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Published: Saturday, 2/20/2010

Game Review: Dark Void***

Are you feeling a little grounded lately? Do you have a desire to soar dream-like above the shrinking earth, riding the wind like an eagle? Well strap yourself in, my friend, and let's take a look at Capcom's Dark Void, because, much like Red Bull, “it gives you wings!” Actually it gives you a jet pack, but who the heck wants wings anyway?

It seems most recently released games either start out with about four to six levels of easy game play to get the player acclimated to the controls, or they drop him right in the fray as a preview of what the game will soon offer. In Dark Void, it's the latter. From the jump you are thrown into an aerial battle with airplanes and UFOs. You will wish you had read the manual before popping in the disc.

At once you are disoriented, confused, and unprepared. After a few minutes to get your bearings, it becomes evident that you'll be pretty lucky to shoot down even one enemy UFO in this aerial dogfight.

You play the role of Will Grey, a talented pilot who was discharged from the military for insubordination. Now running a delivery service, Will is hired by a former fling to fly some cargo through the Bermuda Triangle. Of course we all know what happens next. The sky darkens, lightning flashes, some weird vortex tunnels appear and, bam, he's on a mysterious island. To be more precise, he's in The Void, a sort of layover dimension between our own reality and the world of an alien race known as The Watchers.

The Watchers are a grotesque, slug-like race whose science and technology advanced too quickly for their spirituality. Internal conflict arose and the race nearly extinguished itself. The remaining survivors used a wormhole-like portal known as The Void to find earth and start anew. Because of their advanced knowledge and technology, they were viewed by early Earthlings as gods, and so the Watchers forced the witless natives into a sort of ecclesiastical slavery. Eventually mankind forced the aliens back into the Void. They wait there still, patiently plotting their return.

Dark Void game play takes place in two distinct arenas, on the ground and in the air. But this is where one of the big problems with the game surfaces. The time in the air is fun and exhilarating. The time on the ground is, at best, mediocre. Aerial combat keeps you engrossed, unable to take your eyes from the screen. Taking down one of the Watcher's UFOs in a dogfight is next to perfection. You can even attempt a mid-air hijacking of one of their vehicles.

With the jet pack, you can either fly past enemies laying down some ground fire or you can hover and use your other weapons to take out Watchers. The back-and-forth between the two is where your true advantage lies.

Another cool feature to the jet pack is unlimited ammo, but you have to be flying to use the machine guns on the pack. Oh and don't forget to make sure you have a clear path before launching off. If not you will ricochet, pinball-style, from one obstacle to another until you are a pile of mush.

On the ground, however, the combat is dull: find cover, shoot, and advance on the enemy. Occasionally throw out a grenade when you run out of ammo. It's not new, it's not difficult, and it's certainly not rocket science.

For fire power, Will players can choose from a plethora of weapons with killer names like The Disintegrator, The Oppressor, and The Liberator. Most are impressive and generally get the job done with efficiency. But although all the artillery can be upgraded and enhanced, it's difficult to do. .

Visually the game is moderately well done. The mountains, valleys, trees, and rocks have a realistic if not mystical feel. Character rendering is adequate and the cut-scene animations leave a little to be desired. In the action, however, the game shines.

The audio was also well put together. The score reminds me of the B movies from the '60s or maybe even Johnny Quest. Gunfire and sound effects are crisp and hold a certain amount of realism. At least I think it's real, having no idea what a particle gun should sound like.

Fans of the third-person shooter platform will probably not get too excited about Dark Void because it just doesn't hold their attention. Fans of flight sims and aerial combat, however will find a game where the sky's the limit.



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