Hands-on with Dark Void

One of the in-development video games that we're more intrigued by every time we see it is Dark Void, Capcom's upcoming sci-fi action title. The basic hook is simple -- while strapped into a Rocketeer-style jetpack, a cargo pilot sucked into the Bermuda T

Capcom

One of the in-development video games that we're more intrigued by every time we see it is Dark Void, Capcom's upcoming sci-fi action title. The basic hook is simple -- while strapped into a Rocketeer-style jetpack, a cargo pilot sucked into the Bermuda Triangle has to zoom around and rescue innocent humans from some alien types.

Pulp origins aside, the game mixes fast-paced aerial combat with a standard cover-based third-person shooter. That you can kick your jetpack into high gear at almost any time makes the action unpredictable -- you can just as easily zoom past enemies and attack them from behind (or above), as shoot through them the old-fashioned way.

Getting a chance to have some hands-on playtime with the game recently, it lived up to many of our expectations, but also showed a few challenges. Flying around in wide-open outdoor spaces was easy to get the hang of, anyone who has flown a video game airplane or spaceship will find it feels familiar. Smashing headfirst into a rock formation was predictably fatal, but at least somewhat easy to avoid.

In a nod to Grand Theft Auto's near-universal sublimation of the entire games industry, one can also "hijack" the one-man (one-alien?) space scooters the bad guys fly around in and use their increased firepower and shielding.

When the game transitions to the ground, things get a little tougher. The concept of standing behind some crates taking potshots at enemies isn't exactly new, and the cover-and-fire system in Dark Void works reasonably well, but isn't nearly as interesting as the in-air portions.

Capcom

While zipping around the clouds is fairly idiot-proof, using the jetpack in more confined situations proved to be a task we weren't up for, and always ended up with us splattered against a wall (to be fair, using a high-powered jetpack in a confined space is probably a bad idea in real life, too). The game's developers say they're still tweaking the difficulty and controls, and we hope they can find a more user-friendly balance.

Perhaps the game's most unique element is what they refer to as vertical cover. Our jetpack-enabled hero can periodically find himself at the bottom of a cliff, in a missile-silo-like tube, or some other high-rise environment. In these cases, he can jump up vertically from ledge to ledge, holding onto the underside and peeking out to fight, then using a jet-assisted jump to reach the next level. Similar to the old PC classic Descent, it's an interesting way to mix up the X and Y axis, and can be disconcerting if you're not good at instinctively figuring out spatial dimensions.

Hopefully we'll get a closer look at Dark Void at this year's E3 video game trade show, and the game is expected later in 2009 for the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.

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