CES 09 Eyes-on / Dark Void

Jet packs are fucking cool. Really, that’s all I need to say regarding Capcom and Airtight Games’ Dark Void and you’d ponder it for a moment before nodding approvingly and this would go down as my greatest post ever. A++; gold stars; valedictorian. However, my application into marshmallow land was denied and as such, I will talk about more than just jet packs.

Dark Void’s producers, Morgan Gray and Shana Bryant, were on hand in Capcom’s suite at CES to demo a alpha build of the upcoming 360/PS3/PC title. A lot of the background story is being kept under wraps, but what I was able to gather is the story follows an ex-military pilot by the name of Will Gray, who crashes into the Bermuda Triangle and ends up stranded in a parallel universe known as The Void. Here he finds himself in the middle of a conflict between human Survivors and The Watchers, an alien race out to control The Void and enslave man. If you guessed Will is trying to find his way home, you get a cookie. And just because he’s sporting a rad helmet, doesn’t mean he’s faceless.

At first glance, the game resembles a standard third-person shooter. You carry only a few weapons at once, take cover and murder everything in your path from an over-the-shoulder view. I will admit, it’s nothing to really write home about because we’ve seen it before. But what’s there is looking solid and fun, rather than boring — think Gears of War meets Rocket Ranger, but more run-and-gun. The only thing that kind of turns me off is a projected reliance on QTEs (quick time events) for boss battles. A mini-boss fight that was shown looked great, almost Shadow of the Colossus-like, but ended in a series of button presses that has me hoping there will be more direct interaction in the larger scale fights.

Where Dark Void really shines is its air combat. The developer, Airtight Games, is made up of key members who worked on the Xbox classic, Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge. Their history shines through as flying Will around with the jet pack — developed by Nikola Tesla, apparently — is 100% badass. It’s very free and loose like you’d want in an action game and the little touches, like Will’s slight stumbling when boosting and pulling evasive maneuvers are very cool. The transition from on-foot to air is super smooth, allowing you to go from dogfighting to air-to-ground attacks with ease.

The final piece of the action puzzle is something the dev team is calling “vertical cover.” The sequence I saw had Will entering the bottom of a vertical shaft, using the underside of platforms as cover. It’s an interesting take on the standard third-person shooter formula and blends the on-foot with the air combat into one. It’s a very cool idea that has a lot of potential to be something different.

I went in not knowing much about Dark Void and coming away very impressed with what it had to offer. The jet pack mechanic has the ability to really set the game apart from the rest of the action games we’ve seen so far. In its alpha stages, things are looking rather tight, even with some framerate issues and graphical glitches, which is to be expected. I look forward to seeing how Dark Void progresses as it comes closer to release some time this year. Hopefully you share my excitement, because, like I said, jet packs are fucking cool.