Dark Void is a game about jet packs, pure and simple. Now with that premise you would think it might be something rather special. But that kind of thinking is flawed, dreams of grandeur are usually dashed and obviously I’m just not jaded enough. Even with jetpacks, Dark Void is merely just another average shooter.
From what I gathered while playing, there are two distinct modes of jetpack flight which brings about two different modes of gameplay.
The first is the open air battles, and that’s where you’ll find yourself upon starting, smack dab in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle without a clue on how to control your jetpack. It takes a bit of practice over the course of the game to get used to it and yet you’re thrust into zipping through canyons battling UFO’s. The jetpack handles like a plane from your typical flight combat game with the controls already inverted. You can also hop into planes and the UFO’s too with a little bit more trouble. Locking-on is a difficult task as all the button does is point out where your enemy is located. A lock-on that helps you aim more easily? Ridiculous, we don’t need that! Later you meet scorpion-like ground walkers and giant ships, all with weak points that are just asking to be hit.
The second mode of gameplay has you fighting humanoid robots and traversing the ground using a Gears of War cover system (which I tended to avoid in favour of gunning it and bringing the smack down on my foes). There’s the occasional boosting with your jetpack to reach higher places or whenever you want to use it but the jetpack is under utilized for the most part in these situations. The novel feature Dark Void shows off is the vertical cover system which plays like it’s horizontal. It’s really not that exciting if you think about it but it did look pretty cool, boosting up to a ledge, smacking the metallic dudes face down and throwing him away like a used tissue. Those slick animations are throughout the game, and they do get repetitive quickly except for the odd few that I could just watch over and over again. Some require a bit of the old button mashing quick time events which I know everyone here loves. There’s not much variety in the enemies, and even though some of the robots did take a bit more damage than the others, I simply shot through them in the same way.
This brings me to another point, the difficulty. It’s not a terribly difficult game but it does punish you enough that you’re bound to die many times (or in my case hundreds). A few particular sequences felt like suicide missions and the next checkpoint my only saving grace. Those robots take a hell of a pounding before they’re down for repair; I had to second guess whether or not they were Terminators. Upgrading your weapons does help out a little bit which is done by picking up little red balls of floating energy (or techpoints) from the remains of your victims.
As for the story, it’s hardly enthralling, something about an alien race called The Watchers and Nikola Tesla giving you a jetpack. For only the 1930’s there’s an awful lot of sophisticated technology lying around. Who these aliens are is never really explained and if you asked me what was going on at any particular time I’d most likely respond with “”I’m shooting these metal dudes because they’re in my way”, or “I’m shooting these UFO’s so my base don’t explode”. You play as hero pilot Will Augustus Grey, (voiced by Nolan North – Uncharted’s Nathan Drake as well as Assassin Creed’s Desmond). His character is generic and bland, more due to the failings in the story and dialogue than anything else.
Something even more random than aliens in the Bermuda Triangle is an 8-bit song in the credits. It’s nice I suppose, but pretty irrelevant. Now if the game had embraced itself for what it is and taken another turn it might’ve been a more pleasant experience. However it takes itself too seriously and it’s just not able to pull it off without feeling cheesy on the outside.
So Dark Void… The story is full of plot holes and not in the least bit motivating. I had some fun flying through the canyons and the odd shoot-out but it does get quite repetitive. Last year there were a handful of titles showing us what games can really do, and it’s a bit of a shame to see us backtrack somewhat. Dark Void is not the action experience you’ve been dreaming for but if you like shooting things, there still may be a few things to like.