Dark Void

An homage to the pulp sci-fi of the 50s, the Void is a fascinating world, so that makes it all the more painful to watch as this new universe is wasted so completely.

Dark Void

Publisher: Capcom
Rated: Teen
Players: 1 player
Price: $59.99
Platforms: PS3 (reviewed), Xbox 360, PC
Developer: Airtight Games
Release Date: 2010-01-19

In the early days of gaming there was constant discussion over whether or not story was important in games. The modern consensus is that story is important (though not always necessary), and few games illustrate this point better than Dark Void.

The story is one that we’ve all seen before: an everyman is transported to an alternate world where he must save an oppressed people from evil aliens. But this time he has a jet pack. Part The Rocketeer, part Flash Gordon, Dark Void is an homage to the pulp sci-fi of the 50s. From its story to its visual style, it’s obvious where the inspiration for this game came from. But it’s also more than just an homage; the Void is a fascinating world even when viewed without the nostalgia, so that makes it all the more painful to watch as this wonderful new universe is wasted so completely.

The game is split into three episodes. The first episode introduces us to the Void. We learn a little about it, mostly about the portal in the Bermuda Triangle that connects the Void to earth. Appearances by Nikola Tesla, the U.S.S. Cyclops (a U.S. Carrier that supposedly disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle), and journals by Amelia Earhart help anchor this fantastical world to our own, and set an expectation for more references to Bermuda Triangle mythology (which never come). The second episode introduces the Survivors, a ragtag group of humans in perpetual war with the alien Watchers. The final episode is where everything begins to fall apart.

Up until that point the plot moves at a very purposeful pace, allowing us to get sucked into this world. The characters are just archetypes--the hero, the guide, the love interest, the chosen one--but the retro visual style is, ironically, a fresh look for games. And it’s not so much that the characters that keep our interest, but questions linger about the world itself: What is the Void? Who are the Watchers and what do they want?

By the time we get to the third episode, it’s as if the developers realized that they would never finish the game in time if the story continued at its current pace. The third-to-last level feels like the halfway point in the story. So everything speeds up, and the game starts to rush through its plot so fast that nothing makes sense anymore. What seems like a big twist halfway through becomes inconsequential a few minutes later. The word “adept” is thrown around like its important, but we’re never told what an “adept” is or why they’re special. We’re introduced to a group of natives that worship the Watchers as gods but never learn anything more about these people. Where do they come from, why don’t they join the Survivors? In fact, it’s never clearly established why the Survivors are fighting the Watchers in the first place. The ending is nothing more than a jumble of confusing scenes because the game does such a poor job setting it up. We get hooked into this interesting world, but all of the questions that hooked us are never actually answered.

It’s sad that the story takes such a sharp dive because the game is quite fun. It’s a solid, though average, shooter: Guns feel powerful, the action is fast and satisfying, and the use of vertical cover is, at the very least, a refreshing twist to the now tired cover-based third-person shooter genre. The aerial combat is the big selling point of the game. Your little jet pack is quick and maneuverable, but never feels weak. Switching control schemes on the fly can be jarring at first, but that jolt is part of the fun. When the hero takes flight his limbs flail about like he’s barely in control; he looks like you feel. And even later, once you’re a master jet pack pilot, these character animations keep the combat feeling hectic.

But even solid gameplay can’t make up for the fact that entire chapters of the game seem to be missing once it starts its mad dash to the end. What’s more unforgivable is that the missing sections are the best part of any action story: the final battle. We’re told it’s time to attack the alien’s home base, a massive tower, that this next fight is the final push. Instead of a grand battle, the next level finds us already atop the tower and already fighting the final boss. Since there’s no build up to this boss it doesn’t feel like a finale, and when the credits roll, they’re an unwelcome surprise.

So much about this game is unique: the art style, the new twist on an old mechanic, the jet pack dogfights, and especially the score, which sounds both sweeping and distinctly otherworldly. But despite all its successes Dark Void feels like an incomplete game. What’s there is creative and fun but incomplete, nonetheless.


To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.