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Critical Reception: Capcom, Airtight Games'  Dark Void

Critical Reception: Capcom, Airtight Games' Dark Void

January 20, 2010 | By Danny Cowan

January 20, 2010 | By Danny Cowan
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More: Console/PC, Columns



This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Capcom's sci-fi action-adventure game Dark Void, which reviews describe as "an ambitious project that just didn't make it off the ground." Dark Void currently earns a score of 59 out of 100 at Metacritic.com.

GamerNode's Matthew Erazo rates Dark Void at 7 out of 10. "It's a tough world for any new video game IP," he begins. "Airtight Games has seen fit to brave these unfriendly skies, though, and have brought Dark Void to the masses in an attempt to combine air, ground, and vertical combat into one fluid, jaw-dropping experience."

"The gameplay itself is some of the most fun I've had playing a video game," Erazo continues. "Air combat has you flying around with your jetpack, peforming barrell rolls and loops, shooting down enemy saucers or hijacking them mid-flight. There's a satisfying feeling when you fly up to an enemy, throw him out of his plane and then use it to shoot down the rest.

"Ground combat is akin to Gears of War as you take cover and engage in stop-and-pop gameplay. Vertical combat is the same except you are hiding behind cover as you climb structures and jetpack around your enemies to deliver some pain."

"Once all three of these systems work together," Erazo says, "the game really comes together and Dark Void becomes something entirely different then most video games on the market today."

Jeff Gerstmann at Giant Bomb gives Dark Void 3 out of 5 stars. "The fiction behind Dark Void and the way that story is presented are probably the best things about the game," he notes. "It opens with a sort-of-stock 'plane gets sucked into the Bermuda Triangle' event, and from there you discover a new world that is ruled by an oppressive race of shiny metal robots called the Watchers. These guys have their hooks in everything, both in the Void and in the real world."

Dark Void is uneven in other areas, however. "When you're flying, the game takes on the control stylings of an arcade-style dogfighting game," Gerstmann explains. "A number of the folks behind Dark Void worked on Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge for the Xbox, and it shows in the way the air combat controls. You'll be able to pull off evasive maneuvers to dodge incoming fire as you fly around large canyons and face off against enemy UFOs.

"If you get close enough, you can even opt to steal one of these enemy flyers, but the half-Quick-Time-Event, half-minigame you'll perform every time you want to get in a saucer gets tedious after its second or third appearance."

A few technical problems also interrupt the flow of gameplay. "The frame rate gets uneven when the action heats up, both indoors and out," Gerstmann warns. "The texture pop-in that has become something of a signature for the Unreal Engine is present, as well, and in one case, I ran into a spot where the more detailed textures would fade in, then immediately pop out to become blurry again... only to fade back in a second later and repeat the whole process until the end of the cutscene. This all happened during a fairly climactic moment, which can really take you out of the story."

"The core elements in Dark Void are well-designed and fun to play, and it tells an interesting story while setting up a world that's developed enough to deserve a sequel," Gerstmann admits. "But with its technical problems and a lack of enemy variety, Dark Void starts to feel like the game is getting in the way of its own universe. It's worth seeing for its unique twists on third-person shooting, but you'll probably come away feeling like it could have been much more."

Wired's Chris Kohler scores Dark Void at 4 out of 10. "2010 has just begun, but Dark Void already has clinched the award for Most Ironically Appropriate Title," he begins. "It is an empty nothing of a game, with few bright spots."

Kohler finds that offering players the choice between on-foot and in-air combat means little in the context of Dark Void's gameplay. "Dark Void's claim to originality is that jetpack, which lets the main character take to the skies whenever he likes," he explains. "On the ground, the game is a cover-based stop-and-pop shooter; in the sky, it's free-flight aerial combat.

"The promise is that you can switch between these two modes whenever you like. The reality is that while this is entirely true, each level is generally designed only for one of them. Zooming around awkwardly in the air like a big clay pigeon doesn't make any sense in the ground sections, and there's no reason to land when UFOs sweep in and fire from the sky."

Kohler feels that Dark Void's biggest problem is its lack of originality. "The fact that the game's action is almost entirely split into these two separate halves wouldn't be a problem if either were especially interesting. But there's very little to say about Dark Void's combat," he says. "If you've ever played any third-person shooter or flight-combat sim, you've got the lay of the land. It's as generic as can be."

"Even though some stages (like the penultimate aerial battle) felt like they lasted forever and ever, Dark Void is a pretty short game with an anticlimactic ending that does little more than set up a sequel," Kohler concludes. "Dark Void was an ambitious project that just didn't make it off the ground."


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