Developed by Airtight Games, which includes much of the team behind Crimson Skies, Dark Void is an intriguing combination of air combat and on-foot third-person action. The game kicks off when the protagonist, cargo pilot Will, flies through the Bermuda Triangle and winds up in an alien dimension where he discovers a hostile race known as The Watchers, who are subjugating humans for various nefarious ends.
In addition to a range of traditional human and alien energy-based weapons, Will has a jetpack at his disposal that allows him to quickly traverse the Void. The area of the game we were privy to started out in some winding canyons that quickly opened up into a wider valley, where a dogfight between human and alien forces was taking place. Part of Will's wider objective was to infiltrate a nearby prison, presumably to rescue fellow humans; however, our immediate objective was to knock out nearby antiair batteries to allow friendly transports to drop troops at the entrance to the facility.
Though the jetpack has an attached gun, Will was a bit outgunned and underprotected against the AA guns. Thankfully, we were able to hijack a nearby UFO. To do so, we played a quick cat-and-mouse game with the flying saucer. Hanging on to it and jumping around caused the topside gun, manned by the pilot, to shoot at Will and, by extension, a control panel, which made it vulnerable. We then easily defeated it with a foot-stomp to the head. Once behind the wheel, or whatever control mechanism the alien craft used, we made quick work of the AA guns using the saucer's cannons.
The on-foot section of our preview started off outside a nearby hangar, and the Watchers weren't too happy we decided to pay them a surprise visit. Taking cover behind some crates, we started our advance inside with the help of some friendly troops. We didn't encounter much resistance at first, but we soon ran into a more-powerful hybrid alien that hovered above the ground and was equipped with a cybernetic tail with which it attacks if you get too close. Deciding to play it safe, we engaged in a bit of peek-a-boo to defeat him with our SMG while avoiding the blasts from his energy-based arsenal.
Working our way deeper into the prison, we soon got to the core of the facility. The core is a mostly vertical section, which we've previously seen examples of, that constantly fools with your sense of up and down. Advancing through the shaft, we took cover on either side of a series of sizable plates that were rotating around a central vertical shaft.
We eventually worked our way up the shaft by shooting past the aliens encamped on each level. However, the hardest obstacle we encountered wasn't the hostile aliens but rather operating Will's jetpack in close quarters. We had to become quick masters of switching between the pack's thrust and hover modes, because hitting any object while you're moving will cause instant death, and the "all or nothing" thrust needs some tweaking so that it doesn't punish you for trying to make progress. Reaching the top of the shaft, we had to destroy three control panels using a melee attack, thereby exposing the central power core. Lobbing a few grenades into it destabilised the core, which completed the mission objective and ended our demo. All up, the roughly 20-minute experience is approximately one-sixth of a full stage, we're told.
Dark Void is certainly looking crisp and vibrant, no doubt in part because of its use of the Unreal engine. The external natural environments were particularly impressive, with plenty of sharp textures on the canyon's rock faces, in addition to the vivid backdrop of a late-afternoon sun bursting through some giant clouds. This contrasts with the clean, sterile look of the advanced Watcher facility to good effect. It's not just the visuals that are getting a quality treatment either: the music of Dark Void is being arranged by Bear McCreary--the composer for TV's Battlestar Galactica.
Dark Void is heading to the PS3, Xbox 360, and PC later this year. Keep an eye out for our video interview with Morgan Gray in the coming days, as well as plenty more coverage from Captivate 09.