by Blackened Beans
previewed on PC
Jetpacks are awesome. I am not sure why it took this long for someone to figure this out, but flying through the sky at top speeds with nothing but a jet of flame streaming from your backpack is -for some reason- that much better than doing so in an airplane. Combine jetpacks with aliens, spaceship hijacking and on-foot shooting and you have got a recipe for success. And this is what makes Dark Void, Capcom’s upcoming aerial shooter, so incredibly cool. Sure, it is a bit gimmicky but the concept is something that should have been done in a third-person-shooter a long time ago. In fact, someone did, but I can assure you that Dark Void is no remake of 1992’s The Rocketeer.
The game sees you playing as cargo pilot named Will. Will has the ultimate ‘bad hair day’ when his plane gets sucked into an alien vortex that takes him to a parallel universe. He quickly finds himself fighting The Watchers, an alien race once revered as Gods in our own universe. Their own evil deeds got them banished millennia ago and all that time they were working on their return. That day is close and The Watchers are about to thrust their considerable might against the little blue planet that we call home.
Will is not alone in his struggle. Other human survivors exist in the void. He teams up with these other unfortunates, trying to do as much damage as he can while trying to find a way back to his own dimension.
I feel like flying
Will has the ability to hijack Watcher ships by performing small button-matching events, reminiscent of God of War. Hijacking is by no means easy, especially not since you will be performing this action in mid-air. Worse, you will often find yourself fired at by the saucer’s current occupant who will stop at nothing to prevent you from gaining access to his raft. Once captured, Will can pilot ships about, using them to destroy other ships more easily than he would with his jetpack and weapons. It is an interesting mechanic and I am excited to see how it turns out in the full game. Of course, spaceship hijacking still takes a back seat to the jetpack flying, which is the game’s main feature. Using the jetpack, you can lift off the ground at any time and attack enemies from afar, as well as the enemies that look to be flying about in the sky.
On-foot, Dark Void plays like many other third-person-shooters. It utilizes a cover system that works much like the cover system in Gears of War. Will can ‘blind fire’ safely from behind objects but really, there is no glory in such cowardice. It is clear that the developers have intended players to use the game’s over-the-shoulder view to aim and blast baddies off their socks or out of the skies. There is very little here that we haven’t seen before but combined with the jetpack combat, spaceship hijacking and all the cool alien weapons present in the game, there is enough to like.
Dark Void certainly looks pretty. Besides the obligatory crispy textures and lighting, the game sports some of the most unique environments and artwork that I have seen. It is easy to see influences from Sci-Fi universes such as Star Wars and Star Gate, but with a much darker premise. Environments range from forested areas to metallic, ominous looking alien cities that are just begging to be explored and its inhabitants exterminated. Further strengthening the feeling of dread is the game’s music which is arranged by Bear McCreary who was also the composer for Battlestar Galactica.
My only concern is that flying around on a jetpack isn’t likely to sustain the whole game. It is difficult not to wonder aloud about what other gameplay mechanics will be implemented in order to deepen the gameplay experience. Perhaps there will be a good variety of on-foot sections, or perhaps the game will just be doomed to repetition. But of course, that could be said for any game. It is commendable that Dark Void’s developers are attempting something new and the chances are that some minor repetition issues will be offset positively by the fact that we have this cool new toy on our backs, zooming through the air like a bird on steroids.