Micro-Verdict: Dark Void Impressions

By RPS on January 28th, 2010 at 5:18 pm.

WHERE'S MY JETPACK!??!?!
We were planning to do a Wot I Think for Airtight Game’s retro-sci-fi shooter. Except none of us could bring ourselves to bear persisting with it. So, in lieu of a proper review, we all got together and had a chin wag about what we made of it. And made jokes, as is our wont.

Kieron: Okay – as we start, can I just check something. Is this the company which Kim Swift has left Valve to join?
Alec: Yes.
Kieron: Crikey. Kim.
Alec: My palm keeps trying to stick itself to my face. I’m not sure why.
Alec: None of us have played much of it yet, right? Clearly, because it was just too thrilling to bear, and we all needed a lie down afterwards.
Kieron: I admit, I have trouble believing I’m ever going to be able to go back to it. It was just that much
Alec: My brain exploded in delight after about that long too, so I can never play it again.
Kieron: I’d just killed the first big baddy thingy. Well, it wasn’t that big. The scaraby-thing.
John: I got about an hour and a bit in… Right, so what were people’s first impressions?
Kieron: Oh, Capcom. I love you and your very long cut-scenes.
John: Blimey, they were boring cutscenes too. I think at one point the camera drifted through a stationary scene for 30 seconds.
Alec: My first impressions were that someone had played Uncharted and, shortly afterwards, that when they’d been told to design a jetpack, for some reason they’d heard “broken scooter”
John: Yes – it’s very odd. An opening scene of your jet pack presumably in full effect, where you have to not fight some blue spaceships.
Kieron: I died in the opening scene when I flew into a wall at high speed and then had to do that whole boring tutorial again.
Alec: I interviewed one of the devs a while back, who said story had been a secondary concern to the combat design et al.
Kieron: I think story wasn’t the only secondary concern
Alec: Which immediately made me worry it was a Mirror’s Edge situation… though I had at least hoped that meant they’d have got the jetpackery absolutely right. They really hadn’t.
Kieron: Okay – probably worth doing a quick paragraph on the game before we go any further. It’s a retro-30s/40s setting ala Crimson Skies. You play a dude with a jetpack. It’s a third-person shooter. Sometimes you fly about. Sometimes you run about. Sometimes you do sort of both. It’s quite Gears of Wars, in terms of liking its cover. It differs from Gears of War, because occasionally you do the cover-thing vertically. As in, you’re going down a wall, or up a wall. And hiding behind a ledge. Right – that should be enough. You get it. It’s not rocket-pack science.

They have jet packs too. The basts..

Alec: It’s A Capcom Shooter – there’s definitely some Lost Planet in there.
John: It seemed very Halo 3.
John: The following scenes shooting the baddie robots seemed fine to me. I began to wonder if the complaints were overblown but then I fell off my first cliff and had to run around again. And then it seemed to enter a loop for about half an hour. It doesn’t seem to have anything interesting to say before it gives you your jetpack.
Alec: I like the way it sort of lets you jump onto bits of level you’re not supposed to jump onto. And then makes you very slowly slide back down to the ground.
Kieron: That amused me. When it wants you to be able to go up a wall, you go to a pre-defined ledge. Except often you just have something higher than you, and you can’t use it to get up. It just isn’t very good at coherency.
Alec: Yeah, they seem conscious that invisible walls are bad, so they’ve just made everything very narrow and slippy instead
John: Oh boy, the untouchable crates on the dangly boat.
Kieron: Oh, let’s do the Dangly boat
Oh, that tesla. He gets around.
John: Well, let’s go in order… .You get given your jetpack.
Kieron: I stress a jetpack
John: And this lets you kind of hover, must mostly drift downwards. It’s not The Rocketeer, firing off into the sky.
Alec: This being a pack that you put on your back, in order that you might jet through the skies. The jetpack can be ugrpaded later, it’s worth stressing… but I don’t know to what extent
John: Presumably to the point where you can fly about, cornering like an ocean liner, as with the beginning of the game.
Alec: As A Taste Of What’s To Come, it’s hilariously ill-judged
Kieron: Yeah – use the joypad. It’s better
John: I did!
Kieron: However, we’re getting distracted
John: Right, so you hover about, flying up suddenly if the surface above allows a button press, shoot 800 million of the identical enemies, and then reach the dangly boat.
Kieron: This level consists of a ship, hanging off a cliff. So this is vertical.
John: As a platform level, it would be a great idea.
Kieron: Fantastic
Kieron: You’re making your way up, and bits are falling off. Tension! Excitements! But… if you fall off… you can activate your jetpack. And just float down
John: Float gently down to safety.
Kieron: Until you hit the bottom of the skybox, where you die.
Alec: WHA…
Kieron: YES!
Kieron: I actually found a ledge to stand on. And sat there for ages, trying to work a way up. There wasn’t one, so I jumped to my death again
John: Heh, yes, one time I explored a ledge next to a cliff, and stood on it for one second, then was politely informed I had failed the mission.
Alec: I’d love to see their jetpack design document…

1) Have guns
2) Have jet animation.

Any other business? No? Great! It’s a lock!
Kieron: Maybe they started googling up pictures of the British 90s Gladiator and got distracted?
The vertical combat, shown horizontally. It's the future, probably.
Kieron: Anyway – the other thing about that level, was that it highlighted how the vertical combat thing didn’t quite work. While abstractly it’s exciting, in practice, you end up with both you and the people you’re fighting on the same bit of cover. Since most platforms are quite thin, It basically looks like a Naked-gun esque gun-fight, with two people on either side of a bin, trying to shoot at one another. And if enemies are too far to the left or the right on the vertical climb, they’re not very good at realising they should shoot at you
Alec: I like to think of that as a metaphor for the game itself; something that knows what it’s supposed to do, but not how to do it
John: Indeed, by the time you and the enemies are clinging onto ledges, you’re basically playing horizontally again anyway.
Kieron: Yeah. There is that.
Alec: They tried to dial down the important of vertical cover in the marketing. At one point it was the settling point, before someone presumably pointed out that being able to shoot up as well as left just isn’t that exciting.
John: The other thing that made me sad, especially during the perfectly decent Find Cover, Shoot Enemy sequences, was how many bullets the basic enemy took to bring down. It was entire clips, sometimes more, Which made me feel powerless.
Kieron: Headshots made it a bit better, but it was a bit… fluffy The robots were odd – how they were introduced as breaking some guy’s neck mercilessly… and then they’re just metal goons who don’t even give good barks when you’re fighting them.
Alec: yeah, I tried to get close to them to make them break my neck. Instead they just did this sort of half-hearted riverdance at me and shot my ear a bit.
Kieron: Regarding the marketing… well, the marketing speak seems hilarious. You seen the wikipedia page? This bit…

“The game also features “tactical freedom”, which is different ways of achieving the same goal. For instance, in the game, the player must take down an Archon, a large robotic enemy manned by a Watcher. The first way to take it down is by shooting its leg joints, rendering the giant incapacitated. Once this is done, the player must climb onto the Archon’s tail, triggering a mini-game, and fight the Watcher that’s controlling it. A different way of accomplishing all this is by hijacking an enemy UFO and blasting the Archon with the ship’s cannons until it explodes.”

Christ. Deus Ex eat your heart out.

Alec: So, waittaminnit: I could shoot its legs OR I could shoot it until it explodes? My brain can’t handle that kind of choice.
John: I’m frightened.
Kieron: We live in the future Warren Spector dreamed of. We must retire, and give up our mantles to a next generation of smarter, faster gamers
Alec: The legs… or until it explodes. Man!

Spoilers: You can shoot its legs... or shoot it in the head until it explodes.

John: So no, I don’t feel like going back to find out if it improves.
Kieron: Me neither. I deleted it for HD space after my time with it.
John: I thought I was going to. I thought it was fine for a bit, but then it just irritated me and then I switched it off.
Alec: To be honest – I don’t think it’s apocalyptically awful. If I wasn’t about to play Mass Effect 2 and Bioshock 2 and AvP and and and over the coming weeks, I’m sure I could survive a few nights with it without too much mental scarring. But what kept flickering across my mind was “why?”. There was just no purpose to it. It didn’t seem to have will or enthusiasm even for its own gimmicks. I don’t understand why it’s been made.
Kieron: Hmm. I suspect I may dislike it more than you two. I wouldn’t say apocalyptically awful, but it’s pretty damn awful. From the time with it, worse than Lost Planet. It’s 3/10 to Lost Planet’s 5/10. Though you did think Lost Planet was a 7/10, so maybe 5/10 is right for you.
Alec: Lost Planet at least looked nice. I wouldn’t recognise a screenshot of this if the jetpack wasn’t in it
Alec: My hope is that they’ve just made a theoretically super-commercial quickie to help fund something more interesting, and that’s why a major Valve alumni’s joined this otherwise troubling studio. But it could be they just waved an enormous cheque.
John: I’d say 5/10…. we’re giving it a score!
Alec: I think it’s 215 Geralds out of Dave.
John: Fair enough. Also, none of us played it for more than an hour.
Kieron: Actually, I played for 2.3 hours
Alec: I’m sure you were alt-tabbed and whining at me about it for some of that time though
John: 1.4 hours for me.
Kieron: Pah.

RPS Verdict: We haven’t played it long enough to give a verdict. None of us want to. That’s probably a verdict in and of itself, eh?

Dave Tosser says: I quite liked it actually. In fact real jetpacks only last around 3 minutes before running out of fuel, so I found the crippling limitations on flight quite satisfying. And occasionally you can’t do things for no reason in real life. It’s a metaphor for humanity. And money is nice. I… where am I? Why are my hands red? What’s that flashing blue light?

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56 Comments »

  1. Ian says:

    Is Dave Tosser dying?

    Also: Love Jet. More Jet links are welcome.

  2. Heliosicle says:

    I was kinda looking forward to this, then I tried the demo and just left it as a game I might try in a year or so when I’m bored..

    Also, I just realised dave tosser is a mashup of all 4 of your faces! Fail on me for taking so long.

  3. jsutcliffe says:

    Has anyone ever done a side-scrolling shooter where you’re a dude with a jetpack not a spaceship or bee? I would like that.

  4. nabeel says:

    I’m not really that interested in Dark Void, but the little retro spinoff game Dark Void Zero looks cool (for the DSi and PC). Anyone gonna do a micro-verdict/wot u think on that?

  5. Javier-de-Ass says:

    only finished the first chapter myself so far. it got a lot more exciting towards the end of the chapter. and I think whenever I get back to it, the game will be a lot more fun as it was beginning to open up more (I think? maybe?). the vertical parts are really fucked, view is all warped aswell.

    I liked the part from the demo, but not in the demo, in the actual game. where you’re taking out the two floating station things to disable the shield before the walker mech fight part. because you could just zoom right up and down and disable them with the jetpack. no vertical climbing required, with some luck. although it’s too bad you die instantly if you touch anything while flying like that hehe but taking out both of those in a few seconds total (and a couple of deaths) was great

  6. Psychopomp says:

    A score? RPS HAS SOLD OUT TO THE EVIL CORPORATIONS

    • JonFitt says:

      I know! What is an OutOfTen??? OutOfTen makes no sense!
      Express this in Cybertronian digits immediately!

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      @Jonfitt

      I believe the score was basically Optimus waving us away, then flipping us off because we didn’t stop asking what he thought.

  7. Martin Edelius says:

    This got boring fast.

    The game, not the verdict…

  8. CMaster says:

    I have a feeling that the vertical ship level was the eurogamer demo.
    Fuck me it was awful.

  9. Web Cole says:

    Oh dear MR Tosser, what have you done?

  10. Taillefer says:

    “I’ll give you a choice. I can shoot you in the legs… or until you explode”
    Would make some of the best dialogue ever. I hope that’s in Mass Effect 2.

    • Jesse says:

      “I’ll give you a choice. I can shoot you in the legs… or until you explode.” I hope so too! If not…

      A new concept for DLC: forget mission packs and extra characters, I want to see the Inappropriate Dialogue Pack.

    • JonFitt says:

      It sounds like the only thing they are missing is a way to cause massive damage.

  11. Pace says:

    Well, on the bright side, the game did give rise to this entertaining verdict, so, that’s something. This sort of thing should be a regular feature, like a Mystery Science Theater 3000 of video games.

  12. mandrill says:

    Awful, awful game. I’m surprised you even wasted your time on this hackneyed console port. The way it would seemingly randomly change which buttons you had press (if you were using a keyboard and mouse) to get past the quicktime events (Earth shakes while you are hanging off a cliff and you fall to your death) bugged me so much I uninstalled it.

    Why is it games like this make it through the developement process when so many others which may be a whole lot better, don’t? This game was a waste of talented people’s time and energy, and they should be punished for making it.

    tl;dr: Don’t bother. Its a bit shit.

  13. Darkelp says:

    I have no real interest in this game, but I feel that a micro-verdict destroying a game is something I wish to see more of.

    Yes.

  14. qrter says:

    Just today I was wondering why you never did those we-all-talk-at-once things on games anymore. I like these a lot more than those Wot I Thinks (or ‘more regular reviews’, as they’re commonly known), they have more of RPS’ character.

  15. solipsistnation says:

    Ugh, that’s unfortunate. I was kind of looking forward to that.

  16. Jason says:

    Apologies if this has been asked before but if you guys actually sit around a discuss a game then maybe for an especially worthy game you could do that for the podcast?

    • Larington says:

      Pretty sure half the team are up north(ish) whilst the other half are nearer London town, so getting all four in a room together is tricky for a podcast.

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      @Jason

      Well rather than meeting in the same room, they could feasibly use a recorder box and call each other and recordify the speech text languages and then use the internet’s series of tubes to make it into a cohesive strategem about talking about games.

      Something something.

      Actually I think they do that already.

    • El Stevo says:

      @Larington:

      Kieron and Alec are in London, Jim and John are in Bath, which is about 100 miles east of London (it’s roughly the same latitude).

    • El Stevo says:

      @Larington:

      I meant west of course. They’re not in the Channel.

  17. Larington says:

    ’tis most curious that you thought it was similar to several things at the same time, almost as though the content of the game had been decided by suits, rather than actual designers & developers.

  18. Brumisator says:

    I shamelessly pirated this game, installed it, played it for 15 minutes, some flying, some shooting.
    Exited the game, uninstalled it, deleted the ISO, burned it’s effigy at the stake and sacrificed a goat so it could never come back to haunt me.

    That’s how bad it is.

  19. ZIGS says:

    Piracy: saving us from making purchases we’d regret later since the dawn of PC gaming

  20. Jezebeau says:

    Why would you use guns to shoot the robots when you can just punch them to death?

    • Noc says:

      Well, from the looks of things, shooting things leads to them blowing up.

      Why would you punch the robots to death when you can blow them up?

  21. A-Scale says:

    That’s a big shame. I love anything Tesla related, and the jetpack and robomonsters just made it look fun. However, I had a fishy feeling about it from the start just because the levels looked so barren. Farewell, Darkest of Voids.

  22. Adrian says:

    Wow i didn’t expect for this game to get such bad reviews. the first half hour is… well not bad but lets say it gets boring after 10 minutes. but then you get the upgraded jet pack and you have to take out some generators and gunships in a big canyon and that level actually pretty blew me away. the flying controls are a bit slow but you get used to it quickly and i thought they actually did a good job in the jet pack…

    i would suggest to anyone to try the game and wait with judgment until you get the upgraded jet pack.

  23. Dominic White says:

    I’ve had to reiterate this in every thread, but this isn’t a Capcom game. It was made by the studio behind the (remarkably great) Crimson Skies remake/sequel/whatever on the original Xbox.

    And it was also shaping up so badly that even before its release, Capcom announced that they were going to be giving up working with western studios like this in favour of just doing everything in-house from now on. Can’t say I blame them.

    Seriously, Capcom were washing their hands of this one (even though they’re the publisher) before it was even released.

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