Deep Black Review (PC)

It's not perhaps the best time to start a review when you're utterly fed up with the game you're supposed to be playing, but when the experience is so hateful and infuriating that it makes you uninstall the thing in a fit of insane rage, what can you do but leap to the keys and vent your fury in word form?

As you might have guessed, Deep Black Reloaded is the subject of your reviewer's ire today, but it wasn't always this way. In fact, when it started, it was met more with an overwhelming sense of ennui than anything else. It was inoffensive, mindless stuff, though never really threatening to push the excitement meter into the “fun” zone. It was tolerated for the water bits, which were reasonable, reminiscent of Hydrophobia, which also tried the “aquatically oriented third-person affair” approach.

A quick glance at the notes taken during play reveal a disturbing descent into keyboard-mashing, headphone-slamming, expletive-shouting rage. Starting off with sarcastic comments about it being a cover-based shooter that's (at the moment) exclusive to the PC, the lack of definable controls and an utterly perplexing lack of any kind of intro whatsoever, it slowly turned into lamentations on the pitiful accuracy of the main assault rifle and the irrelevance of the other weapons of alleged destruction.

Deep Black is firmly in the “spray and pray” camp, preferring to eschew any kind of accuracy for just giving you lots of ammo and letting you hold down the fire button until everyone dies. So you can aim for the head, but it's a lottery as to whether you hit an enemy in said bonce. Even if you do hit, it's sheer chance whether this will result in a killing blow, especially when the “tougher” enemies start to appear.

By this point, indie idiosyncrasies and production values are little excuse for bad checkpoint placement, seemingly random health levels for your character leading to unexpected deaths, grenades that might as well not exist for all the damage they do and 'stealth ops' who just rush you.

Getting locked into hand-to-hand kill animations when people do get closed and getting shot to death during them is a delightful occurrence too, and you can't even throw the aforementioned grenades from behind cover, having to stand up and get shot to pieces while trying to aim it. And, as mentioned, they do frig all damage anyway, so there's no point trying either way. Oh, and the enemies often shout “grenade out!” yet never seem to ever throw them. Weird.

There's also auto-aim which bizarrely switches itself on and off at random intervals, even dragging your aim away from one target to one across the screen on occasion.

Perhaps if the game had personality, it'd be saved somewhat, but sadly it's as interesting as a blind date with a rotting corpse. Your character is dressed in Halo/Dead Space-style armour, so there's no real connection to him there, and the environments he's in don't inspire confidence either, generally consisting of nondescript metal corridors and some rocky caverns.

Under water it's a bit better, so it's another perplexing decision to have so much of the action take place outside of the main selling point for the game. Like Hydrophobia, there's a strange reluctance to use the game's greatest asset. So instead you'll be using your terrible assault rifle to randomly spray 100 bullets into an enemy a few yards away until they die.

There's not even a need to really discuss any bugs that may have been found, because they actually help to give the game a bit of comedy value, and it's a sad state of affairs when a game's bugs are one of the Plus points in a review. As for plot, as mentioned (twice) there was no intro, so you just get plonked above a canal and told to go do your thing.

It turns out this involves trying to rescue some hostages, though you were lied to and it's actually all about bio-terrorists and something like that. You can piece together that you're not happy to be there, that your Stupid Chief equivalent is quite happy to give you new objectives that you piss and moan about a little bit before just giving in and carrying on with the slaughter regardless.

You also have a sassy voice-only sidekick that's guiding you along, telling you to open gates you were already in the process of opening and not minding when you make a crack about her reproductive organs or some such thing. She at least provides the tiniest amount of spark to the proceedings, so it's a shame she's not used more. Or that you don't play as her instead of Mr Faceless Armour Guy.

There's one more thing to be addressed, and that's how non-PC this PC-only title is. It's cover-based, there's no point using a mouse because auto-aim comes on by itself, the main gun is hopelessly inaccurate, you don't jump but roll and so on. It was no surprise to learn 360 and PS3 versions are planned, because this would be far more suited to a console environment. Though even theoretically more forgiving console owners would be cursing their decision to buy this refuse.

As previously discussed though, it's not completely horrible at first, just desperately uninspired. It is an independently produced title, so that has to be taken into account, but it's still demanding cash to play it, so that defence only holds for so long. If what you want in a game is to be vaguely bored for an hour or so, only to get increasingly frustrated the longer you persevere, this game's for you.

If you have some concept of the value of money, you'd be best investing in something like the original Gears of War, if you must play a third-person shooter thing with a guy in armour. At least that has an intro.

Favourite Game Moment: When the hero made a wisecrack about the genitals of the female officer, that was kind of okay, I guess.