Review Xbox 360: Dark Void

You play as Will a lowly cargo ship operator trying to keep his business a float in the midst’s of another terrible World War us humans get ourselves into.

At the very start of the campaign, even before the intro explaining this world and some of the background story you’re thrown straight into jet pack flight training. Here you will be first shown one of the element’s Capcom tried to push the game with and that’s the fact you can fight or take flight with your rocket pack. It is initially a very bumpy ride as it’s just like controlling a jet fighter but with the implication that you’re a man, it isn’t going to be an easy thing to do to start with. As you’re training with two friendly air craft and learn how to boost and break you’re attacked by UFO’s. These UFO’s are controlled by the Watchers, the evil force which is trying to cause worldwide destruction. Initially I was very uncomfortable with the overall movement while I was flying it’s because I had every direction to fly in and with the right analogue stick I could spin, twisting my view very quickly. After five minutes I picked up the basics of flight and took out some of the UFO’s that where around me, you’ll need to get better as these fights as they become more hectic later on but you will gradually be introduced to this part of the game and it’s not a huge spike in difficulty if you’re good at adapting to different games like me, otherwise you might struggle with the manoeuvres and general feel. The poor rebel fighter you do control at the time eventually gets taken down in the ambush and the intro begins to unravel some of the mystery of what you just saw.

The intro scene starts with Will working away in terrible weather and then being greeted by his best friend Coop Williams with this ferocious storm above them that’s covering the impending World War right above their heads. Coop brings with him the courier his ex Ava – his old flame, just to rub salt into the whole situation not just his wounds. After a bit of a frosty start the group take flight into the space above the Atlantic where most of the chaos is starting to unfold. Amongst the thunder clouds and clattering noise, Coop points out they’ve just entered the Bermuda Triangle where things take a sinister and hostile twist for the group. Will shockingly spots a UFO out of a hole in the clouds; the UFO then turns its bright lights towards their plane causing havoc with all their instruments – thus sending everyone into a downwards spiral.

This is where the game begins on foot as you find yourself in the middle of an unfamiliar dense jungle – a rather dangerous landscape and environment to be in. Dark Void looks stunning and looks even better in certain wide open cinematic areas, in game objects look detailed and are nicely textured with the lighting just right for the world and its varied landscapes. However when you see the characters faces for the first time it is disappointing, the whole game look’s damn good up to that point and has some great visuals in just the first ten minutes but the fact the characters themselves don’t portray emotion too clearly takes away from the games story and underlying sinister feel whenever the human characters are brought in. The parts of the game where the story is delivered but without the human characters works  much better to bring you a much larger and darker feel, giving the story abit of a hard edge that works with the creepy sci-fi theme running throughout. The story itself – as in the dialogue and progression not its general feel and visually attractive cut scenes it tries to get across to you – is a little poor, the dialogue doesn’t get you drawn into this world it’s the combat and situations themselves that bring you deep enough into the world of Dark Void to enjoy it when it works.

You must start making your way through the jungle with your female friend Ava, a yellow marker will appear to guide you to your current objective. Your objective will also appear on screen and you can hit the back button to bring it up again at any point. While you’re heading to any objective be vigilant of the environment around you, the developers don’t give you a safe world to travel around in it’s very much hostile by nature and you can find yourself plummeting down a crevice in no time if you’re not careful enough. You will bump into a Survivor, these guys are stranded in the void like you and have banded together to fight the enslavement the Watchers are trying to insist upon this world. He will die and you must grab his weapon, when you do you will be separated from Ava eventually meeting up with her again after you have gone it alone. In this separated period you will be shown the basic controls and techniques in Dark Void like the cover technique: just go up to any surface and wait for the X button prompt. This doesn’t always work well in combat with the view sometimes being sticky and hard to control, for example it doesn’t work as smoothly as the Gear of War cover system but has the same general feel and effect. The cover system isn’t that important however as you can just hide behind the wall without pressing X, plus later on you get to hover or just jet away while attacking, I’m not sure why this cover system was introduced but it does come in handy from time to time when you’re being pinned down on foot. There’s a radar in the right hand corner of the screen showing you enemies in red and allies in green, it also shows your objective in yellow and is a very useful item for combat and navigation.

You will then stumble across a strange robot/cyborg type being to fight, just like in the film I-Robot they  give off a sinister and freaky vibe as they crawl over any surface to reach you. They look pretty cool too, in-fact better than the humans as these foes have some awesome detailing on them and the sounds they make give them a dangerous vibe all-round. The aiming is nice and sturdy and headshots are easily attained even when hovering up and down because of the slower aiming system, this discourages you from swinging around so much too. Wills movements on foot are also nice and sturdy, creating a solid foundation between the movement and aiming to place more intricate and rewardable combat situations onto. The weapons themselves at this stage in the game are pretty boring, you do spend the first two or three levels shooting your way through cyborg things to get to something different like the upgrading of weapons or discovering the more exotic weaponry Dark Void has to offer.

The first initial challenges on foot are more basic while you get used to the large amount of starting elements the game throws at you, normally consisting of taking out groups of enemies while taking a certain route round some dangerous environments. These combat challenges do improve as you’re given more exciting possibilities to complete the game with but not to the extent where it wipes out the repetitiveness completely.

You can upgrade your weapons after every chapter or level with the tech points you collect throughout the game. These are the little glowing orbs that float out of enemies after you kill them, they can also be found in hidden areas scattered far and wide in your environment. For a change it’s actually hard to get enough tech points for one upgrade so the game does encourage you to explore for orbs. The orbs have a nasty habit of disappearing too quickly, which left me feeling a little bit robbed of something I’d already fought for. The upgrades on your weapons do make a good bit of difference in the time it takes to take down enemies and have visual changes on the gun and when you shoot it but certain weapons still come across quite dull even after the upgrades, it’s the better exotic weapons that make for better fun. The bigger badass weaponry you will get can do some cool things to enemies while they kill them and can help you proceed past obstacles that block your path. They aren’t many weapons to choose from leaving the selection quite disappointing but take solace in the fact that some are pretty cool and space age, they don’t all fire bullets.

As you proceed the environment will be incorporated into the game more to challenge you in some new and exciting ways, one of which is the scaling of vertical surfaces. Because of the unique flying elements you don’t just need look around horizontally in this game you also are encouraged to look vertically around at your surroundings, not only looking around for gaps and pits but also looking for things you can climb up. When looking for ledges to climb up or down look for the same type prompt you will see when you use surfaces for cover, when you do press the X button and your character will jump up using his jet pack for a little boost to that ledge. The camera will swing to below your character giving you a very weird but unique view point, It is a little bizarre moving and shooting at this angle but it becomes enjoyable when you get the hang of it and creates some brilliant situations, for example climbing up inside generators and buildings is taken to a different but equally enjoyable level than just running through some corridors and into a room – you get a much bigger and better adventuring feel this way. There are a few problems with the climbing feature, you can get into some sticky camera angles if you’re trying to come out of the climbing mode to play horizontally and may find yourself a little confused if you stop ascending or descending to grab something. It doesn’t happen too often if you’re aware of it unless you deviate from the correct path, which does need to happen every now and again causing some irritation if you want more orbs. Some of the fighting parts of the game use this feature and can become quite epic because of it. I’ve been playing a level where these climbing panels/edges move, not only that but with the robots hanging of the edges themselves causing some unexpected problems for me, it was truly trilling to clamber up past core generators and shoot freaky robots at the same time. However If you’re a gamer who can’t deal with alot of things moving around you at once you will not enjoy most of the game. Dark Void is all about new camera angles and getting you to think and move carefully at the same time – all of the time, this really isn’t for gamers without a lot of gaming experience as it’s tricky to master and will have you learning tricks to help right to the end.

As you make more progress into the game you will not only get these cool gameplay elements on foot but you will be introduced to the same type of thing while flying or hovering. They’re certain levels where you will be encouraged to use the hovering feature more, these are normally the wide open areas where it’s better to use it. These levels often adapt to the hovering more for example you might have huge temples to scale or wide canyons to navigate over. The flying part of the game is fantastic and so fast but has more immediate problems that arise and some that pop up every now and again compared to on foot, the flying is by nature less stable and harder to use especially when you’re being tested by foes and objects to navigate round. The problems I encountered with the jet fighting part of the game is normally to do with the very fast movement and pivoting, the camera angle doesn’t always help this either and can lead to irritating game play, not usually death but it can happen if you literally bounce of stuff. This problem happens about 50% of the time the other 50% is filled with some crazy times as Will can hijack vehicles in mid air with the B button because of his naughty past experience in doing so – it’s why he got sacked as a pilot in the first place. You can then take control of the enemy’s ship after a button prompted scrap for it and fly it around using it against foes, you can also gain control of your ally’s vehicles by doing this same obviously with no fight. It can be a little tricky to do this with the problems I’ve already discussed but if you’re good at adapting you can learn to fly better and it doesn’t seem like much of a problem anymore later on.

They’re two apparent types of play in Dark Void but what’s extra special about this is when they both come together to give you a choice to fight from the air or on foot. This delight happens often in the later levels when the developers have expected you to have learnt more than the basics from the gradual stepping up of difficulty in game so you can use it automatically without too much stress to you. What the developers also manage do is  change the direction of gameplay even when you’re fully in control by giving you enemies you must fully fly to kill or vice versa. This is refreshing for me as someone who has played video games for a long time and I’ve often seen the same things repeated but I can see Dark Void really confusing and irritating some people, especially those who feel disorientated if the camera swings round too much. The game puts itself out the reach of alot of experienced gamers because of this extreme test of your perception skills and hand eye coordination and I can’t condone it fully even though it doesn’t bother me much. The game is not designed bad or broken just hard to master from the word go, it also has a few problems that affect the few people who get over the disorientation just to put them off the game even further. For those who aren’t initially fazed by the extreme camera angles and speed the game can be an absolute blast and is very enjoyable, sadly even gamers like me who find it mostly great fun will discover a different bunch of problems that will stop you from proceeding, even just for a short period of time.

The games campaign is an acceptable length and the levels do get bigger and better as you progress but you still won’t get much enjoyment out of the cut scenes even near the end, the enemies and their culture seem way more interesting than anything else not the tale of the adventure itself. This leads to a bit of a disappointing ending as that’s when the combat stops and obviously the game ends, which leads to quite a depressing slump as you’ve just been fed great experiences and there’s no feeling to round the whole experience down signal the end of the game. There isn’t any replay value, no multiplayer either which I will have to mark the game down for immediately as that makes it overall far too short to sell in many ways to my dismay. I did find the game very enjoyable, refreshingly different and hardcore, it’s really not aimed at the mainstream gaming audience or gamers who suffer with extreme camera angles and speed but there are a few elements that the mainstream could enjoy just not enough to warrant ultimately enjoying it till the end. People who can play games with their eyes shut will really enjoy the different combat paces Dark Void has to offer along with the extreme angles and incredible scaling you can accomplish. It also visually looks very pleasing and you get some views you must stop for.

The game will lose a few points off its score because of the twitchy and sticky camera problems it has running throughout and the fact it’s not forgiving enough on the kind of gamer it attracts with its sometime repetitive combat and disappointing longetivity. The repetitive underlying tone pops up in some odd places and can lead to the whole ambiance of all these brilliant elements being ruined, flying or on foot. Other than the problems I’ve stated there’s just the difficulty divide that upsets people, it’s such a good game filled with a variety of amazing gameplay to experience but it’s not going to be like that for alot of people for the fact it’s far too stressful for them.

Score: 6.7

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