Dark Void is one of the many high-profile games to have its release delayed from this holiday season to early 2010. And while that alone may cause Dark Void to feel like part of a larger trend, it doesn't mean this Capcom-published action game is just another face in the crowd. One thing we've noticed every time we've seen Dark Void is, in terms of gameplay, you can't compare it to a whole lot of titles. Capcom playfully describes it as "a game about a guy with a jetpack," but if you want to be more accurate, you'd call it "a game about a guy with a jetpack, guns that shoot lightning, guns that don't shoot lightning, the ability to hijack UFOs in midair, and fists that can kill a robot in a single punch." After last checking out Dark Void at GamesCom this past August, we've recently been able to play through a new mission from a nearly complete build of the game.
The mission we played this time shed some light on the story, which we've heard little about aside from the general backstory. Will, Dark Void's main character, is a cargo pilot who's been swept away to an alien world called the Void after a delivery that sent him on a course through the Bermuda Triangle went awry. He's now found himself in a strange world inhabited by a race of robotic aliens called Watchers. Thankfully, he's not the only human in the Void. The trace of humanity that occupies this world has formed a resistance movement aided by none other than Nikola Tesla, who's designed the jetpack and weaponry Will uses to fight the Watchers.
However, Tesla has also designed a rescue ship called the Ark that he's created in hopes of providing a getaway vehicle for humanity to escape the Void. Naturally, the Watchers aren't keen on letting their new friends leave so easily, so they've taken to staging an all-out assault on the Ark. That's when we came into the picture. The new mission began just as the Watchers started attacking the Ark, and it was our immediate job to jump into a Tesla-designed aircraft to fight off the Watchers.
The flight combat is done very well, which is no great surprise considering the fact that Dark Void is the product of Crimson Skies developer Airtight Games. The aircraft controls are fairly elaborate with functions that extend beyond merely turning and shooting (lock-on, quick 180, air brake, and the like), but they're pretty forgiving in the types of maneuvers you can do in the air. But what makes Dark Void unique is that Will can hop out of the aircraft after it's taken too much damage and either zip around with his jetpack using shoulder-mounted guns for defense or cruise up to another enemy vessel and hijack it out of the sky. The latter option looks slick but proves to be a little tricky the first few times because of how much those Watcher pilots fight back.
After clearing the skies of Watcher aircrafts, a Watcher dropship rolled in and let loose a flood of on-foot enemies. Ground combat feels a lot like Uncharted, or a much faster-paced Gears of War, with its third-person shooting and a focus on cover techniques. While there are a variety of alien guns and grenades to use that affect your robotic enemies in different ways, our personal favorite technique was simply charging at the Watchers and killing them with our bare hands. The melee combat system is pretty simple (just hit B or circle), but the animations of Will punching a robot to death--or knocking it down and firing a single deadly shot to its face--are quite satisfying.
The latter stages of this mission required us to find a lighting gun hidden in one of Tesla's hideouts in the cliffs and acquire a lightning gun, which we used to recharge the four power generators on the exterior of the Ark before it could take off. But just as we did that, three archons came into the picture. These animal-type units are like giant, robotic beasts that fire powerful energy blasts from their heads. To keep them from destroying the Ark, we had to take on all three of them, which proved to be quite a gauntlet. Fighting each one was like fighting a boss battle, complete with elaborate quick-time event sequences. We managed to die a few times while crawling up on their faces and getting caught in a blinding beam of energy, but we stuck to it and proved victorious. That theme of sticking to it is one that's likely to be echoed when Dark Void is released. With three distinct gameplay types, you'll seriously need to get used to Dark Void's control scheme. When you combine that with a difficulty level that skews toward challenging, you've got a game that takes a good bit of getting used to, but one that's proven fun after we crossed that hurdle. You can expect to see Dark Void released on January 12.