You may not realize it just yet, but Capcom has high hopes for Dark Void and they fully plan to push this game very hard. You may have already seen some TV commercials and just as a frame of reference, when I got Resident Evil 5 for Christmas, I found a Dark Void insert advertisement inside the box. Furthermore, although they have significantly slashed their ambitious sales forecast for the promising title, the publisher still expects it to sell well…just not quite as well as their initial hope of 2 million copies. Lastly, they’ve got the now very-busy Nolan North voicing the main character, which always adds a definite dose of quality and flavor; this guy is guaranteed to get plenty of acting gigs in the industry from here on out. But the question is, are we looking at a title that has the requisite amount of refinement and polish? Can it compete with the other relatively big games of January to earn a place on the elite sales charts?
Well, if the playable demo is any indication, I’m going to say…maybe. The demo, which is now available to download on the Network and Marketplace, is brief but it does allow you to sample both aspects of the gameplay: combat in the air and on the ground. See, the big selling point for Dark Void – the one major element that separates it from any run-of-the-mill third-person shooter – is what developer Airtight Games has called “vertical battles.” This means you will face conflicts in mid-air thanks to your nifty futuristic jetpack that essentially turns you into a superhero. The jetpack affixed to your back allows you to boost, hover, roll, perform a variety of evasive maneuvers, and even fire upon both flying and stationary targets. When flying, bullets will fire from the top of the pack; when hovering, you’ll use whatever weapon you have equipped. This allows for a great deal of immediate diversity, especially because both gameplay elements appear to be fully realized.
You start with the flying part and although the aiming reticle did feel a touch too sensitive (you can alter it, of course, but even so), this was definitely the best part of the demo. The mechanics actually reminded me a bit of Warhawk as the controls were mostly accessible and responsive, and with the boost and rolling maneuvers, it really felt quite familiar. The frame rate didn’t stutter, either, and it was fun to zip around and experiment. I did feel a little susceptible, though, as you can sustain damage very quickly and I didn’t seem quite maneuverable enough to avoid an enemy directly behind me. But all in all, I was encouraged…until I landed and started playing the more standard third-person shooter part. On the ground, it’s not as impressive due to the very loose controls and guns that feel underpowered. When moving around inside some cramped hallways, I was forced to fight these alien-things that dropped from the ceiling and crawled along the floor. But they were very fast and the camera and controls went spastic down there.
At one point, when backed into a corner, the camera sat behind the wall, leaving me completely blind. And with the loose controls, it was difficult to deal with such enemies. Now, the rest of it seems fine; there’s your usual cover option that works decently enough, the enemies don’t appear to be stupid and the number of possibilities when combining flight and ground combat is almost limitless. The graphics aren’t all that impressive and besides Nolan North’s voice, I’m not sure there’s anything to get excited about concerning the sound and music, but remember, we’re only talking about a 10-minute demo. Dark Void does have a lot going for it but I’m thinking the loose controls during ground combat will really have a significantly negative effect on the overall experience. It’s worth downloading to see for yourself, though, so give it a shot if you’ve got the time. Just as a reminder, the game comes out this week.