E3 2009
Hands On: Dark Void

Susan Arendt | 3 Jun 2009 15:00
E3 2009 - RSS 2.0

Dark Void came out of nowhere at last year's E3 to knock my socks off and blow me away. Its combination of Crimson Skies-inspired flying, classic sci fi, and vertical cover was fresh, polished, and inviting. But I didn't get to play it then, I could only stand and watch. This year, I got to step behind the controller and put hero Will through some combat, and it was Flash Gordony good fun.

Before we go any further, read my Dark Void writeup from last year, as it'll bring you up to date on the game's story and basic gameplay. If you're feeling lazy, here's the Cliff's Notes version: You're a pilot, you crash in the Bermuda Triangle, and get sucked into an alternate universe inhabited by the very nasty Watchers.

I played through a level in the jungle, where some tribal humans - other victims of the Bermuda Triangle - were performing some kind of ritual. A Watcher came along to take a baby in tribute, but my plucky companion Ava was having none of that. She broke up the shindig, which naturally led to Watchers pulling out guns and starting a fight. Pfft. Women. Can't take them anywhere.

This level was relatively early on in the game,so Will's rocket pack was still pretty puny. (It gets upgraded as the game progresses, until its a Rocketeer-style gadget that lets you engage in aerial combat.) All I could do was hover, but even that was enough to help me dish out some death from above. You can run and gun, take cover, or get up close and personal with some melee combat. It wasn't the smartest tactical choice, but I just couldn't help running up to the robot-like Watchers and bashing them in the face. Grabbing them and shooting them in the spine was also grin-inducing fun. Dark Void isn't a gritty, realistic kind of game, it's a cheeky romp in the style of the sci fi serials from the glory days of Hollywood. Let me put it this way - Nolan North, who gives voice to Uncharted's Nathan Drake and the most recent Prince of Persia, portrays Will in Dark Void, so that should give you some idea of the game's playful tone.

The vertical cover - where the camera shifts so that you're looking up at the wall or cliffs you're scaling - can be a bit disorienting, but breaks up the action very well. Once you have a full jetpack, you can simply trying flying up instead of scaling by hand, but vertical space is tough to navigate when you're being shot at by Watchers. Better to clamber from ledge to ledge, firing when you can and pulling Watchers off by their ankles when you can't.

There are plenty of weapons to be had, and you can use the tech points you earn by killing enemies to upgrade them. You can use Watcher guns, too - the disintegration gun is a particular favorite, but they're all good in a fight.

After so many dour space soldiers, I'm really looking forward to spending some time with Dark Void's everyman hero, Will. It doesn't hurt that the flying is super-tight, the combat is fun, and the Watchers are creepy. (Seriously, this snaky thing slithered out of this flying Watcher and tried to eat my face. Nasty.) Can't wait to play some more, but I'll have to - Dark Void isn't due out until this winter.

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