Review by Eratticus
It is playable, but you'd never want to.
Darkest of Days was announced a ways back as an FPS where you would travel through time, using futuristic weapons in wars of the past. The trailer, I won't lie, is really good. The concept sounds fresh, fun, and exciting. The game is really anything but, and it's quite possibly my biggest disappointment in gaming. Before I start talking more indepth I will say that Darkest of Days is the studio's first effort, and I suppose your opinion of the game is determined by whether or not you can forgive the amateur game's glaring flaws.
When you start Darkest you'll be instantly flung into a Civil War battle. This opening scene gets the job done pretty well but you'll instantly notice how clunky the controls handle, the blandness of the graphics (which aren't as awful as most people claim but let me get to them) and the so-so voice acting. Soon after whatever plot the game actually has comes into play and you are rescued by men from the distant future. You're now recruited and have to go back into time to fulfill some arbitrary plot points.
The plot and characters are unremarkable at best, and you're left fairly in the dark about most of the story. There is one, but after a couple levels you won't care. You'll want to stop playing. The tutorial that's given soon after the intro is a tad confusing but the game doesn't have any special controls to worry about anyways, just walk, aim, throw grenade, reload, that about covers it. You do get a unique item used to dispatch certain enemies that is probably a highlight to this game. I actually like the reload system in this game. Similar to Gears of War, you press reload and dial appears. Stop the dial at the right instant and the gun is reloaded much quickly. Now the problem with it, is that sometimes this instant appears so far around the dial its hardly worth getting your quick reload. I also found a glitch where you can instantly reload your weapon. One of many glaring problems with the game. The map system in the tutorial is useless at first since there really is no map to be had at first. Later it will make a little more sense but holding Back to pull up an interactive map that doesn't pause the game is redundant when a cursor or compass could easily do the job. I appreciate that they actually put in a map, but its a total pain to use and sometimes it doesn't help.
Now at least the combat is right. Can't really screw up a tried and true formula that's worked since Wolfenstein. Aim, shoot, guys are dead. The weapons are varied enough from each time period that you'll pick up some new ones along the way and you can upgrade weapons from certain time periods as well. How that works is anyone's guess but the guns in this game are fine. Some however, have weird sights. You'll aim down your weapon and not have a good idea where your bullet will hit. If this is a problem, you can simply not aim down the sights at all and hip fire. Hip firing is extremely accurate in this game, even with crosshairs that expand and contract. Shotguns mow down enemies with easy, sniping is another story, but for the most part the game is easy. And that's if you choose to actually kill enemies. Probably the ultimate issue with this game is that your character has a near unlimited run. Think Duke Nukem's speed in 3D. It's that fast. While you're running at the speed of sound enemies will miss you, you can jump and snake around almost every objective in the game. And why wouldn't you? The level design is boring and so are the models and landscapes. Why fight when you can simply run through and be awarded with a checkpoint? Even if you die right after, you'll respawn at the checkpoint and can continue running from objective to objective. Sometimes you have to fight. Well just crouch down and let your allies take all the flak. They can get it done by themselves. Unless of course you accidentally stand up again from your crouched position and get shot. You'll be enraged with every death as there's no quick respawn. Its as if the game expects you to not die. Instead of coming back to life, you're presented with the option to reload. If you're still trying to give the game a chance you'll press this. And then wait about 15-20 seconds for the game to reload from the last checkpoint. Every time you die. This gets incredibly annoying if you're stuck or playing on the hardest difficulty and you end up making some mistakes. There's no option for locking your crouch, you have to hold it. And since holding down the left control stick and doing anything else is a pain I resented the game for it.
Until I found another error made by the programmers. If you pause the game while crouching, and un-pause, you'll still be crouching. This works for firing automatic weapons, aiming down sights, and probably several other things. The game's glitches and errors are so exploitable you wonder how the game got published on the 360 in the first place. Character models with phase through objects, the physics will wonk out at times even when the physics are lackluster to begin with, and the enemy AI is laughable. At times the game will ask you to use stealth. If you try this, every enemy in a given level will instantly train their sights on you and fire, never missing. Stealth is a joke, an afterthought maybe. But at the same time, you can be going John Rambo on some Nazis, when all of a sudden you encounter a group of Germans standing there, staring into space. You fire past them, and they take no notice of you. You shoot one in the head, and his partner either didn't enjoy his company in the first place or his AI is really that shoddy. A lot of the game is hit or miss with certain game breaking glitches actually preventing sections from being completed and you'll have to reload from an earlier save.
The graphics are fine really. They're not impressive but they're not horrid. They are bland, however. A limited color pallet and boring landscapes don't really help. You'll see lots of the same trucks and trees. Probably the most impressive part of the game visually is it's ability to show a colossal amount of troops charging at each other. Yes the frame rate takes a huge dive at these points and at many throughout the game, sometimes inexplicably, but it is an enormous amount of troops. One eyesore is the visual effects. Water and smoke will sometimes disappear and reappear as if it's fading in and out of existence. And this happens even if nothing major is going on. Sometimes even trees, buildings, and objects will disappear. Who at the company overlooked something like this? This should never happen in a game, no matter how low the budget.
Sounds in the game are run of the mill and they get the job done. The orchestral soundtrack is actually pretty nice. But you'll spend a lot of the game listening to nothing but your foul mouthed companion Dexter. His voice acting is decent but the script is pretty awful overall. No its not Zero Wing or Resident Evil bad, and I'm willing to overlook it since most games haven't gotten it right.
Overall Darkest of Days is one disapointing mess. The concept sounds impressive, and so does the trailer. But the game fails to deliver in most ways. Its glitchy, boring, and uninspired. But at the very least I can say that it is playable, and the Horse Puncher achievement is worth it. Should you get this game? No. Rent? Perhaps. I wouldn't suggest it, but if you can overlook the game's glaring flaws, and I mean major flaws, there is a playable FPS underneath it all. The question is, can you forgive the newbie studio's efforts? Is it an amateur effort? Or a total lack of effort that ruined such a promising game?
Rating: 2.0 - Poor
Product Release: Darkest of Days (US, 09/10/09)
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