Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Video game number fourteen: Dark Void

Game review number fourteen in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Dark Void".

I've been looking forward to playing this one for quite awhile. I saw some people playing this quite awhile ago at work and they were all flying around with a jet pack, shooting things. It looked like a lot of fun. Later, when I asked someone how it was...the basic review was that it's great when you're in the jet pack, but the rest of the time it's a crappy shooter. I can't really say he was wrong.

I can't decide whether I like or hate this game. I've enjoyed it enough (or I'm addicted to it enough) to keep playing several chapters in....but I have SO many gripes.

First of all, I hopped from the beautifully rendered, well acted cinematics from Mass Effect 2 immediately over to this. No one should ever do that. This game might have been awesome looking if I'd played it first, but after ME2, It's a big let down. It almost seemed like I was jumping back a console generation, even though I'm sure this wouldn't look nearly as cool on a PS2 or one of the other old systems.

I've heard that the actor who plays Nathan Drake in Uncharted (last year's "Game of the Year" for many outfits) plays the lead character William in this one. I got Uncharted 2 for Christmas, I haven't played it yet (look for it as one of the 365 soon), but so far...I think he's a decent lead character.

The first level of this game starts you out with the Jet Pack. This is the box art experience, flying around like the Rocketeer and getting into dogfights with weird UFO/Robot things. It reminded me of playing Crimson Skies on the PC about a decade ago, except the targeting system is shit by comparison. You find your enemies in the open sky by hitting the left button, but this takes you into a weird camera mode where you're centered on them (and watching yourself with a third person camera as you're flying in some completely opposite direction). It's very difficult to explain, but the closest example I can give is trying to control your car while you drive in cinema mode (by pressing B) in Grand Theft Auto. It really sucks and it makes targeting incredibly difficult.

Despite the fact that I thought finding an enemy to shoot was pretty tough (and dog-fighting was even tougher), I finished the level. Now, you're in the prologue. You have no jet pack, you're just some dude, running around the forest. You don't even have a weapon, so for the first few minutes...all you do is run. Eventually, you encounter a killer robot, and he drops a gun for you. The gun might as well be a Twizzler for the amount of damage it does. You can shoot an entire clip into the enemy robots before they die, or you can walk up and punch them once. Punching kills most of them almost immediately. Either the guns are incredibly lame...or this dude hits harder than anyone 0n earth. Either way, it's stupid.

For the next two or three levels, all you have is the Twizzler guns. You can power them up with the "tech points" you get whenever you kill something, and only takes half a clip to kill a robot instead of a full reload. Whatever, I still liked punching them better. I kicked one robot in his mechanical nuts and got a "Rochambeau" achievement I wasn't expecting. That was pretty entertaining.

On chapter 2 or 3, you finally get your jet pack again. Nicolas Tesla gives it to you, which was pretty weird, because this marks the second time in a couple of years that I've been led to believe that the dude created all sorts of magic shit we never knew about. In the movie the Prestige, he creates a magical teleporter (spoiler). In this game, apparently...he lives in the robot infested Mayan ruins building jet packs. The guy really gets around.

The first jet pack he gives you sucks ass. You can jump about 2 feet off the ground with it. Even though you spend the entire level wearing this thing, you end up leaving it turned off most of the time and performing cliff hanging acrobatics instead. If you ever wanted to play a game where you swing from ledges like you were Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible 2, this is your game. It's entertaining, if not frustrating. You're wearing a jet pack, you should be able to fly up the cliff...but instead, you have to do some form of jet pack assisted parkour to get up there.

This point in the game is also when you're introduced to the "Vertical cover" system. Lots of games have a button you can press to hide behind a rock, but Dark Void is notably the first game ever to let you hang off a cliff and use it for cover, while shooting at enemies hanging out on ledges above you. It's hard to explain, and even harder to control. You have to wait for the game to tell you to hit the "X" button before you can jump from cliff to cliff, and before you have to aim the camera just-so. It's a huge pain in the ass, and I would have stopped playing the game by now...if I didn't so badly want to get the "real" jet pack.

4 or 5 chapters in (after the most annoying stage I've played in a video game in recent history), you finally get your flying machine. That's where I am right now. I have been dog-fighting with UFOs, flying around and trying to master the controls. I still haven't gotten the hang of it yet...but as much as it pisses me off, I can't stop playing for some reason.

Overall rating: 6 out of 10. I'm having a lot of fun, but the game has a ton of problems that make it really frustrating to get the hang of. It requires a lot of "work" to play this game.

Replay factor: I read a review saying "this is the kind of game you'll beat and never play again". I have a feeling that's going to be true....if I even stick it out to the end.

As you can see...I played quite a bit:

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