a question ever since I saw it the first time at CES back in 2009, over a year ago. The high-flying third-person shooter promised to change the way we play shooters, offering everyone a jetpack, the opportunity to use vertical cover, and an array of tactical options. Humanity, in an alternate universe, must fight the Watchers, an advanced alien race also trapped, but who have found a way out.
Does it deliver? In this special review, we’re trying something a little different, though you may find the format similar to other reviews you’ve seen online. If you like this more than the classical format, please let us know!
- The jetpack makes an excellent combat tool. While most third-person shooters have opted simply to add more weapons in their games or use cover systems, Dark Void added a flight system, giving players the opportunity to play in three dimensions, instead of just two. Using the jetpack, combat is completely different. Players can always take the high ground, escape hairy situations or be hard-moving aerial targets.
- The story fails to deliver on so many levels. Clearly, a plot is in place, and it all makes sense, but Airtight Games missed the important points and tended to focus on minor, unnecessary details instead.
- It’s too short. Dark Void can’t be beaten in one sitting, but only because you’ll be too frustrated to continue playing it at least twice.
- Aerial and ground-only combat is repetitive. While ground combat is made interesting with the use of the jetpack, aerial combat is unbalanced and repetitive. It’s far too easy to take down enemy aircraft using the standard jetpack weaponry (even without upgrades), and it’s more annoying and more work than it’s worth to hijack the slower, supposedly more powerful enemy ships. At some point, I just gave up hijacking and fought them head on. No matter what they did, I was always too fast and maneuverable for them to get me.
- Weapons and customization are broken. The too-few six weapons available feel like both humanity and the Watchers were cheated out of decent guns. Worse yet, each is upgradeable three times, though the upgrades are so expensive that on a single playthrough on normal difficulty, I was only able to upgrade one weapon fully. The jetpack can likewise be upgraded, though as I found out, doing so was unnecessary. The problem is that once you upgrade a gun once, you’re stuck with it; otherwise, you’ll be handicapped the rest of the game.
- Vertical cover seems interesting at first, but it’s identical to ordinary cover, except that you’re looking up. There’s nothing special about it, except that you can skip it altogether if you’re a confident rocketman.
If Dark Void doesn’t die here, I think the franchise has a chance to grow. The concept plot is there and can be repaired with a sequel if done properly. A longer and more complex, more intelligent campaign with optional multiplayer aspects could easily help make prospective gamers interested (imagine a ground team taking on one or more rocketmen). We’d like to see it make a comeback.
|There’s a story, but barely. Dialog is dull, the plot is clearly an afterthought to the gameplay, and you won’t care about it whatsoever.
|Some good backdrops and average graphics don’t make up for the mostly mechanical, cinematic scenes and very simple visual direction.
|Gameplay is a hit, with a few misses. Combat with flight is exciting every time, but aerial combat against larger ships or purely ground combat is tedious and repetitive.
|Dark Void is not a good game. Why Capcom backed the project isn’t hard to understand — jetpack combat is unique and fun. It’s everything else that falls short. That doesn’t mean you should dismiss Dark Void entirely. Try it out, play through the short campaign. If you can, get a savegame from a friend so you can skip the bad missions and only play the good ones.