Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Expect a bumpy ride in "Dark Void"

Getting your jetpack on ...

"Dark Void"

Developed by Airtight Studios
Published by Capcom
Available: NOW
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3 and PC
Rated T
Price: $59.99

I love flight. I love dogfighting. I loved "Crimson Skies." When I heard that "Dark Void" was made by the same folks who did "CS," I was most definitely looking forward to taking this game for a spin.

What I didn't expect was a hard landing.

Developed by Airtight Games and published by Capcom, "Dark Void" follows the journey of Will Grey, a young, I-avoid-drama aviator who mistakenly flies his plane into the Bermuda Triangle. You can pretty much guess what happens.

During his time in the triangle, he has to fight off scores of baddies, known as Watchers, protect transports and other wayward souls in the Void, called Survivors, and even do some dogfighting. The game is a 3rd person shooter - styled like "Gears" with the artful, deco style with a nod to "Bioshock."

The game, which is set in the an alternate version of the 1930s, mixes combat against the Watchers, an alien race who consider themselves gods, with some serious flying. Yes, Will gains access to a jetpack. Yes, he can blast enemies with the jetpack's .50 caliber machine guns. Yes, you start the game with the jetpack - but find out quickly that just like real military pilots, you have to earn your wings.

You start the game with the jetpack, but then, there's a flashback. That's when the game just goes south - and how. You are grounded - literally - after your DC-7 crashes on an island in the Bermuda Triangle. You and Ava must find a way to escape the Void - and it involves a lot - and I mean a lot - of repetition.

Guns, guns, guns ...

Your first real combat will be against a unit of robots. You'll find yourself pinned down and sticking close to cover. After killing the bots, you'll find yourself following Ava into a village. However, you have to climb down to reach her (I do think she floated via jetpack to the village). You'll go to the edge and see a prompt (the square key on the PS3's joypad) that will enter you in a very interesting mode. You can drop - or jump - onto lower (and upper) ledges. If you lose your grip, you'll have to tap a button or risk death. While you are climbing down, of course, enemy robots will be trying to take you out of the game. You will be able to bust caps on them and watch them fall into oblivion. For me, I actually enjoyed the climbing/jumping on ledges. I thought it was pretty cool to be able to drop down without worry of falling. Cool, huh? Yes, that is, until you find out throughout the game, you'll be doing this climbing/jumping over ... and over ... and over ... again ... and again ... and again.

It seemed like every mission, be it a mission to disable a set of controls deep within a power generator - or having to climb a wall and blast robots, involved climbing walls - and ledges - and shooting robots. It got old really quick.

As a third-person shooter, it also misses the runway. The first real combat you'll get involved shows you how to take cover and fire your weapon. You have 3 devices to swap out or upgrade - the jetpack, a light weapon, a heavy weapon. You can also upgrade your weapons - it's not a lot of customization. It's not bad, but there's nothing really memorable - or trendsetting - in this area either.

However, when you get your jetpack, not to be confused with the hoverpack, that is where the fun really takes off. The visuals are often stunning. Being able to leave the action and fly around - and even dogfight - easily outshines the weaker parts of the game. You will find yourself making strafing runs on Watcher machines, or doing barrel rolls with ease against enemy saucers. Keep in mind the people who made "Crimson Skies" also did this game and really made the missions with the jetpack stunning.

Sound is good - Will is rather mouthy and annoying at times - and Ava makes me wonder who is she seeing - and if she's hiding something huge from him.

Enjoy my leather boot

The visuals, up close and personal, definitely need work. From the air, though, you'll be in awe. Being able to fly high above the action, snipe some enemies is by far the best feature in the game.

There are no online or co-op modes - just single player with downloadable content. Replay value? Maybe, but I wouldn't count on it.

The verdict: 6.5 (out of 10) When the game is in the air, it's golden. It will take you back to the days of wasting quarters to play "Crimson Skies" in the arcade, or even on the Xbox. It is one of the coolest games with air combat. It rocks, in that regard. However, when the action heads to the ground, the game falls apart. The devs should have stuck with the jetpack - focus on it - and make another version of "Crimson Skies." You can't go wrong going that route. With "Dark Void," there are very good elements, but often, the game drags on and will beg for your attention. It's mediocre - though the jetpack portions of the game rock.

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