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Dark Void Review

21 January 2010

Dark Void saw some significant hype leading to its release, though ultimately this was unjustified in a final product marred by shoddy gameplay mechanics and a decidedly lackluster storyline. That’s not to say the concept behind the game wasn’t solid – aerial combat, a jetpack, and the mysteries of the Bermuda Triangle revealed all could have made for a compelling gameplay experience. But a strong concept doesn’t make for a good game, and unfortunately Dark Void’s many shortcomings make it a mediocre experience at best. Capcom’s latest effort is plagued by audio, visual, and gameplay hiccups that could have been fixed if more time was spent in its final development stages. Sadly, since the time wasn’t spent to work out the enormity of problems, we don’t think you should spend much of your time playing through the game.

Developed by Airtight Games and published by Capcom, Dark Void is a third-person action/shooter set in the late 1930’s that combines modestly clever aerial combat, and entertaining dog fighting. You play as Will, a relatively average cargo pilot who crashes his airplane while flying over the Bermuda Triangle. He’s joined by Ava, who accompanied Will on the cargo plane. The pair has a bit of a romantic past, which you learn as the game progresses. Voiced by Nolan North, Will bears a striking resemblance to Nathan Drake, not just in voice, but also in his appearance (and we quickly found ourselves wishing we were playing Uncharted 2 instead). After you and Ava regain consciousness you find yourself in The Void, a parallel universe that apparently has no bottom.

This land is filled with The Watchers, evil robots, some of which are embodied by sluggish aliens. This alien race once inhabited Earth and enslaved Man, but as the human population grew, The Watchers were pushed back into The Void. It’s in this parallel universe that The Watchers perfected robotics and again enslaved lost humans. This background story sounds interesting, but the plot never really develops. What worse, there is little narrative to drive the story, so you are left turning to your owner’s manual to learn more about why you are in The Void, and why you should care.

Graphically the game is all over the place. There are some bright moments, especially when flying, though by large the experience is marred by shading and voice sync issues. What’s truly strange is that there are times when we wondered if there was something wrong with our PlayStation 3. In fact, on a few occasions the game crashed and we had to manually restart our machines. The problems with audio only get worse. When you are engaged in huge aerial dog-fighting battles the sound will clip, rendering a wall of noise that is extremely annoying.

Perhaps the best part of Dark Void is the soundtrack. Bear McCreary, who scored the hit television show Battlestar Galactica, was responsible for the game’s elaborate and exciting score. That’s right; the soundtrack really helps this game feel exciting. We applaud McCreary’s work with Dark Void, and hope he scores more videogames. His use of tribal instruments help make the gamer feel like they are in an alien world, yet the use of orchestral music adds a nice layer of intensity during combat.

The other positive part of Dark Void rests in its use of aerial combat and dog fighting. The mechanics are not perfect, and often prove fairly cumbersome, though we still found it enjoyable to fly about destroying spaceships, then hover to the ground and take out hordes of robots. Also, there’s a great little animation when Will starts flying – he stumbles in the air trying to gain his control. Yup, we loved that part.

Dark Void also introduces a vertical cover system. This allows Will to stand on a ledge, take cover, and shoot at enemies above or below him. You can also grab onto enemies and toss them into the Void. This cover system actually works pretty well, but isn’t earthshaking enough to really matter in the end. Will occasionally gets twisted around trying to aim at enemies, and quite frankly it made us a little dizzy. This ability also seems to defy gravity, but we are willing to give it a bit of slack since most of the game has some serious gravity problems.

Early in the game you meet Nikola Tesla, who is a scientist and inventor stuck in The Void. He gives you and Ava a hover pack, which works like an elongated double jump, and also provides you with a jetpack a little later on. It’s at this point the game departs from a typical third-person shooter and takes flight. The controls for flying are fairly competent, but take time to get used to.

One of the more irritating moments in Dark Void comes during dog fighting. The environments are nice and open yet if you fly to an area the game doesn’t want you to go, it’ll make you turn around. It’s pretty clear that this is intended to keep you in the action, and unsurprisingly, becomes extremely annoying. Also, fighting in the air takes a while to get used to, and even though it’s the best part of the game, it still has serious problems. Indeed, even if Dark Void just relied on the aerial combat it would still prove a mediocre experience. 

Repetition starts to set in almost immediately. Sometimes you’ll be defending the Ark, the survivors’ whip, or flying down a shaft into an enemy base or prison before repeating a similar mission objective all over again. Furthermore, combat runs into some serious problems during melee, given that you have one attack button that only works when you are close enough to an enemy. And when it works, it doesn’t work well. Still, there are some nice fatality animations and you’ll probably get a kick seeing Will rip the head off a robot. Finally, enemy spacecraft seem content to fly behind you; in fact, enemies never attacked us from the front or side.

Dark Void had so much potential, but alas, a game isn’t graded on its potential, it’s graded on how enjoyable it is to play. For Dark Void, it’s just not that much fun to play. The game possesses too many glitches to excuse, and too many frustrating moments for it to truly be enjoyable. When the very short campaign is over, we were not left wanting more; in fact we were pretty chuffed it was over. There is no multiplayer, so the chances we’ll want to go back to this game in a few months are virtually zero. Still, there is some modest fun to be had if you’ve been craving the rush of flying with a jetpack. You will probably enjoy that aspect of the game for a while, but we can’t justify recommending Dark Void given the sheer abundance of bugs and glitches that constantly mar any enjoyment to be had. Unfortunately, this game belongs in the void.

-The Final Word-

Dark Void had some great concepts, but ultimately they were never realized. Flying is entertaining enough, but the rest of the game is repetitive and mediocre at best.
  • Utilizing the jetpack to fly
  • The wonderfully exciting soundtrack
  • The enormous audio and visual glitches
  • The repetitive and boring missions
  • The lack of originality; Dark Void plays like any other third person shooter
5.5
See PSU's reviews scores on Metacritic and Gamerankings

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