Preview: Dark Void

Dark Void is a game developed by Airtight Games and set for release in early 2010. It was steeped in mystery until fairly recently, and I was lucky enough to get the best part of an hour with it. Well I say lucky, but perhaps that would be the wrong word to use. First up, the graphics are mediocre at best. Hair modeling is flat and static, character animations are silly and unrealistic and the general aesthetic look of the game is akin to something released two years ago. Stylistically there is some interesting flair, with a steam-punk, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow-like appeal and a sci-fi/1938 storyline that commits no particular crime, other than the fact that it makes no sense. A pilot in real-world 1938, Will (you) gets sucked into a void when flying through the Bermuda triangle with his ex-girlfriend or something. In the void exists an alternate world in which humans (survivors) and aliens (watchers) squabble because many years ago in the real Earth the watchers were overthrown and banished to the void and now you and your ex must fulfill your destiny and prevent the watc... boring boring boring. You get the idea; it's the same old sci-fi tripe that you can find in any game.

Speaking of "any game," that's exactly what Dark Void is. It's "any game." Guess what the mechanic is? It's the same old third-person shooter/explorer interspersed with cut-scenes type that we've seen a thousand times before, and was even alongside the very similar Lost Planet 2, Uncharted 2 and Avatar on the show floor, not that this makes any of those game inherently bad of course. Sure there are various USPs, but they are ultimately ill-conceived or repackaged and remarketed ideas of other developers. It has the Gears-style duck and cover mechanic, the jetpack aerial combat of Sector 8 and Bounty Hunter and the dogfights of every flight game ever. These elements all work competently and the "amazing brand new innovative feature" of twisting the camera by 180 degrees at various vertically-designed locations that you can jetpack to is annoying, but it is at least a genuine attempt at something new, if not a little pointless. The enemies and characters are so unimaginatively designed, you'll swear you have seen them before and the game insists you take control of Will when he merely needs to walk for a little while, rather than just taking you there or using a cinematic and finally, the game uses QTEs (argh!).

As mentioned before, the game suffers from graphical issues, with occasional frame-rate slowdowns, unpolished textures, poor AI, flickering glitches and long, long loading times. I will however, give Airtight the benefit of the doubt on this front, as the game is still some way from release, and although the copy I played was apparently two thirds complete, that final third could prove all the difference. In fact, all of my ramblings could be those of a misinformed, pessimistic fool and Dark Void could turn out to be the best game of the year, which is what some other previewers have been saying, it's just that I don't know what exactly I'm supposed to be impressed with. One point to make is that the audio was supposedly awesome (thanks to BSG's Bear McCreary), but it was difficult to hear over the din of the expo. I'm also convinced that some people will love the game's comic book-style setting and relish the opportunity to play in an old-style sci-fi game. Indeed, there are no glaring problems with this game, and really I'm complaining for no reason. I suppose the main issue I have is that there is no point in this game being made. At this showing, it is simply "any game."

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