PAX impressions / Dark Void

There is a saying that my grandfather told me they used to say in the old country. The phrase is “Everything is better with jetpacks.” How then has Dark Void not yet been made? Some questions are better left unanswered I guess, or don’t look a gift horse in the mouth or something else that makes sense. The point is that Dark Void is awesome.

You are William Grey, a cargo pilot chartered by his ex-girlfriend to fly over the Bermuda Triangle. Of course you crash, it’s the Bermuda Triangle, and are sucked into the Void. Inside there are a slew of humans, some new like Will are and some native, and of course there are aliens. And Nikola Tesla, obviously. The aliens, called Watchers, are a slug-like ball of puss in an armed-to-the-tooth exoskeleton. Will joins the resistance, a group that’s believable enough to exist in an alien infested world.

The Watchers want out. The resistance wants out and the Watchers gone. And you have a jetpack. I think you know how this is going.

The first thing you do, aside from crash a plane, is get a jetpack. Apparently Nikola Tesla is a fan of second chances. Navigating gaps and hovering works as you’d expect and feels like it should. The jetpack also gives you the ability to grapple to the bottom of ledges and shoot/climb upward. Jumping up and down a cliff-face feels like any other game moving through cover, if every other game was played suspended on the side of a vertical face. When playing the cover system, the jetpack platforming, everything just worked. With bugginess and a lack of refinement always a looming specter, It was refreshing to say the least.

I set into a rhythm of finding the enemy and then launching 20 ft above them to rain death from above. The polite designer who was there to talk to me about the game praised the cover system and enemy AI, and frankly I believe him, but I chose Easy mode for a reason. Strategy and cover is for people who don’t have an alien blaster the ability to jump 20 ft in the air.

One of the more exciting sections was when the game asked you to essentially base jump to the new location with enemies firing at you while you descend. Right before you hit the ground you can slam your jetpack on and snipe the Watchers as you slowly glide to the ground. And here’s the best part, just as the very polite gentleman was about to point out this awesome maneuver I did it unprompted. It all just made sense.

Halfway through the demo I ran into a very fun elite class of enemy called a Sargent. This guy has two notable aspects to him. One: He blows up into an expanding blue orb that hurts you as long as you’re inside it. Two: His gun is called the disintegrator and it…is…awesome. Imagine a shotgun, make it bigger, cause it to explode on contact and then name it “The Disintegrator”. You want this gun, I promise. I was promised by the developer that Tesla’s ever expanding armory will get over-the-top very quickly.

Later the jetpack is, much like the rest of your items, not a static object. It is dynamic, getting upgrades and extra functionality as you go. Guns will get stronger or hold more rounds but a jetpack, well, a jetpack goes from hovering to flying. Not flying levels, not certain areas where you can dog fight, from here on out you can take off and in a hurry. People who are good enough at flying can blow past huge battle areas if they want. As long as you think you can navigate the passage at a solid 50mph then go for it.

Huge maps, giant aerial battles, insane futuristic weapons and or course the awesome jetpack, Dark Void seems to be delivering everything they’ve promised. It’s like going to a theater to see a movie you are looking forward to and finding out that due to a shipping mix-up everyone was receiving free concession for the day. Yeah, it’s free popcorn good. See for yourself when Dark Void comes to PS3, Xbox 360 and PC on January 12th.