E3 2008

E3 2008: One to Watch: Dark Void

| 16 Jul 2008 23:46

You may not have heard of Dark Void, but you're probably going to want to play it. If you're one of those people who likes fast-paced combat, a good story, and Nikolai Tesla, that is.

Dark Void is the story of Will, an everyman pilot who's (rather unwisely) flying through the Bermuda Triangle when his ship is sucked into an alternate universe known as The Void. He's not the only one to have made such a dumb move, though; there are plenty of other survivors in The Void, unlucky souls who are similarly stranded. They're in the process of building a huge ship called the Ark when Will shows up, and he pitches in to help, hoping to hitch a ride home. Strange creatures called The Watchers are doing everything they can to prevent them from accomplishing their goal, though their motives are unclear. Organic creatures in robotic suits, The Watchers have apparently been manipulating mankind for a very long time.

The on-foot portions of the game are fast-paced and use a cover system virtually identical to that of Gears of War, but what pushes Dark Void into the "must have" zone is its use of flying and vertical cover. Nikolai Tesla is also trapped in the Void and is working on technology to help everyone escape and survive. He eventually outfits Will with a jetpack that at first only lets him hover, but eventually gives him full Rocketeer-esque flying abilities.

The jetpack comes in handy when Will is trying to scale the rocky environment of the Void, but this is no platformer. As Will ascends, the camera shifts so that you're looking up over his shoulder as he cranes his neck to try and see. It's a bit vertigo inducing, but it quite literally takes the cover system in a new direction. You can hang from ledges and shoot or grab a Watcher by the ankle and pull him over the side to watch him fall to his doom. From what I saw, watching bad guys flail as they fly past you is never, ever going to get old.

Will's rocket pack isn't his only flying option - he can also highjack Watcher UFOs. Landing on a UFO initiates a mini game where you'll have to dodge shots while hitting the indicated button. If you're successful, you pull the Watcher out of the cockpit and take the wheel ... or whatever it is they use to steer.

Dark Void's developer, Airtight Games, was the house that created the brilliant but woefully under-appreciated Crimson Skies, and their experience with flying shows. The flying is all straight up Crimson Skies, with a suite of special moves and breezily precise and fluid control. Unlike Crimson Skies, however, Dark Void will have no multiplayer. The game's lead designer, Jose Perez, told me that the company opted not to do multiplayer because, with on-foot combat, jetpacks, and UFOs, it would simply be too much to do both it and the single player game well.

Dark Void isn't due out until sometime next year, but I'm definitely filing it away in my mental "do want" file.

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