If there's one lesson that can be learned from "Dark Void" it's never to fly through the Bermuda Triangle on a stormy night; bad things happen. Capcom's latest release starts there an ends up in an entirely different universe. "Dark Void" mixes up the action shooter genre by adding jet packs, a famous scientist, and setting it in an ominous world called "The Void." It's a different take on third-person shooters, and an introduction to a new I.P. that might turn into a franchise that we could see more from in the future.
While piloting a cargo run "Dark Void"'s hero Will Grey and his small crew, consisting of his former lover Ava and right-hand-man Coop, crosses into the Bermuda Triangle and crashes on, what appears to be, an island. Coop is gone and Will and Ava set out to find help, but are soon attacked by giant robots with futuristic weapons. Will and Ava soon find out that they're no longer on Earth, and that they are trapped in a parallel universe called The Void. Their only hope of returning home lies with the famous inventor Nikola Tesla, and a group of humans, called Survivors, who must take down The Watchers, an ancient alien race, before they bridge the gap between Earth and The Void and end civilization as we know it. You play as Will as he battles through the Void on land, and in the air, courtesy of a Tesla built jetpack, as he tries to save the world.
Will's jetpack comes packed with upgradeable dual machine-guns, and when he takes to the air to go after the Watchers' ships you're in for some of the best dogfights of this console generation. There is a bit of a learning curve to mastering solo flight, especially when it comes to the takeoffs, but once you have it down it takes "Dark Void"'s gameplay to new heights. It's also something that would have made a great multiplayer mode.
Coming In For A Smooth Landing
One of the big selling points of "Dark Void" is that it's "the first fully 3D action-shooter” (it even says so on the back of the box), and it actually manages to back up the claim pretty well. The gameplay transitions from ground to air smoothly, and allows you rain down destruction as you hover above your Watcher attackers, picking them off with your sniper rifle. This is also one of the first titles to dabble in "vertical combat” which basically means Will uses ledges or the ground as cover as he makes his way up or down a wall while being targeted by The Watchers. Again, it's a quick transition that doesn't end up leaving you motion sick after every twist and turn of the camera.
I feel like most people don't actually sit through the credits of anything, much less video game credits, but should you decide to be patient and read through the names of everyone that made "Dark Void" you'll be treated to an amazing chiptune rendition of the game's theme, which also appears in "Dark Void Zero.”
Wait… What's Going On?
Whenever you try and shoehorn a love story into an action game it never goes well, and "Dark Void" couldn't be a better example of that. On top of trying to follow the battle between the Survivors and The Watchers, and wondering why Nikola Tesla is a central character in the game, you also have the love story of Will and Ava to hash out. At the end of the game the story becomes so convoluted with flashbacks and predictable plot twists that you're likely to not care about the The Watchers, Tesla, or Will and Ava at all, but it doesn't stop there. The game then goes on to directly tie the Watchers to the Fascist uprising of World War II. That's right, the Nazis were getting help from a banished ancient civilization in a parallel universe.
The Void: As A Setting?
While The Void lends itself to highlighting some of the unique gameplay mechanics of "Dark Void" there was barely a moment in the game where it felt original. While the particulars vary throughout, you will play through ancient ruins, a futuristic spaceship of sorts, the jungle, and vast expanses of desert, all of which felt like they could have been culled from numerous other titles. There was really only one chapter of the game that stood out; one of the shortest aerial battle sequences took place inside of a giant Watcher called The Collector.
That Was Fast
"Dark Void" is split up into three episodes that are each comprised of a series of chapters, where no two chapters are created equal. In one chapter you may spend an hour battling waves of Watcher forces, both on the ground and in the air spanning miles upon miles of The Void. Other chapters may literally consist of one enemy, or, as demonstrated by one of the earliest levels in the game, walking from point A to point B.
2008's "Iron Man” was so frustratingly difficult to play that I gave up on solo flight being perfected in a video game, but "Dark Void" proved me wrong. Capcom has released a great dog fighting game, mixed with an okay action game, and then topped it off with a painful story. Overall, it's not a bad game if you're open to flying the not-so-friendly skies of The Void with Will, and ignoring the reasons behind why you're doing it. However, if you're hoping for more than "Gears of War” meets "The Rocketeer” you might be a little disappointed.