Dark Void

It’s always important to make a good first impression, which is something that Capcom’s Dark Void failed to do. My copy came with a code to unlock a gold jetpack, so before playing the game for the first time I redeemed the code and downloaded the shiny golden bonus. In went the disk, the developer logos appeared followed by a black screen and then…nothing – it wouldn’t load any further. I checked the disk, tried a different game; reloaded Dark Void a few times – it still froze up after the developer logos. After scratching my head a bit I thought I’d try deleting the content I had just downloaded, meaning I wouldn’t be able to get the gold jetpack as the code can only be used once. It turned out this was stopping the game from loading. And then about half an hour into the game the screen froze and it crashed. I know being a games tester isn’t the most glamorous job in the gaming industry, but they could at least do their bloody job properly.

So, my Dark Void experience got off to a bad start. Fortunately it was worth sticking with – the jetpack gives the game a nice twist, the sci-fi plot is interesting and there’s a degree of fun to be had. The third person on foot stages play like Gears of War with a similar cover system while the enemies – slug like larva encased in metal robotic skeletons – are smart enough to flank, leap out of the way of grenades and will retreat if outnumbered. Like Halo there’s a two weapon limit; weapons can be swapped over during levels by finding weapon creates and can also be upgraded. Melee attack animations are pleasingly brutal too, particularly the one where protagonist Will grabs hold of an enemy’s head, twists their body round to give you a full view of the action, sticks gun to their chest and pulls the trigger. Classy.

The jetpack, which isn’t available for the first few level, allows you to rain bullets of death from above, get out of heavy fire when wounded and is also used to explore the expansive levels. Developers Airtight have added their own innovation into the mix too – vertical combat. When climbing up or down cliff faces the camera angle stays behind Will, who can then grip the underside of ledges and leap to and from them while shooting. To spice things up there’s a handful of free-roaming aerial combat missions during which it’s possible to hijack enemy UFOs via some carefully timed button presses. Flight controls are easy to get to grips with; the sense of flying has defiantly been achieved. Speaking of which, the achievements are generally quite fun to unlock, like flying through the legs of a huge robotic creature to unlock the ‘Forgot My Tow Cable’ achievement.

Visually it’s not bad – the textures are a little grainy while Will himself looks like he’s turned up to an audition for Disney’s The Rocketeer nineteen years too late. The biggest problem is that it’s not a particularly long game – it only takes around six hours to finish and there isn’t much of an incentive to play through again, apart from the fact the on your second play though all the previously hidden collectables now show up on your radar.

Capcom have struggled to find western developed games in the same league as their own Japanese output (see last year’s Bionic Commando) but this is still a likeable romp that’s different enough from the usual third person shoot’em ups to warrant attention.

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