Developer: Airtight Games
System requirements: Windows XP/Vista/Win 7, Core 2 Duo E6600 2.4 GHz/Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core 3600+ or better CPU, GeForce 8800 GTS/Radeon HD 4830 512MB or better graphics card, 2 GB RAM, 10 GB hard-drive space
Genre: Action/third-person shooter
Release date: Available now
Something is consuming our universe, a vast and ancient force almost beyond our comprehension. Millions of years ago, minions who worshipped that power found their way to the third planet of an unremarkable yellow star…ours. The race they created came to call their masters The Watchers. For millennia we knew them as gods and we served their dark purposes, but a few of us developed extraordinary powers. They were known as the Adepts, and they rose up, banishing The Watchers into a parallel universe, where they’ve manipulated and schemed from afar. Until now.
In Dark Void you take the role of William Gray, a civilian pilot who’s flying through the Bermuda Triangle when he’s teleported to a world known as the Void, a middle ground between the Watchers’ world and Earth. Will joins a group of humans who call themselves the Survivors, who have escaped the Watchers and are fighting back. With the help of 20th-century scientist Nikola Tesla, Will uses retrofitted Watcher technology to combat the Watchers and tries to escape the Void.
One of the most novel parts of Dark Void involves using a rocket-powered jetpack. Initially you can do little more than hover and make jet-boosted leaps, but this also gives you a chance to improve your spatial awareness, as enemies can come from above or below. The jetpack also gives you the ability to zip to an enemy and deliver a powerful melee attack. In fact, a single melee attack can kill most common enemies faster than your guns. On the other hand, being in melee range also means that they can smash you with their gun butts or grab you and snap your neck if you’re not fast enough at mashing the controller button to escape their grip.
The shooting mechanics are fairly standard fare. Guns can be upgraded at certain locations with Tech Points, which you pick up after killing enemies. Any upgrades you purchase are applied to all weapons of that type; even if you drop your machine gun and pick up another from a fallen Survivor, it will have all of your upgrades. Also, after you beat the campaign, your upgrades carry over into a new game if you choose to start again. There are a total of six weapons plus your jet pack, which is armed with a pair of guns plus a limited supply of missiles. You don’t have a damage indicator; if you take too much damage, your vision becomes blurry until you’ve managed to find cover long enough to shake it off. Take too much more damage and you die and are sent to the last checkpoint you reached.
Another feature of the game is sticky cover. You die quickly if you don’t take advantage of cover, and in some sections there are vertical areas where taking cover means leaning over the edge of a platform or hanging below one and aiming upward. This is perhaps one of the most novel twists in the game, and you’ll appreciate it when you gain the rocket pack. With it you can take to the air at any time. If you don’t aim properly, taking off from the ground can send you careening back into the earth, or into the side of a cliff or other obstacle. You can also hijack alien vehicles, which involves a lot of dodging as the alien pilot attempts to shoot you off. Button-mashing maintains your grip when he tries evasive maneuvers to get rid of you.
Sadly, for a game that has so much potential, it falls short in many ways. It’s still a fun game, but there are a few places where it likes to crash to the desktop for no reason. If you can get past this, you discover that the single-player campaign is only eight to 10 hours long and there’s no multiplayer, which is too bad – jetpack races, anyone? The jetpack, when you are in an area where you can make full use of it, is great fun (dogfighting with alien fighters and making incredible acrobatic maneuvers), but there are long sections where fully powered flight simply isn’t possible, if only because you bounce off so many obstacles that the collisions kill you. The thrills are in there, but you’ll have to go through a lot to find them.