Operating on the premise that all other action-shooters have been cheating you with only one plane of action, the utterly generic Dark Void has heavily hyped its sole dab of originality: a vertical-cover system that has you rocketing from the underside of one platform to another above it, while using an absurd amount of upper-body strength to reach up and blast at wall-climbing robots above.
Thing is, a single gimmick might make for a great bullet point on the back of the game’s packaging, but it doesn’t work as a game’s defining aspect—especially when that game forgets to make the rest of the game worth slogging through, just to take advantage of some bumpy airborne freedom and its considerable learning curve. It doesn’t help that the plot would have to aspire to be called generic. Just like The Rocketeer, Dark Void is set in 1938. Leather-jacketed pilot Will Grey (predictably voiced by go-to guy Nolan North of Uncharted) crashes through the Bermuda triangle, where he awakens in Stargate, only filled with serpentine robots, chess imagery, and a tacked-on love story so as not to infringe on copyright laws. Oh, and inventor Nikola Tesla also plays a prominent role here, because, well, why not?
Basically, this all boils down to three disappointing, bland sequences repeated throughout: You jetpack around, shoot guys, dogfight in an open area and hijack enemy aircraft, shoot some more guys, engage in vertical cover, and finally shoot some more guys. Dark Void is an exercise in diminishing returns—what at first seems new and fun eventually becomes dully predictable, and having to mash buttons to secure your grip only adds to the snarling annoyances. Careening around the stratosphere while fighting the dumb-as-rocks AI is too chaotic to be manageable. More often than not, you’ll have to land, take cover, and dispatch enemies as you would in any other game. The occasionally unbridled freedom can sometimes trap you in areas you don’t know how you got to or how to get out of. And there are still some game-crashing bugs, inexplicable audio problems, and chugging frame rates. It all amounts to more reasons why we aren’t yet ready for individual jet-propelled transport, or meals in pills.