reviews\ Jan 17, 2010 at 7:00 pm

Dark Void - 360 - Review

Imagine the joy of being able to fly through the air with zero restrictions. Not as a bird and not within a plane, but as a human with nothing more than a jet air pack strapped to your back. Just think about the many advantages in combat: you could soar above enemies and swoop down for an attack when they least expect it.

A machine like that would be remarkable, provided that the FAA was given ample time to test, debug and re-test the jetpack until it could be used safely. No one should be allowed to control a device that will lead to their demise. If complete safety could not be achieved, however, a simple warning label might be enough to urge consumers to avoid flying through cramped environments.


But wait – it looks like someone has gone ahead and released the jetpack ahead of schedule. Despite a product delay last fall, the device is not quite user-ready. Looking at its potential, though, you might be tempted to throw caution to the wind and take the next flight out to the Bermuda Triangle (the only place where these jetpacks are found). But should you?

Trying Something New

As you are surely aware, the aforementioned jetpack comes from Dark Void – an action/flying game from Capcom and Airtight Games. The idea is simple enough: take the Gears of War brand of third-person shooting and merge it with a Boba Fett-approved jetpack. Toss in Vertical Combat (a new way to battle enemies while climbing platforms) and the ability to steal aircrafts while airborne and you’ve got a game with serious jaw-dropping potential.

Dark Void is great at living up to that potential in little ways. The first time you attack and destroy (or take over) an alien ship will be exhilarating. The first time you gun down a few cyborg alien creatures while hovering through the air will be amazing. Upon dropping through the first near-bottomless shaft, you will be awestruck by the sensation that comes with the fall – and feel your heart stop when you trigger the jetpack at the very last second. Vertical Combat, which allows you to jump up to platforms and hover under them to attack enemies while defying gravity, is really impressive during your first climb.

Basically, Dark Void is great at delivering memorable first-time experiences. The moments that follow, however, might leave you feeling like you’ve fallen into one great big hole – a void, if you will.

I know what you’re thinking: what are the droid spacecrafts from The Phantom Menace doing in Dark Void?

Like Late-Night Comedy at 10pm

Love him or loathe him, Jay Leno has millions of fans. But there’s a reason why NBC wants to move him away from primetime: no matter how you look at it, late-night comedy makes more sense when it’s aired late at night.

This game is weighed down by a similar problem. Though you’d think that flying should be reserved for wide-open spaces, Dark Void tells you to take off at 10p…uhh…when numerous barriers are in the way. As a result, the game is much more complex – really, more frustrating – than it ever had to be.

Mechanically, Dark Void is fairly polished. The X button serves as the jump key (hold it down to boost; release it to hover), while tapping the triangle button twice will launch into flying mode. Stealing spacecrafts – there aren’t many, unfortunately – is as easy is pressing the circle button when you encounter a ship. There’s a Simon Says-style mini-game that follows, but it’s the same process every time: hold the circle button until a part of the ship has been ripped apart, and flick the left thumbstick to kill the pilot.

These mechanics only suffer when the rest of the game is introduced, starting with the crowded environments. There isn’t much fun in flying – or even hovering – through a vertical structure that is too cramped to move through safely.

That, however, was not enough to stop a diligent player like myself, one who looks for any opportunity to take advantage of a game’s best features. When tall and narrow locations were too painful to climb up or hover through, I’d look for the clearest path and attempt to fly straight to the top. Eureka! Success!

Oh crap, what just happened to the frame rate? Why has the screen locked up? Why is the camera obstructed? Why is the game no longer seamless and exhilarating!?

To be clear, Dark Void is filled with bugs that can attack at any time, including one that locked my character, forced a reset and eliminated 40 minutes of game progress. Dropped frames, though atrocious and inexcusable, are the least of your problems.


Dark Void is a great concept. It attempted many different things, and while none of them worked out successfully, the game is still a thousand times more interesting than the average Gears of War clone. That doesn’t remove any of the flaws or raise its status to a “must-buy.” But you should play it once, if only to experience its incredible potential – and the amazing game it almost was.

Gameplay: 6
The generic Gears of War-style shooting is forgivable. But the countless technical problems all but destroy a game that had the potential to be something truly special.

Graphics: 5
How do you praise the visuals of a decent-looking game when the frame rate tanks so frequently?

Sound: 5
The semi-bland music barely stands out, and though the voice-overs are not as bad as they could have been, the word "overacting" easily comes to mind.

Difficulty: Easy/Medium
There may be intelligent life on other planets. But you won't find any within the Bermuda Triangle.

Concept: 7
This jetpack is a cool device with too many bugs.

Overall: 6
Dark Void can be summed up in just six words: so much potential, so much disappointment.

Above Average

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