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Game review: Dark Void

01 Mar 2010

Dark Void is the debut title of Airtight Games, a developer with immense talent at its disposal. Boasting the core of the team that developed the acclaimed Crimson Skies and recent signing coup Kim Swift of Portal fame, this is truly a developer to watch out for in the coming years. Or at least it should be. But if Dark Void is an accurate representation of this studio’s quality, then don’t expect them to last long.The storyline of Dark Void is difficult to grasp from the get-go. Set early in World War II, retired pilot Will Grey has traded in his regimental dress for a courier badge, his latest client being his ex-girlfriend Ava. Ava has contracted Will to deliver a package to an island within the Bermuda Triangle. Somewhere in between, Will falls through a gateway to another dimension known as The Void. The Void is inhabited by an alien race called The Watchers, who supposedly once ruled the earth and seem pretty fixated on doing so again. The only ones capable of stopping them is a group of other humans that have landed themselves inside The Void. Together with Nikola Tesla, a famous engineer and inventor of the radio, Will must harness The Watchers’ technology and make his way home.While it’s far-fetched by design, the storyline certainly provided a framework for some solid gameplay. Sadly though, the gameplay is just as monotonous as the story turns out to be. What was supposed to set Dark Void’s gameplay apart was the uninhibited use of a jetpack. And on this promise, Airtight certainly delivered; players can seamlessly switch between air and ground combat. This type of versatility is something fairly original, creating multiple ways in which objectives can be approached. The only problem here is that it’s completely pointless. If you’re facing fire on the ground and try to fly your way out of a sticky situation, the enemy on the ground will quickly and effortlessly shoot you down like a clay pigeon. Likewise, if players encounter fire from the sky, dropping to the ground is completely pointless as UFOs will make short work of sluggish land-lovers. Levels seem to be designed with either ground-based or aerial combat in mind, and going against the grain will make an already tiresome game all the more tiresome.That’s not to say that Dark Void doesn’t have its moments, because there are a few gems to be found. It’s just a shame that they happen so rarely, and by the time you realise you’re actually enjoying this sequence, it’s over and back to some more yawn-inducing busy work. Overall this title should clock in at about seven hours, but it’s going to feel plenty longer than that.Not looking out of place in this exhibition of mediocrity is the presentation. It seems that the team at Airtight Games hasn’t upskilled since the release of Crimson Skies, as the graphics certainly wouldn’t feel out of place on the original Xbox. Boring models combined with dull and unoriginal level design are disappointing. The setting is a parallel dimension! The options for level design are near endless, yet boring landscapes, each indistinguishable from the last, show some real lack of effort and originality. So it’s early 2010, and we already have one of the most disappointing titles of the year. There’s a ton of potential, some truly superb sequences, but it’s just a shame that they’re drowned out by seemingly endless periods of lifelessness. Factor in lacklustre presentation, an abysmal story and a price tag that is sheer extortion for the length, and you’ve got Dark Void. Thankfully for Airtight Games though, this one’s a title that no one will remember in three months’ time. Here’s hoping for a far better effort next time.