Deep Black: Reloaded has an interesting water premise, but it just isn't any good. My DarkZero review.

User Rating: 3.5 | Deep Black: Reloaded PC
I hope you like water because you'll be seeing a lot of it in Biart developed video game Deep Black: Reloaded. Biart is independent Russian studio that seems to have a portfolio of games based in or around this important liquid. This is my first experience with the company and what better way to start than with a game that has a focus on swimming in water, a feature that is often disliked in videogames, and also not frequently seen in the global video game market as a selling point for a game.

Deep Black: Reloaded is an arcade action third-person shooter set in 2047. Players take on the role of Lieutenant Syrus Pierce, an ex-mercenary, who is asked for his assistance one last time to put an end to a bio-terrorist organisation and save a few dudes in the process. The story isn't all that interesting. It's a means to give the game a reason to let you use conventional third-person shooter mechanics, such as ducking behind cover to protect yourself, blind firing and over the shoulder aiming. If you've played recent third-person shooters then you'll instantly know what type of game this is going to be.

Knowing what you might get with a game is different to actually sitting down and personally playing the experience, which with Deep Black: Reloaded isn't all that great because it never quite hits the right things, instead turning into a lacklustre shooter that prematurely flashes off everything it does at the start. It's a shame really as the premise sounds cool, and the game does do some things right, such as controlling the game's protagonist in the water. The game allows the use of both keyboard and controllers, namely the Xbox 360 pad. Since this game is a third-person shooter I prefer to use controllers instead, so when anything related to controls is mentioned it will be based around this. It was also nice to see the user interface change its layout to show the buttons for the pad. I always find it annoying when games don't do something as simple as this. It's like they expect you to know what button on the pad is reload or activate, thankfully Biart thought about the PC base that likes to use controllers.

At the start of the game you're thrown into subsurface pipelines and get the chance to grasp the reins of Pierce's underwater jet pack. Movement is easy, almost like you are gliding around in the water, which I guess you are since you have jets thrusting you forward. Since water is a key feature of Deep Black: Reloaded it's nice to know that the developers made sure it was easy to get around in it. Biart also made an effort to make sure the water looks nice, with neat visual effects both under and above the surface, the water glistens in the light and breaks through under the surface; it just seems to capture the feeling of being underwater.

When you begin talking about other features then the game starts to fall apart, firstly with the combat, which unfortunately isn't stimulating. In the water it's not that bad since you're protected from the enemies much more than on the surface. Pierce can use a harpoon cable that shoots out of his arm, which can then either reprogram drones that attack you, reprogram bridges/doors, and the best one, attaching to enemies to drag them into the water to give a satisfying knife to their throat. Guns can be used underwater as well.

During underwater sections players will come across small robots that will target Pierce, if they come in close proximity of him then the game forces you to mash a button to destroy it. Initially it looks cool, but soon you'll see that it's the same animation played and the same button that you're pressing. All the excitement is lost due to this and it becomes so monotonous and unrewarding when you are hammering away at the button before it even signals you to do it. My buzz for the sequences in H2O slowly dwindled as the prospective of thrilling set pieces just wasn't happening. Instead the water is a way for the player to progress to the next area. It's a huge bummer, as I feel that they could have had something unique, something more exhilarating and involving than simply some objective that is saying "Hey player, go swim to this target pointer."

It fares no better on the surface, in which it sadly becomes the main area of combat later in the game. The combat never changes throughout the course of the title; it suffers from a bad case of repetition. Explaining one situation is close enough to explaining the whole game. For example, you'll swim through some tunnels, come out, hide behind cover, shoot some guys, move on, and then do it all again. You might throw a grenade around, blow up some barrels or come across a Mech, but the core gameplay is identical through the 40+ levels that the game contains. The game just screams for crazy set pieces, but sadly there isn't any. Weapon-wise you've got the standard shotguns, pistols, machine guns and rocket launchers.

Having better artificial intelligent (A.I) would spice up the gunfights, what A.I that is constructed in Deep Black: Reloaded is nothing but ordinary. Enemies don't seem to do much, it's either they hide behind cover or stupidly run at you in an attempt to do a melee attack. Again you can counter this by tapping the melee button before said soldier is close to you, it causes Pierce to stab him and end his pitiful generically-artificial life, which is the most exciting thing the A.I will ever accomplish.

At least the game makes up for some of the problems by having decent graphics. The use of lighting, as mentioned before, is attractively casted to make the environments look pretty. Once again the game doesn't use this to its full advantage; you're always taking part in closed off locations or narrow corridors that feel like the designers didn't have any inspiration for the level design. Speaking of inspiration, the armour that Pierce has equipped is mighty similar to that one Isaac wears in Dead Space. Although the light on the back doesn't represent your character's health (there's screen blood splatter for that) it does turn red near death. Also just like Dead Space, Pierce talks by looking at rays of light that shine out from his suit that displays, in a folder style window, information and the video of the person you are talking to, coincidence again? That's for you to decide.

The camera has some weird jitteriness going on when you run forward. I don't think it's a feature of the game, more that the camera doesn't seem to be moving forward correctly, and instead jerks. I eventually got used to it but it's one of those things that shouldn't be there. There's a definite lack of polish. Studios these days come up with cool ideas but can't seem to refine them to a high standard. DRM (copy protection) reared its ugly head sometimes as the game uses servers to authenticate you are playing a original version, when the servers are offline for whatever reason the game will simply close and you return your desktop.

Multiplayer is something I was interested in. The idea of battling it out underwater with other people sounds like it could have been something different; sadly I couldn't find anyone to play with during the review time so I can't really tell you much more other than that it features Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch. Due to this problem the review is wholly my experience with the single player, I can't review something that I haven't had chance to play.

I don't have anything more to say about Deep Black: Reloaded. As a game it never felt exciting past the first contact with water. Combat is generic and uninspiring and levels feel all the same. The best thing going for it is the graphics, but we all know that graphics alone don't make a good game, and this is a perfect example here. Deep Black: Reloaded falls short of its promising use of a predominately-water environment and instead casts that aside to become a below average shooter fest.