Hello Hammersmith! After making my way to Capcom Europe’s base of operations without a hitch, my expectations for Dark Void were pretty unclear. Knowing it involved jet packs, was of third person perspective and had unique vertical cover system, meant it had managed to slip under the radar slightly. So whilst travelling along the district line, my trusty iPhone at hand, a bit of research was in order.
Having crashed in the Bermuda Triangle, you play the role of William Augustus Grey. In an unusual turn of events, or possibly quite apt based on the unfortunate landing coordinates, Grey is teleported to a parallel universe where humans are now known as Survivors. Battling against the Watchers, an alien race from afar, Grey and the Survivors are attempting to return to earth. To do so though, they retrofit advanced Watcher technology to use it against their creators. A nice little nugget of information to add is that, making his debut video game score, Bear McCreary is the composer for Dark Void. Being one of my personal favourite composers, with his most renowned score being that of sci-fi hit Battlestar Galactica, it will be exciting to see how his sixty-three piece ensemble fits to this scenario.
After a quick diversion*, my journey was complete. Having arrived at my destination – full of knowledge – my rear placed down in a rather comfy chair, it was time to take hold of the controller and have a go. Unfortunately, the first thing to say about Dark Void is not particularly positive, so brace yourself. The first twenty minutes or so were clunky, bland and completely underwhelming. Not to mention the fact that it was as if someone had moved every single button around on the controller and written the instructions in gibberish. Disappointed with constantly propelling myself into walls, the genericness of the vista and trying to navigate the spaghetti junction that was the control layout, persistence was the word of the day. Something which turned out to be a very smart decision.
See, something quite remarkable happened; my mind was changed. Once the controls made sense the rest just feel into place. The mixture of combat was superb; utilising the cover to pick of a few enemies before blasting off into the sky and picking off some enemies from above, to then boosting to the last few and taking them out in some good old hand-to-hand was incredibly satisfying. Providing people have the patience to get to grips with the control scheme, it flows beautifully and seems so obvious. Having managed to understand what to do, all the frustration that was encountered to begin with just fell away as it occurred to me that it was more my fault that than that of the game itself. Launching yourself skywards with the jet pack is simple as long as you know how; being able to hover and take down your foes before boosting away from gunfire and dropping down behind them to smack their heads in becomes so fluid and enjoyable.
What started off as a bland and generic landscape changes into a beautiful warm space cloud as you battle against a giant, glowing, blue, winged beast; in what turns out to be a stunning engagement. For sure, there are some brown and grey locales, but the enemy models and scenery showed enough promise to raise my expectations for the rest of the campaign. Some of the mission lengths may become a tad tedious though seeming to drag on for a fair while, but mixing it up between defending a location, engaging in an air battle or storming a base, it’s a pleasant mix. The weapons are rather tasty as well. Whilst we did get the pleasure of having the entire armoury at our disposal from the off, there are some fantastic guns available with a nice variety of damage, rate of fire etc. Possibly the most exciting thing is the plot though. From what I saw and pieced together, there’s an interesting storyline developing and the universe could make for an enticing and intriguing story revolving around the retrofitting of Watcher technology, which builds up from scratch and evolves in a steady fashion.
Overall, my impressions from Dark Void were, despite a rough start, quite positive. The use, but not overuse of the vertical cover mechanic is implemented effectively but gladly not relied upon. Whilst the graphics required some polish, it wasn’t the final build and therefore will likely be improved upon for the full release. The permutations for combat are quite wealthy, all that it relies upon is your own persistence to not follow the same old repetitive patterns. With a release date just before the mad rush of big hitters coming in February and March, Dark Void has become one to watch.
* Another word for lost.