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Dark Void - PS3 - Preview

E3 2009 PreviewE3 2008 GameZone Previews

At last year’s E3, you couldn’t stop by Capcom’s booth without being consumed by Resident Evil 5, Street Fighter IV and a duo of Bionic Commando games. They were the leaders, no question. But behind those kiosks (and arcade cabinets, in the case of SFIV) was a hugely promising – and completely unexpected – third-person shooter that could be the start of a new franchise: Dark Void. Developed with a mix of traditional over-the-shoulder gunplay, duck-and-cover maneuvers and a set of aerial moves that are unlike anything competing shooters have attempted, Dark Void was a surprise showstopper.

This year, with the August release date finally approaching, Dark Void has come back to Capcom’s E3 booth. Taking a quick glance at the game now, it is clear that the developers have made great progress in the last 11 months. Graphic improvements are instantly apparent – the characters and backgrounds are more detailed and the frame rate is finally approaching that steady, release-ready quality a shooter needs before it can be shipped.

Dark Void Screenshot

Better yet, the gameplay has gone from cool and promising to flat-out amazing. Whereas the controls were merely good before, this year, the flying mechanics are absolutely stellar. With the press of a button, players can leap into the air and immediately start flying. This is done by tapping the Y button twice; initially, you only had to press it once, but the developers changed it when they realized that players may accidentally bump it and lift off when they don’t want to. By forcing you to press it twice, the jetpack is much less likely to ignite by mistake.

Once in the air, Dark Void is like skydiving meets flight/combat. Pushed through the air at breathtaking speeds, you can soar infinitely, just like a plane. Naturally, when one portion of a game is seamless, players are tempted to experiment with the controls. Without even thinking, you’ll want to fly in circles, soar straight up and dive to the ground. While doing this, another one of the game’s accomplishments becomes apparent: the camera is excellent. It would be horribly painful to list the number of flight/combat games with screwy cameras. Most of them don’t let you fly wherever you want, whenever you want, without thinking or caring about what you’re doing. But Dark Void does. No, it isn’t exactly a flight/combat game, but that’s certainly where some of the inspiration came from.

Dark Void Screenshot

You’ll see more of that inspiration when taking control of a UFO. This feature was shown last year at E3, and like the rest of the mechanics, it has been refined to produce a vastly superior experience. In short, when you approach a UFO, you can hop on, highjack it, and control it as your own. Incredibly, these controls are drastically different from the rest of the game. UFOs feel bigger, sturdier, but also control with less precision. It feels more like a standard flight/combat game, albeit without the pitfalls of most flight/combat games.

One of the things that Dark Void’s developers want to stress is that the game features both vertical up and vertical down combat. For those of you who are unaware, vertical up combat is where you can climb up the side of a building (or the side of a mountain or any other steep area the game deems worthy) and jump into a gunfight. It’s a gravity-defying move that’s made possible with the power of your jetpack. And it looks and plays so much cooler than these words could ever describe.

On the player’s side, getting into vertical up mode is as easy as pressing one button. The camera changes view and you are now looking up at the structure. You can duck behind objects and fire aimlessly, or take a risk, come out of cover and directly attack the enemy.

Dark Void also features vertical down combat, which is essentially the opposite of vertical up combat. Now you can defy gravity from the other direction and attack enemies as they invade from underneath your location.

Flying into stores in just a few months, Dark Void’s unique take on third-person shooting guarantees that it’s a game you’ll want to keep an eye on.
 

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