E3 2008: Hands On With Dark Void (i.e. “The Long Overdue Rocketeer Game” or “What the Iron Man Game Should Have Been”)
Dark Void is what you’d get if you somehow broke the laws of science and mated Gears of War, Crimson Skies, and The Rocketeer. And trust me, I mean that as a huge compliment. The demo on the showcase floor of E3 2008 was a very early build according to the presenter there, but I was still able to get a good feel of the game and the vision they’re going for. So far, it looks like they’re on track to make a game that should definitely make for a unique experience when it comes out.
The demo started out playing very much like Gears of War (hell, even the presenter told me they were basically “the same controls as Gears”). You basically take cover behind walls or corners and blast at the alien-robot things that are trying to shoot you. The parts I saw contained a couple different human weapons (i.e. “using bullets”) and a couple different alien ones (that use laser blasts). You can also take out anemies with special melee attacks if you get close enough to them. The game didn’t really seem like anything special until I jumped off a cliff and started hovering around with the jet pack. From there, I could rain down bullets on the enemies below, though I had to be careful to land in the right area.
Later I ended up in an area where I had to scale a cliff, which was part of something the developers are calling “vertical combat.” It’s pretty much the same as when you’re shooting from behind cover, except that your cover is now the underside of a rocky overhang. From there you can shoot at enemies or get close to them and pull them off to plunge to tehir deaths.
The game really didn’t hit the “awesome” level though until I got an upgrade to fly my jet pack through the air. The game is being developed by the same guys behind Crimson Skies, and it definitely shows. Flying around with the jet pack uses exactly the same controls; you can even pull off the same special tricks from that game. Unlike a solid airplane though, the main character’s body will react quite realistically to your movements, with his legs and arms moving around as if he’s trying to balance himself. It really did feel like I was playing as the Rocketeer; of course the shape of his helmet certainly helped that feeling. Also, as I tried out, you can hijack UFOs flying around by grabbing onto them and tossing out the pilot after some timed button presses. Then you can use that to take out other UFOs.
The build I saw definitely isn’t done. The presenter even said he had to be there to guide people around because they haven’t put in all the visual cues on where to go yet. At one point he got pulled away by someone and when he came back I was in an area he didn’t even know the player could get to. The aiming also felt a little jerky, but they’ve still got several months to polish it out. What I saw though did give me an impression of what they’re going for, and it definitely seems fun. As Shawn was saying when he saw it: “This is what the Iron Man game should have been.” Leave it to the guys behind Crimson Skies to actually get jet pack combat to feel right.