About a month and a half ago, we brought you our first look at Capcom's upcoming Dark Void. It's a game that combines third-person action with a focus on cover mechanics, some platforming segments that distort your perspective by forcing you into vertical combat, and a heavy amount of good, old-fashioned midair dogfighting. With E3 2008 in full swing, we just had the opportunity to get our first hands-on sessions with the game.
Our demo began with a brief introduction to the protagonist, a cargo pilot named Will who recently took a flight over the Bermuda Triangle. And as so many flights over the Bermuda Triangle go, this one didn't turn out well. Will has been transported to an alternate dimension known as The Void. It's here where Will has do take arms against a rather unfriendly race of aliens known as Watchers.
At first glance, Dark Void looks like a third-person shooter with a retro-but-high-tech visual aesthetic similar to The Rocketeer--right down to the rocket pack strapped to Will's back. And for a bit, the game does play like a straightforward shooter. Will can run and gun, take cover, lean out to deliver a precision shot, and deliver melee attacks at close range with the butt of his guns. Those weapons include a machine gun, what appears to be a plasma rifle, and a host of other guns you can lift from the fallen remains of enemies.
But relatively soon into the demo, we were introduced to a few other techniques besides "aim-shoot-repeat." For one, there's the aforementioned rocket pack. At first, Will has the ability to hover over short distances with his rocket pack. When we got to a gap in the bridge of the level--an outdoor area under the shadow of a rocky cliff, overlooking a strangely empty abyss--we hit the rocket pack button to boost over the gap. This option plays into combat by giving you the ability to stay back and pick off enemies or fly over to them for some hand-to-hand fighting. Later on, you can upgrade your rocket pack to full-on flight mode. There's no fuel resource to tell you how long to fly, either; you can stay airborne for as long as you can avoid getting shot out of the sky.
Once we made our way to the base of the cliff, we saw a popup telling us to hit the X button. We obediently complied and were met with a visual of Will leaping up to grab the nearest available chunk of rock protruding from the cliff. Accompanying this action was a camera pan that, instead of showing Will from behind, moved underneath Will with a vertical view up the face of the cliff. Will continues to hold on to the grip, but with his other hand you can aim at enemies up the cliff. The primary source of conflict is a group of cyborgs called Watcher Pawns. They're essentially acrobatic robots who can leap all over the cliff like spider monkeys. You can aim at them, hit Y to leap up to them, one hand hold at a time, until you're gripping the chunk of rock they're standing on. If you're right under them, you can use the melee button to grab a Pawn's leg and yank him off the cliff or just beat him down until he falls off on his own.
In terms of mechanics, these vertical combat sections were fairly simple, but they were exciting nonetheless due to the mind-bending camera angles. They're used sparingly throughout the main course of the game, so hopefully they maintain that novelty when the game is complete. The actual gun combat isn't too unique at this early stage in the game, but it somehow becomes a lot more interesting with a warped camera view like this one.
The third gameplay element we got to try was the flying portion of the game. Will eventually climbs to the top of the cliff, taking out a few Pawns along the way with guns and grenades, until he eventually gets to the point where he unlocks the ability to fly with his rocket pack rather than just hover. You're introduction to this ability is a bit of an intimidating one: Will stands at the edge of a wooden platform overlooking the entire level you just traversed, but once you hit the Y button, his rocket lifts off and sends him out over that abyss.
Once airborne, Will's rocket controls like most flight games. Lean back on the left stick to fly up and down to drop altitude. However, the real trick is when you encounter an enemy airship. You can hit a button to grab onto the ship, then a minigame pops up where you need to pry a panel off the ship's exterior while avoiding fire from the turret gun. If successful, you can take out the Watcher manning the gun with a slick animation ending in the loss of his cyborg head, and then take control of the ship on your own. From there, you can fire your machine gun with the right trigger, fire a semiguided missile with the left trigger, and click both joysticks in to, as the old saying goes, do a barrel roll. The flight mechanics feel great. You might expect the flight portion of an action game to feel tacked on, but Dark Void deftly avoids that ominous distinction with slick and responsive dogfighting controls.
Dark Void appears to be a game that may just succeed in blending a variety of different gameplay techniques. At this early stage in development, no one area of the game is overwhelmingly great, but they're all solid enough to offer a nice harmony of styles. Dark Void's scheduled release for Xbox 360, PC, and PlayStation 3 isn't for another year, so we'll be keeping an eye on it to see if it can take this initial promise and turn it into something greater.