A sneak peek inside ‘Dark Void’

Developer Airtight Games has been hoarding details about its upcoming shooter-with-a-rocket-pack “Dark Void” since its announcement in October 2007, but we managed to get some more information about it, including a tour of some all-new areas and encounters with a few previously unseen enemies.

The mission takes place shortly after our hero Will Grey upgraded from a hoverpack to a full-on rocket pack. After knocking out a force field, he must fly into a bell-shaped core to take out some machinery inside.

Lead designer Jose Perez showed off one of the ways to pull off the mission, ascending into the structure by using the game’s unique vertical cover system. Daredevil pilots could opt for a far more dangerous tactic, simply flying blindly up into the core — though that strategy is likely to end in a crash. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

After knocking the core out, Will took to the skies and battled a few UFOs — one of two vehicles Perez says players can drive. That’s when we spied one of “Dark Void’s” larger enemies, the Archon. Will dismantled the mechanical exterior piece by piece, from its deadly nose cannon to the tip of its colossal tail, through a series of button-mashing sequences (similar to how he hijacks UFOs).

Eventually, the pilot popped out for a little mano-a-alien battle. The Sarpa — a strange looking creature with four limbs and a manta ray-like head — was no match for Will, and his day was over almost as quickly as the demo.

Next, we witnessed some of the game’s other environments, including a quick peek at a jungle-themed area that showed that the color spectrum extends beyond just “mud” and “brown rock.” The level was filled with vines and other plant life, and featured a large Sarpa-shaped monument. Talking with Perez, it seems as though those creatures are as important to the story as another prominent paranormal phenomenon.

“The Bermuda Triangle was always something as a kid I thought was so cool,” he said. “(It’s) one of those things that’s so mysterious to kids and grown ups alike. That kind of gave us that idea of a parallel dimension; our writer Jeff is a pretty nutty guy, and he’s been reading too many conspiracy theories that are all over the place online about the Reptilians. We’re definitely tapping into a lot of that.”

As unlikely as it may sound, there is an actual community of people who believe in the existence of Reptilian puppet-masters. These ancient space-faring beasts have purportedly been involved in human civilization for centuries, and their kind has infiltrated the upper political echelons worldwide. Human fear is nourishment to these creatures, which they milk through manipulation of human conflict. Even if you think these believers are crackpots, you have to admit they’ve got some great material for games.

In our short experience with a few of “Dark Void’s” levels, it’s clear that no matter where the story takes us, Will’s going to draw on an arsenal of gadgets as well as his skills as a former military pilot to get the job done.

His rocket pack resuscitates some stale shooter mechanics, greatly changing enemy encounters by letting Will dart into the air, swoop down and blast confused enemies from behind. Keep your eyes toward the skies in the next few months, when the game is set to launch.