Of all the games that we have seen, there have been several very common themes. Most action, First-person, or third-person shooters always involve a military conspiracy, an alien invasion, or a post-apacalyptic wasteland. But some developers seem to forget about other things that exist on planet Earth that can make a solid backdrop, such as The Bermuda Triangle. Such an area, shrouded in mystery and mythology, is such a new, refreshing backdrop to create a game. And so, Airtight Games and CAPCOM have gotten together for the third-person action game, Dark Void, where player enter this dark, new dimension in time and space. With vertical cover shooting, fun jetpack sequences, and an interesting environment, the game provides a solid experience for a short duration of time. It's essentially riding first class on a flight for only an hour and a half when you wish you could be on the plane longer. Or, when the Concorde was being used, paying $2,000 dollars for a single ticket to fly for an hour or two across an ocean instead of enjoying the flight.
It is the year 1938 and the world, as you know through history, is tearing itself apart and now on the brink of global war. The Naz---^*#@$%^ (ahem ahem ) Excuse me, Fascists, become more powerful and aggressive becoming an ever-present danger in an increasingly hostile world. Our character ,Will (voiced by Nolan North), a former military pilot with seasoned experience, wants nothing to do with it but he gets a living in the cargo plane business. On one routine flight out of Nassau, they enter The Bermuda Triangle, which by this point, has already garnered a dreadful reputation. Then, a UFO streaks past their plane, his engine loses power, and he crashes into a clearing on the side of a jungle mountain. Pretty soon, he acknowledges not all is right. He couldn't possibly be in South America or the Caribbean. Strange ships fill the enchanting skies. And a metallic, hostile alien force with ray guns pursue him. He soon find himself in the Void, this strange land between time and space. The Void also place Will in the middle of a battle between a human resistance and an alien species bent on invading Earth through the Bermuda Triangle. In this war, a hero must unlock his potential and rise up.
When Dark Void was being marketed, the primary showing were of the jetpacks and the vertical cover mechanic. What wasn't really shown was the third person action shooting. Similar to Uncharted, Dark Void initially plays like a regular third-person shooter with all the mechanics that you would expect, including a blindfire mechanic. There are better third-person shooters (Of course for PS3 owners like us, Uncharted). However, it isn't that bad. It's solid, fun, and does what it needs to do. With every enemy or ship you destroy, you earn tech-points to upgrade your armament. The game does encourage some exploration to find tech orbs to acquire more tech points as well. There are 6 weapons to choose from and each one can be upgraded. There is the typical Assault Rifle and Sniper Rifle but, there are unique weapons such as the disruptor, a rifle that fires large pulses of energy, and the Magnetar, an anti-gravity weapon that disrupts and damages your enemy. The upgrades are fun as well. The Assault rifle, for example, will hold explosive rounds when fully upgraded. The controls are what you would expect and the cover fire works fine.
One distinguishing mechanic, which I feel that every shooter should look and learn from, is the vertical shooting mechanic. In other shooters, if we have to vertically navigate a canyon, we either grabbed a helicopter, an elevator, or there was a network of tunnels, caves, or stairs conveniently placed to get us up or down such a vertical area. In this game, there is vertical shooting. When you acquire your jetpack, you will be able to literally take cover on a ledge and open fire downward on enemies shooting up at you. It also works the other way around, when your shooting up at enemies off a ledge as they shoot down at you. These provide some pretty exciting firefight set pieces that require you to change up new tactics. The game takes a whole new look when fighting vertically. Objectives, such as destroying a shield generator, take an interesting scale as you use panels on the walls as cover. At times, the firefights get intense and you wil become slightly disoriented to know which way is up and which way is down. In moment like that, the only way to know is to kill an enemy and see which way the fall. There are plenty of these in the game but I wish there was more.
The most clearly seen mechanic is the jetpack. Later on in the game, you acquire the distinguished jetpack. The jetpack is also upgradable and ,once fully upgraded, you'll be firing powerful machine guns with a rocket pod for extra kick. When in the jetpack, your character controls as you would expect from an aerial combat game like Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. Another nice touch is the ability to hijack UFO's and use them against the aliens. As you would expect, you trigger a QTE (quick-time event) when you get close enough to a UFO. If you sustain damage, you can bail out at anytime double-tapping the square button. Another nice touch is the ability to transition from regular third-person shooting to jetpack combat through hovering with the x-button. There will be missions and moments where you'll be flying and need to hover to take enemies out from above, trigger a finishing QTE on a boss, or enter a small area. The controls get some getting used to but are easy to remember. It's important to remember this fact- the triangle button is not a weapon switch button! It activates the jetpack. You don't want that happening in a small hangar or base.
Where Dark Void ultimately falls short and below cruising altitude is the potential, overall play value, and technical performance. It's not a terrible game to avoid as, I have previously mention so far, it is a solid game. It just a matter of what more could've been done to extend the value of the game.
The game's single player campaign on Normal will last you approximately 7-8 hours. The trophies aren't very hard to achieve either. Most are cumulative and can be achieved in your first playthrough. The game challenges you to play the game on Hardcore which isn't even all that hard. If you played Normal mode, Hardcore mode is a breeze. This will add approximately another 6 to 7 hours as the game challenges you to find journals that are scattered throughout the game. This challenge becomes very easy once you complete the game and use youtube videos. When you complete the game, an all-access radar will unlock, allowing you to see their locations as well as the locations of tech points and ammo boxes. Another extension of the game are the Survivor missions. These challenge-room missions, which are similar to Call of Duty's Zombie mode, require you to survive at least ten waves of enemies defending three different areas on a map. They are challenging and provide a good dose of extended gameplay. It's all about the jet pack and third-person shooting action which makes it fun. The length of this extension is a matter of player skill. An avid gamer, like myself, got through it in 4 hours, maximizing the score and the trophies that comes with the game. A casual gamer will spend more time on these missions as it does take tactical planning and practice. The survivor missions will set you back only $3 on PSN. And, as you already have figured it out, there is no multiplayer of any kind.
The story holds you to find out all about this new world and unfortunately, plays the story by the numbers. Terms, locations, and characters that you wish to learn more about never materialize. The characters themselves are cool and have just enough emotion and dialogue delivery to carry the story. But the length of the game ensures that you don't find out about any of these characters then the absolute basics of what your shown. You'll hear terms like " The Imperator" and want to know more of who that character is, how that character earned the title, why was he/she chosen. BUT, you'll see this person as part of an important part of the story for about a minute and never find out anything more. And to add to this, they continuously refer the Nazi's as the Fascists. i don't see what a problem in referring to the German military in WWII as the Nazi's in this game but i guess it was to add something different. The story does something new by taking place in The Bermuda Triangle. But you'll never get any deeper then that and never find the specific answer to why which is quite a disappointment.
However, it was nice to see the visual, audio and artistic presentation of this game. It seems to be heavily inspired by the classic sci-fi films, novels, and comics of the 1930's through the 1960's. Such examples include, "The Day the Earth Stood Still", "The Rocketeer", and the Lizard- people- as- our -leaders mythos. The UFO, for example, is more then a flying disc in the game. It is composed of three circles that can move and rotate very swiftly. In the center is a small orb holding the cockpit. It's a new, modern design on an original concept. Your enemies have a metallic, robotic appearance but are inhabited by an alien organism which is a cool design choice as well. The sound of the pulse rifle and machine guns provide a distinctive flair to the action. The game is scored by "Battlestar Galactica" Composer Bear Mcreary. The score is a big highlight of the game and I actually bought the soundtrack on CD. It provides triumphant drums and orchestra for this mystical adventure.
It's just a shame that these kind of things also leave a gaping area of potential that I wish we could've seen. When you collect the journals, the descriptions provide an interesting back history and view of the Void. Along the way, you do see alien temples and wreckages of old aircraft and ships. You also see unique environements such as alien bases, cosmic rays streaking through the skies, and jagged pillars or rock. At the same time, those journals paint a larger, more divers world with interesting beasts and lands. Once again, something else I really would've wanted to see.
Perhaps the biggest drawback of the game is the technical performance because it runs well and looks solid. But while you play, it performs a form of robbery or substance dealing. You look on the back of the game case and the case reveals under "required HDD space" as being 5 mb. Sure, no problem. What is 5 mb?! As you play, it actually installed onto my harddrive without me noticing! I put the disc in on Tuesday and it had maybe 350 MB because I downloaded the Survivor missions. By the time I finished this game, it took 5 gigs! How about that? Talk about a shady game! For a game of this caliber, a 5 gig install, especially as you play, shouldn't be required this far into the PS3's lifecycle. And with that, the game runs well, albeit, a few quick stops and some texture popups. The Survivor missions has some weird issues around Wave 8 or 9 which included slowdowns and complete freezes. However, it's random when it happens.
Dark Void is a solid game that provides a unique action experience for a short time. It has some solid workings in the gameplay and the unique place of the story. But it boils down what could've been added. I would've wanted more weapons, more levels, more enemies and vehicles. I would've wanted the campaign and story to be much longer as well. As it stands, it's a different but short experience at a value price. If you want to play something different for the price of $15 used, grab this game. If you're a trophy hunter, this is an easy platinum trophy as well. If you're a casual gamer that just got your hands on a PS3 and want to explore your preferences, grab this to.
THe game came out in January 2010 so it should be very inexpensive now to purchase. I will hope that one day, CAPCOM decides to bring this game out of the Void as I feel they were onto something here. It was a game that didn't go higher then a cruising altitude, but maintained a good steady pace despite being short.
3/5 stars or 7/10 or B-
-Roberto "Robknives" Nieves