by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Deep Black: Reloaded is a futuristic third person shooter in a world that sees water as a major resource. Gamers take on the role of Syrus Pierce, a retired mercenary who is brought out of retirement by the news from his old commanding officer that members of a research team have been taken hostage by a terrorist group. It is then up to you, as Pierce, to take on the terrorists and free the hostages, apparently all the while underwater.
Unfortunately, for a game that is touted to be an underwater shooter, there is actually little game play involved underwater. Yes, the early levels do show you some of the nice underwater features, but as you progress there are more and more sections where you barely touch the water. And when you do, it’s usually when a quick time action is required against an angry robotic device, or to use your harpoon on a switch to open locked gates. The basis for a cool underwater game is there, but it just hasn’t been executed fully, and ultimately becomes just an ordinary shooter
It doesn’t help that the AI is totally inadequate. Sure, they hide behind barriers when they see you coming, but that’s about the end of their abilities. As you enter various areas and use the cover system, often enemy units will mention to their comrades that Pierce is hidden behind cover. But what do they do after they’ve said that? That’s right…on many occasions they’ll leave their covered position, and walk right towards you and certain death. Others will hide behind barriers with their extremities exposed. Legs can easily be shot, or the top of their heads will appear over the top of barriers, providing a nice target. Oh, and it doesn’t seem to matter what part of the body they get shot in, it still seems to take the same amount of hits to kill them. One (or two) headshots aren’t enough to bring these bad boys down.
The controls don’t help either. The main controls are fairly straightforward, operating on a similar basis to standard shooters. The three dimensional underwater movements are done well, but where Deep Black struggles is the smoothness of moving around the areas above ground. The cover system works, but moving around whilst in cover is horrendous. And because of the linearity of the game, it means that each and every enemy has to be taken down – there’s no running past oblivious guards. The lack of weapon variation may also discourage avid shooter fans. There are some nice underwater gadgets such as the underwater jetpack and harpoon, but like so many of the semi-unique features of Deep Black: Reloaded, they are underutilized.
Audio is fairly disappointing too. The sound effects are standard fare for a shooting game, with the usual weapon discharge effects and the dying groans of the diminished foes. The water based sound effects are reasonable, with the gurgling of the water as you pass through the underwater passages. I’m not sure what to make of the voice acting. The main characters are so stereotypical. The main character Syrus Pierce is your typical hero…with all the macho dialogue. His superior, General Jack Sterling is the typical gruff hardened army sergeant, who requires his commands to be carried out without question. Although their dialogue and accents are clichéd, they work reasonably well. The same cannot be said for Pierce’s female contact. She is voiced in such a fashion that it is difficult to tell where she is supposed to hail from. Her dialogue certainly doesn’t help. At times I wasn’t sure whether to laugh at how silly the conversation sounded, or cringe at the sexual innuendo.
The background music isn’t too bad though. Again it plays its part without doing anything out of the ordinary. It is unobtrusive for the most part, but picks up at times, giving an indication that something dramatic is about to happen.
Despite the issues with the audio, the aesthetics are surprisingly good. The character models do a reasonable job and the backgrounds set the scene nicely. The claustrophobic corridors increase the tension, whilst the murky water and underwater rocky outcrops give the sense that something is likely to spring out at any moment. The shimmering view as you see the lights on your ascent out of the water is a lovely view. The on-screen displays too, are clear and easy to understand. I particularly liked the visual display of blood splotches over the screen to indicate damage taken. As Pierce heals, the blood fades. Of course, visual indicators have been used in other games, but Deep Black: Reloaded does it nicely as well.
Plunging the depths
With around eight hours gameplay, and mediocre gameplay at that, the main campaign is rather short. The linearity certainly doesn’t help to increase the replay factor. The multiplayer may keep gamers interested for a while longer, but at the time of writing, it was often difficult to find players to play against (especially in my time zone). And although the visuals are nice, the controls, mediocre AI and audio mean that the game does not fully reach its potential. The fact that most of the action sequences take place above water further enhances the feeling that Deep Black: Reloaded is a lost opportunity. The idea was there, but just hasn’t been executed well at all.
Visuals are nice, especially the water effects
Game is a very linear shooter. Water areas are underutilized.