Console Monster was invited to check out Capcom’s Dark Void – A steampunk inspired third person shooter from developer Airtight Games. It takes place in an alternative universe after Will, our protagonist, crashes into the Bermuda Triangle. You find out the in this universe the human race isn’t doing so good, so you join the fight against the alien race all while working out alternative means of getting home. The game seems to focus on in air combat which does indeed sounds promising, but will it really deliver?
The code we were playing was near complete but we were thrust straight into the end of Chapter 2. After a few minutes to get used to the controls, Dark Void feels like most generic third person shooters hitting the market today, well with a twist. This time, you not only have access to on ground combat, but also to aerial battles via your jet pack and various flying jets.
The jet pack is probably the one control system that will take you a while to get used to. During the 2 hours we had with the game, flying was a constant learning curve. You double tap Y to switch into jet pack mode and before you have chance to wonder at your new aerial abilities, you are being flung off at high speed. This, of course, ended up in a number of unnecessary deaths from being too close to objects or from crashing into one of the many brown levitating rocks that populated every level we played.
It felt like every time you needed to stop, it was a mad rush to spam the halt button and end hover mode. Maybe that was the idea Airtight Games were trying to push? It just certainly wasn’t fun to experience over and over… and over.
Of course, after you quit out of flying you enter a state of hover. A boost bar appears at the top of the screen and there is only a certain amount of boosting up you can do before it runs out and you slowly float down again. While this is great for jumping around on the ground, the boost is pretty useless in the air. The amount you float down is too fast for how much you need to go up, as a result you spam the option to fly and bam, your face is back in that bloody rock again.
There were some rather cool aerial moves such as ‘take over’ sequences where you grab onto enemy ships and take control. While you are in the air, if an enemy ship is near you a button will appear on the screen which you can press to approach the ship and start to take it out. You mash buttons in an attempt to harm the ship, all while avoiding fire by jet packing around the ship in various patterns. Then when enough damage is done, you can swoop into the middle and punch the alien stealing his ship. It was a lot of fun doing it the first few times and it was a real shame that there was only one animation used for taking over the ship and punching an alien in the face each time. What gets me is that once you’re in the seat and start flying the ship, you just want to jump out straight away. The ship doesn’t feel aggressive at all and we are honest, confusing to fly as well.
My mission was to protect the Ark, power it back up and then guard it as it slowly floated through the longest, brownest, rock infested air road which seemed to last an eternity and possibly a bit more. This is where Dark Void started to frustrate me endlessly. You see, at the start you had to find this electric gun to power up various generators on the side of the Ark. The Watchers, the alien race whom you battle against, then arrive and start attacking the Ark while you try to find the gun to power it back up.
Like most third person and first person shooters, objective markers tend to pop up on the mini map and screen, indicating where you would need to go. Out of the four times we replayed this mission, only once did the objective marker actually turn up. There were times where we had cleared out all of the Watchers, and still the objective market would not pop in. The other weird thing was that even after clearing out the enemy, the friendly AI would still chant out about being attacked and in danger even though they weren’t. I hope both of these issues are fixed in the retail release of Dark Void because it was such a frustration in the code we played.
When you finally find this gun, you power up the nodes on the Ark and then destroy the bridges that bound the Ark to the ground. It took a while to do this, the normal and electric guns don’t work and it is not until you have wasted all your ammo that you bother to use the turrets placed in the ground defences. Then you are attacked by giant lion-like robots, which shoot into the Ark.
The Ark now has a health bar at the side of the screen creating a rush to take out the enemy forces. The only gun that does any real damage is your newly obtained electric gun, which is now completely out of ammo and proves very useless indeed. Off you go in search of ammo as fast as you can while the Ark is slowly being destroyed. You find a weapon box which sadly only offers you switch-outs and upgrades of your current set up rather than any ammo replenishment. The Ark explodes and you breathe a sigh of relief because now you will obviously re-spawn with ammo and can take control of the situation. Oh wait…. no you are not.
We reloaded straight back to where we needed to find the electric gun in the first place. Right near the start of the level. The game has some rather brutal checkpoints to work with, along with some slight texture pop in, boring backdrops and Will’s legs going into the ground each time we died. There was nothing really that impressive about Dark Void. Sure the jet packs are fun once you have mastered it but when matched up against enemy ships, you’ll just be using it to fly into a turret and take them out that way.
Dark Void had the idea but the implementation just isn’t there yet. Unless the retail build is dramatically improved, this might be one to miss.