Monday, June 28

Gears of Yaw

I first purchased Dark Void in April for just over 20 bucks. Astonishing, considering that the game was released in January of this year. I had played the demo before purchase and was unimpressed by the clunky flight controls and repetitive looking enemy combatants. All things considered, the price seemed right and I can't refuse the bargain bin at the best (worst?) of times. One of the first casualties of this year's packed release schedule, Dark Void sat in my game collection for a few weeks, unplayed. When I had read that I could trade it in to receive more than what I had paid in trade value, I rushed to my local retailer to pay off part of a Capcom game that I would definitely find myself playing (no points for guessing the title).

Turns out it was my loss. Last week I picked up Dark Void for 12 dollars, and finally found the time to feed the disc into my Playstation 3.

Firstly the bad news. This game has plenty of problems: bland environments, technically deficient graphics, a forgettable story, derivative shooting (on-foot) mechanics and awkward flight controls. The Unreal 3 engine can be used well, or just well enough to have a functioning game. Dark Void more often than not, falls into the latter category. There was one instance where I plunged from a high point to get the drop on an enemy and I swear the frame rate dropped to 3 (frames) per second. It was laughable. About half-way through the game, I'm still having trouble remembering the main character's name. I think it's Jim, or Bill or Nathan. This might have something to do with the fact that he is voiced (competently) by Nolan North. It is hard to think of a 3rd-person action game from the last 12 months where he has not been cast in a leading role, and now Drake, Desmond, and Darkvoidheroman (?, I'll consult the manual, it's Will... so close) are all starting to blur together. The on-foot action at the beginning of the game is entirely reminiscent of cover shooters like Gears of War and Uncharted. This isn't a bad thing, but even the concept of "vertical cover," adds very little to the formula. The melee attacks are particularly uninspired (and overpowered). When you finally leave terra firma and take to the skies, things take a turn for the worse, as it's hard to get yourself in the position to shoot enemy fighters. This is often because you're flying too fast and overshoot (speed and distance wise) your target. You can brake of course, but you can't incrementally decrease your speed. It's woe or go, and nothing in between. After all that, I'm guessing it sounds bad, almost irredeemable. You'd be wrong.



The game did more than enough to justify the sub 20 dollar asking price. Some of the set pieces are truly exceptional. Two stand out sections include: a firefight at the entrance of a temple with enemies occupying all levels of nearby structures and all visible airspace; and the defence of a settlement against two hefty troop transports. Using your jetpack (in both situations there are varying levels of functionality) to soar to vantage points or escape from choke points, the fun in Dark Void comes from experimentation with the various modes of flight. This game has also managed to do the escort mission right. For those who don't know, I hate escort missions, so much so that they can prematurely end my time with any game that employs them too frequently (like Resident Evil 5, that game is just one big freaking escort mission). Back on point, the AI of my companion was poor, he ran into enemy fire, rarely taking cover. What he didn't do was die regularly. Each time you reach a checkpoint, the health of the combatant in your care recovers completely. It was refreshing to say the least, and if any games in future don't employ a similar system then know that they have fallen below the benchmark. Dark Void may not be the most original game out there, but it does do enough right to warrant investigation, especially given the price point.



If the idea of an alternate history (which isn't really elaborated upon), massive alien spaceships and jetpacks appeal to you, I would sincerely suggest you acquire Dark Void. Not for the full retail price mind you! Keep an eye out and you will be sure to find it for under 30 dollars (which is just about acceptable).

What has everyone been playing this weekend?

15 comments:

  1. That's a good write-up, sir. Very enjoyable read. I really thought this was going to be the next Crimson Skies...but...hmmm, seemed like development hell and those birthing issues of a new studio lacking a lot of the cohesion they had back in the High Road To Revenge days affected Dark Void to a degree.

    Either way, nice to see it picked up and given the run-down.

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  2. Thanks Taz. I found that while I was often lamenting certain design choices, I was constantly surpised by some genuinely enjoyable combat sequences. Worth a go for sure.

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  3. Speaking of "worth a go", just traded a bunch of old PSP titles for...*drum roll* Assassin's Creed 2 and InFamous! Looking forward to both. InFamous will definitely cover me for that elusive Crackdown-esque title on PS3. Very keen for both. I know you loved Assassin's Creed 2...any thoughts on either?

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  4. Assassin's Creed II was great. I loved the original, and the sequel supassed it in just about every way. Apart from an awkward stealth sequence at the very end of the game, much fun was had with that title. I also love the crazy take on the Old Testament. A little easy though, as I was never killed in combat. Very attainable platinum trophy if you are at all interested.

    Infamous.... I got to the end of the first island, and then it all felt a bit samey. Save from one brilliant set piece in the city jail, very little to get excited about. The game also suffers from Uncharted syndrome, where enemies who appear to be about 3km away can hit you with unrivalled accuracy.

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  5. That blows in Uncharted that enemies can smash you from like 100,000 kms away. Still highly enjoyable.

    I still haven't finished ACII I really should get around to that.

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  6. You should Sambo. Great game.

    Uncharted syndrome was worst in the first installment. A sniper rifle was no match for a 40mm pea shooter.

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  7. I'm looking forward to both...it's been a while since I played something of Uncharted level quality. I love Sucker Punch, so I'm willing to forgive certain shortcomings in InFamous.

    I think Assassin's Creed Brotherhood made me think "let's get the sequel out of the way!".

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  8. Red faction guerilla. Only 3 hrs play so far and I'm njoying it enough but I can help thinking its going to get a bit repetitive. I love being perched on a cliff side waiting for the edf goons to drive up to my waiting detonators.

    Ass creed 2? Friggin loved it and a lot of that was to do with the story. It was also much longer than I thought it was going to be and not as repetitive as the first one apart from the codex pages.

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  9. Assassin's Creed 2 will definitely fill the gap left after the Thief franchise's absence. Ezio might not be Garrett, but he's similarly classy.

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  10. William, thanks for commenting. Welcome to the fold.

    RFG was an interesting beast. I had the most fun when I played without any particular objective. I just loved blowing up structures like bridges. Bridges are evil. I thought the actual scripted missions were pretty lame in comparison to the fun I made for myself.

    Assassin's Creed 2 was a great game and of decent length. The codex page thing was a bit of a ride, I agree.

    Taz - Depending on whether anything new is added to the single player will determine my level of appreciation for Assassin's Creed BH. Looking forward to it though.

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  11. Yeah thanks Tristan, its Will from the hyperhole days btw. I trust your no longer in service to CML?

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  12. Thought as much Mr Armstrong. Coles, Pick n' Pay and its subsidiaries have no business with me anymore!!!

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  13. I purchased a beverage and a chocolate from them yesterday.

    Again was more of a fan of AC1 not 2 I thought Ezio was a horrible character.

    Ill be on Plus soon boys, waiting for pay day.

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  14. Guys I am unable to attend UFC 116 this weekend, it is a sad day but I'm sure Tristan can take over organisational duties and order the PPV if you are all still keen, remember to tell Matt and Gravey.

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