Capcom could have scrapped the compelling plot and simply released "Jetpack: The Game," and we'd have been satisfied. Seriously, the flying is that solid. You're not just leaping into the air like a rocket-propelled Superman, you're an aerodynamic missile who has to bank, roll, loop, carefully navigate turns and constantly be aware of your surroundings. You can easily forget that there's humanity to save once you hit the boost button and send the hero, Will, soaring through the air, weaving around the game world.
The level we demoed this time is set well into the game, with Will having already mastered his jetpack. The current objective is to take out the Watchers' anti-aircraft guns and to gain access to one of their bases, which serves as an internment camp for human slaves. It's located deep inside a canyon filled with sharp, stone fingers that poke into the air. As you fly around, you'll be under fire from both AA guns and enemies ... in flying saucers. Yep, just the sort of wake up call to shake us out of flying around with that big dopey grin on our face.
Luckily, there are guns mounted on the jetpack, in addition to a boost and a brake function, so you can slow down and fire away at stationary AA turrets, or pick off moving ground and aerial targets, which, by the way, ain't easy. For ground targets, you can switch to hover mode and pull your rifle out, but for the saucer-shaped enemies that come right at you, you're going to want to use the jetpack guns or try boarding the small ships themselves.
"The thing about Will is that he's just meat. He can't take that much of a licking."
The saucer controls just like your jetpack, and you can use its guns as well, which are more powerful than the ones mounted on your pack. The only drawback is that the saucer doesn't have a hover mode. Well, "It doesn't have one yet," Gray told us. Once we took care all of the AA guns, we headed down to the battle on the base's entrance platform. If you're in the saucer, you'll need to eject to head inside. Although, the advantage of approaching by jetpack is that you can hover and lend full air support to the human rebels on the ground, and then scamper inside when the coast is clear.
Once you hit the ground, this is an entirely different game.
Inside the base, we plowed through a few waves of enemies, and then faced off against a hovering nasty with a serpentine tail. His powerful attack can take you out quickly, but if you circle behind him you can punish his weak back and finally send him crashing down -- which is exactly how we did in this particular mini-boss. Once past him, we moved into a vertical combat segment that ended up being the bane of our existence.
In vertical combat, Will uses his jetpack to keep himself pressed against the underside of a platform, and he can peek out and take aim either straight up or straight down a level. You can flip up onto the platform you're underneath or you can leap from platform to platform, as long as they're close enough to grab. It's a disorienting perspective from below, as you look up that long, cylindrical level laced with enemies peeking over the edges of their own platforms and firing down at you.
Whenever you activate Will's jetpack, he careens unsteadily and will die the instant he runs into anything.
If you avoid death by jetpack, gunfire from enemies, instant death by touching the giant force field at the bottom of the level, and finally make it to the top (phew), then you'll deactivate the force field and continue on. This is where our demo ended, as we smashed the force fields controls with the butt of our gun. It was a relief ... after dying too many times to count. Seriously, it was embarrassing.
Overall, Dark Void continues to impress us. The flying is amazing and the combat and cover system controls well (at least, horizontally speaking -- we've still got some practice to put in on the vertical elements). At this stage in development, the game is most in need of polish. Details like damage effects are still underwhleming, for example. We were playing an Xbox 360 build, which appeared extremely solid, although Capcom assures that the PS3 version will be virtually identical. We're excited to strap on the jetpack again at E3 and see what new challenges Capcom has in store there.