GamesCom 2009: Dark Void Hands On Preview - Multi-Dimensional Combat
Written Saturday, August 29, 2009 By Lee AbrahamsView author's profile
Dark Void is yet another of those games that has tragically slipped back to early next year. Unlike the majority of games that seem to have one eye on their own sales and one eye on the impending juggernaut that is Modern Warfare 2, this particular title has actually been using that time wisely in order to add a few new features and generally make the game as good an experience as possible for gamers. It is starting to look like time well spent too.
Developed by Airtight Games, the team behind the Crimson Skies games, it is clear to see a lot of parallels between their old and new projects. Most obvious would be the aerial based combat but a quick glance at the story would show some similarities too. You play the part of Will, a cargo pilot and everyman, a fact that Capcom were keen to clear up as a number of sources have displayed Will as a masked, faceless do-gooder which couldn’t be further from the truth. The year is 1938 and Will takes a routine mission to London – unfortunately for him, he chooses to detour through the Bermuda Triangle and gets drawn into the titular void. Crash landing in a strange new world he is rescued by a motley group of humans, who have suffered a similar fate, and joins their group in a fight against some less than hospitable natives. Nikola Tesla, the fabled inventor, is amongst them and he provides much of the advanced equipment and weaponry that Will utilises, foremost among them, the jetpack.
As you start the game you would be forgiven for thinking of it as little more than a clone of Gears of War, as the on foot combat is strikingly similar. The over the shoulder viewpoint, plethora of weapons and cover based combat are all reminiscent of the aforementioned title, with one major difference; the jetpack. At any point you can leap into the air and hover above your foes raining down fire upon them. The hover feature is one of the aspects added into proceedings as the result of the delayed launch and it looks like a touch of genius.
You only get a limited amount of boost, so you cannot hover indefinitely, as that would take away much of the tactical edge, resulting in players soaring out of harm’s way and killing enemies while remaining untouched. Instead you can hover in the air and use you position to outflank enemies and take down any flying opponents. You can also explore the vast levels in the quest for secrets and collectables as the jetpack is primarily there to add an element of strategy and fun to proceedings. Should you want to make a quick getaway you can also enter true flight mode, which allows you to soar away from (or towards) your foes at speed, although at the cost of your weapons. It handles superbly and means you are never confined to following a set path.
A brief hands on and demo showed off a couple of the levels of the game and also the first huge boss – who is apparently the smallest in the game. You start out in a vast canyon and are given a brief rundown of the equipment at your disposal; then it is off to destroy a couple of shield generators and rescue some comrades. You can fly up to, and into, the generators to take your foes by surprise which introduces the nifty vertical combat aspect – allowing you to use horizontal ledges as cover by clinging underneath them or firing down from on top of them. You can leap from ledge to ledge to approach your foes and can attack them with impunity, though you need to keep an eye out for their falling corpses as they may well knock you loose. Get close enough to a foe and you can grab them and send them plummeting to their death too. A quick press of the Y button will flip you to the topside of the ledge you are on, ready to fire on anyone sneaking up behind you. It is a clever system and one that adds another layer of depth to the combat rather than just running and gunning. Other levels see you doing things like fighting giant mechanical creations, and escorting team mates through turret guarded canyons, to name but a few.
While having a jet pack is a lovely feature you can also go for a ride in other vehicles, often by force. As your enemies attack you in flying saucers and the like, you could blast them out of the sky, or you could choose to swipe their ride instead. Get close enough and you can grab onto the vehicle, all while dodging incoming fire, then you can rip off the control panel, dump the pilot and take their place. As easy as that.
The whole game has been geared towards a superb single player experience, with the story clocking in at around ten hours for those that choose not to stray off the beaten path too much. The thought of multiplayer was considered, as who would not love an arena full of flying foes ready to do battle? However, the developers did not want to add a tacked on multiplayer experience and chose to concentrate their efforts on making the single player the best it could be – if only more people would take that path. As it is, the game has a full voice cast and pretty impressive score from Battlestar Galactica’s Bear McCreary. Alongside the lush graphics and epic backdrops, it should easily draw players in.