If Darkest of Days had been released a decade ago it might have been considered average. Unfortunately for 8monkey and Phantom EFX by today’s standards this is one of the worst games of this generation – and not even worth a second glance.
The story is a convoluted mess that attempts to raise moral questions about whether or not it's right to alter time, but fails miserably in it's execution. Instead of being deep and thought provoking, it comes of as pretentious and paradox laden. Perhaps the biggest misstep is how the game determines what will or will not affect the time-stream. Killing thousands of unknown soldiers? That’s perfectly fine. Turning a scientist into a soldier? He'll still go on to invent something awesome. Killing a man with his name in the history books? Oh now you've gone too far. It seems you can completely alter someone's entire life experience with little or no ramification, just so long as you don't kill them. It's hard to believe the writers actually expected us to swallow this tripe.
About the only decent thing the writers did was give you a partner, Dexter. Sure his character is incredibly implausible, and he doesn't really help lead you to where you need to go, but he's fun to have around and unlike other escorts, he actually knows how to shoot.
Speaking of shooting, who wants to spend 10 seconds reloading a musket? Anyone? Well that's about all you'll be doing when you go through the Civil War missions. Fire, reload and wait to be shot. Yes, it's historically accurate, but it just isn't any fun, especially when it's all you'll have for nearly half the game. Weapons during the World War I campaign are a bit more user friendly and inviting, but they still lack any sort of charm. Occasionally you'll get tossed a future weapon and given the chance to actually enjoy your killing, but aside from an encounter with a high-tech sniper rifle, and one with a laser-guided grenade launcher, none of these events are very memorable.
Surprisingly Darkest of Days is one of few FPS games to offer almost no control customization. If a button is somewhere you don't like, you're stuck with it. Also, since the game uses a different control layout than most games, you can expect to have problems. Take the simple action of throwing grenades for example. Many, many games map this action to the Right Bumper because it's next to the trigger, but in this particular game you'll find it's inconveniently mapped to the B button. This results in many attempts to melee an enemy turning into point blank grenade duels. There's no excuse for this limitation.
Once you get past the controls and actually get into the meat of the game you'll probably notice levels are, for the most part, bland. Often little more than an open forest or field sprinkled with the occasional farmhouse. You're given a map to help you navigate the open terrain, but unfortunately it's completely useless; you'll constantly be blocked by a sea of invisible walls. Even if you do manage to weed through the messy terrain and make it to your target destination you'll often have no idea what to do as the game is rarely helpful with explaining objectives.
Moving beyond the obvious design flaws, Darkest of Days also suffers from a surprisingly high number of technical errors. It's not uncommon for a command input to become stuck, often resulting in you emptying your entire clip in a matter of seconds. A.I. regulary becomes lost and fails to notice you're standing right in front of them. Loading checkpoints sometimes causes scripts to fail to execute resulting in numerous reloads. And of course your frame rate can range from 3-30 frames per second, often dipping at the most unexpected times, like in the middle of an empty field. If you can make it through a single level without experiencing all of the above symptoms, you’re incredibly lucky.
If there was one positive thing that could be said about Darkest of Days, it's that the game has the single greatest achievement ever conceived, Horse Puncher. That’s right, Horse Puncher. You get 100 Gamerscore for punching a horse in the face and killing it. Not really a reason to actually play the game, but hey I had to put something positive in this review.
Darkest of Days is just a bad game. It’s not even worth a rent for the achievements. Just ignore it and go do something a lot more fun and a lot less frustrating. Like watching paint dry.
Darkest of Days is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood, Strong Language, Violence.
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