Swooping around on a rocketpack in the Void's rocky canyons is reminiscent of Crimson Skies, which, come to think of it, also features a folksy hero in a leather jacket flying unlikely contraptions. There's the same comic-book pacing permeating the experience. Being caught up in a whirlwind dogfight of detonating future-biplanes and gung-ho radio chatter is Dark Void at its best: exciting and involved. These moments are all too brief, however, as long battles and stingy restart points quickly become tiresome, especially during the many escort missions.
On the ground, it's much the same story. Occasionally there are glimpses of what the vertical cover system can offer, when used correctly in an interesting framework. Will can 'snap' to any ledge, either flattening himself into a crouch above it or hanging from the underside and firing upwards. All of the usual cover controls are available from here, with a touch of X (on the 360 pad) vaulting Will upwards or downwards to the next ledge and A clambering him onto the surface if he's underneath.
Enemies have the same abilities too, with the various flavours of Watcher trooper flinging themselves around the girders and platforms relatively intelligently. Manoeuvrability does not equal combat prowess, however, and the robotic quasi-Geth will still hang their heads flagrantly above and around cover.
Despite a few vertiginous views and extended vertical sequences, the use of this quite clever system is never fully realised. Again it becomes mechanical and dull, cover-by-numbers stuff as the Watchers obligingly position themselves at optimum range and reveal themselves as targets for the various pew-pew lasers in your arsenal. The Watchers themselves are well enough designed, with a fair variety of enemy troopers displaying different behaviours, if not considerable intelligence.
Despite the classy, fifties, B-movie design of the Watcher UFOs and weaponry, flat textures and dully repetitive environments are a plague which sickens Dark Void beyond the point of real contention before the first hour is over - it simply doesn't have the necessary visual distinction to set it apart from the crowd. The poor camera doesn't help the presentation and occasional sudden and inexplicable deaths put another nail in the coffin. Whilst Dark Void's storyline is well thought out, its character work is pretty one-dimensional - even managing to make the inconceivably awesome Nikola Tesla seem dull and annoying.
There are a few nice touches and some original ideas swimming around Dark Void, but they're like pieces of succulent chicken in a tepid and flavourless soup. Its contextual prompts for what your next cover action will be if you hit X should be standard in cover shooters, while Bear McCreary's music lessens the mundanity a great deal. Non-Hollywood storylines are always welcome and vertical cover should definitely have a future.
The lasting impression which Dark Void leaves is still one of disappointment, however. Had Airtight been a bit braver, more willing to deviate from the norm and run with some of its bolder ideas, then this could have been a great game. Instead, Dark Void's extremely short campaign - with no motivation for replay and no multiplayer options - is more like a portfolio of half-baked concepts hurriedly crammed into an uninspired package for ease of presentation, more show-reel than show-stopper.
5 / 10