“For ages we were told we can’t call it the jet pack game because that didn’t convey the sci-fi conspiracy plot aspect, or the cover-based shooting stuff. Then we delayed the game a bit and added in the hover functionality and you know what. Now it’s DEFINITELY the jet pack game.”
So reads the cover letter which accompanied our Dark Void preview code. We’re glad Capcom’s Powers That Be changed their tune about the way the game should be presented. Dark Void can do without its sci-fi conspiracy plot, and it could probably lose the cover-based shooting stuff, but it wouldn’t be worth a sausage without the jet pack.
On the strength of half an hour’s play, Dark Void is a dispiriting Uncharted/Gears of War rip-off with unconvincing Fisher Price weapons, invisible level walls and a lumpy, lumbering graphics engine which would have felt out of shape back in 2005. I was immensely gratified when the 360 build crashed a few missions in (thus “forcing” me to resume my criminally late playthrough of Mass Effect). But then you get the jet pack, and everything starts to look, well, up.
William Augustus Grey, a drop-out of the Nathan Drake school of raffish masculinity, is cheerfully flying himself, old flame Eva and a short-lived colleague over the Bermuda Triangle one pre-WW2 evening when he runs into a flying saucer. The saucer comes off best from the encounter, and a suspenseful blackout or two later Will and Eva are standing besides the wreckage of their plane, staring out over a mysterious archipelago.
The archipelago, it transpires, is the gateway to an alternative dimension, carpeted with mist, stuck through with colossal rock pillars and ruled over by a savage alien race known as the Watchers. The Watchers used to be Earth’s boss species, having travelled here millennia ago and taken on certain aspirational apes as slaves, but were eventually banished to their present abode by a bunch of ancient heroes.
Sadly, those ancient heroes neglected to inform the tourist and shipping industries of their ingenious plan, and the Triangle now boasts a sizeable population of stranded humans – including a few celebrities like Amanda Earhart, whose journal entries are tucked away in what I’d love to call “crevices” if the levels were capable of such architectural finesse. Some of these refugees live in vaguely Aztec theocratic communities outside the dimensional portal, venerating the Watchers as gods. Others prefer to fight the offworld menace on their own turf, nicking Watcher technology and refitting it, Mad-Max-style, for their own ends. Guess who you end up rubbing shoulders with.