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Xbox 360 Review: Dark Void

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Dark Void nearly had an excuse for its stubborn, deficient adversaries. In the late 1930s, it would have been impressive to have fully walking bi-pedal robot soldiers, especially since they haven’t been invented here in 2010. Missing some form of artificial intelligence would seem like an adequate trade-off with the complete lack of computing power, but as the story goes, these are aliens; aliens with all the common sense of droid army in the Star Wars prequels… which means none.

Much of Dark Void’s narrative is confusing, mostly because the early portion of the game fails to distinguish what is normal. Protagonist Will takes to battling these brightly colored metal machines quite well, especially for someone who should have never seen a computer, let alone a robot. By the time the script clears everything up, it is more of a relief that there is finally some understanding, even if the history does not seem to add up.

Dark Void’s addition to the third-person shooter genre is vertical combat. Here, Will hangs from a ledge, or crouches from above, using the thin strip of land or metal as cover. Disorientation is natural and intended. Using the right analog stick to look around tilts the camera off-axis, producing a dizzying sense of vertigo.

Leaping from ledge to ledge is only a matter of hitting X, leading to smooth transitions and perfectly paced advances. Dark Void maintains a frantic flow, forcing the player to remain on the offensive. Enemies, like Will, have the ability for brief flight, creating confined battles on the ground that also rely on limited air superiority.

Beyond that admittedly wonderful, involving twist of a now standard genre mechanic, Dark Void is entirely uninspired. Will never quite takes to full flight with his jetpack, apparently a running gag, but it means every take off bounces the character around and off objects. His flailing legs once clearly free of gravity are a fun touch, although a reminder that you seem to have as little control as Will does.

Ground combat is wholly familiar, with slightly sluggish, stiff, stilted aiming mechanisms, although these do not lower the satisfaction of watching robots pop in a sea of electrical sparks, flames, and blue alien goo. While substandard, they remain viable.

Will’s shooting talents, or lack thereof, unfortunately carry over into the air. Suddenly, those sloppy yet satisfying mechanics become a terror. The frenzied flight of enemy ships does not create the challenge so much as the rapidly shifting controls. Sensitivity adjustments only means it is impossible to track movement short of the occasional saucer dumb enough to fly straight in front of you.

Dark Void’s compact, achievement point-spewing campaign is a quick ride, much like those confined flight levels. On paper, Will probably sounded interesting, as did these gameplay mechanics. Unfortunately, much like casting Nolan North to voice your lead character and make sarcastic comments, Dark Void is entirely uninspired.

Dark Void is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Animated Blood, Mild Language, Violence. This game can also be found on: PS3, PC.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.