Dark Void Preview

We fly into the void with an Xbox 360 build of Capcom’s jet-powered action-adventure.

By Edwin Evans-Thirlwell, December 8, 2009

Watcher ships have a glaring weakness to QTEs.

Watcher ships have a glaring weakness to QTEs.

The shift from third-person gunner to flight sim – and thus from dual stick move/look-aim control to left-stick throttle – is no way near as jarring as it should be, but the dogfighting feels quite characterless in comparison to Incognito’s Warhawk, whose chunky, steampunk aesthetics are definitely part of Dark Void’s genetic code. There are practical issues too. Sky glare often blots out lock-on indicators and with them the difference between friend and foe. Special manoeuvres are a nuisance to implement, requiring you hold-click right stick and flick both sticks simultaneously.

Then there’s the deceptively interesting-sounding “vertical cover” system, in which you lock to platforms to dodge fire from above or below and boost-leap from one to the other in pursuit of an unguarded flank. This is exciting for all of the two seconds it takes you to realise you’re playing an extremely rigid, scripted version of Gears of War tipped over by 90 degrees, and merely diverting thereafter.

Hide and peek-shoot down the Y-axis.

Hide and peek-shoot down the Y-axis.

While each of the three gameplay styles has its black marks, the sum of their parts can be quite entertaining, and Airtight plainly knows this. The best missions in the game so far are those which oblige you to oscillate between full flight, hover mode and cover-shooting on the go. A few hours long of the title roll, Will (plus Survivor entourage) must blitz the AA turrets surrounding a gargantuan Watcher prison, then mount a top-down assault on the interior, variously hugging platforms and gliding, bazooka in hand, across cavernous turbine chambers. After busting out the incarcerated, there are wave-defence thrills to be had in the hangers before evac arrives.

Ultimately, however, the merger isn’t quite accomplished enough to prevent each mechanical subsystem from being considered on its own, decidedly ambivalent merits. As a dog-fighter, Dark Void can’t hold a candle to Ace Combat’s exhaust; as a third-person shooter, it’s a feeble riposte to Naughty Dog’s haymaker. And then there are those horrendous visuals to think of.

Nevertheless, this is likely to be a far better game than its graveyard release slot may suggest. After an indecisive gestation period, Dark Void is finally putting its best foot forward – the one with rockets strapped to it.

Dark Void is due out for PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on 12th January 2010 in North America, and 15th January in Europe.

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