In a journey through the annuals of time, 8monkey Labs debuts their time-traveling first-person shooter on the Xbox 360. From Civil War to the Pompeii volcanic eruption in '79, history is being rewritten, and hopefully for the better. Step into the time bubble and prepare to save history.
You have to give 8monkey Labs some credit because in their first release they have attacked the dynamic concept of time-travel. Time travel can be a tricky subject matter to implement correctly and Darkest of Days does their best to pull together a few interesting time-bending scenarios. In the three years of development Darkest of Days has been built from the ground up including their own proprietary game engine called Marmoset. The Marmoset graphics engine won't be competing with the Unreal engine any time soon, and sadly Darkest of Days looks a little drab. Compared to the spoils of a number of fantastic titles over the last few years, you might even go as far as commenting that Darkest of Days looks a little last-gen. Since the graphics and almost nonexistent presentation is the first thing you will notice, it has to be commented on first. However now that we've got the dirty work out of the way, I’m going to put to focus on the gameplay instead of how many polygons the game is pushing.
Custer's Last Stand
Darkest of Days starts off with a bang as you play a solider in the midst of a gunfight in the American Civil War (1876). At Eastern Montana in a fight between General Custer and a group horseback riding Indians you will experience Custer's Last Stand firsthand. During this dramatically scripted battle you eventually go down to the furious attackers and then the future comes to the past as a time-traveling portal appears to start you on your quest.
In the future it is explained that you have been saved to work as a top secret time-traveling group of soldiers called KronoteK. Influenced by the film 12 Monkeys you will be instructed by the lead scientist Dr. Koell you will have to return to some of the most pivotal times in human history to change major world events. In terms of an opening sequence, Darkest of Days does a great of building you up for the game, maybe even too good of a job because unfortunately the rest of game never feels like it has the same importance as the gunfight at Little Bighorn.
From the opening bit you run through the paces of the tutorial which is fairly self-explanatory except for the cool like probes you can release to subdue certain targets. Aside from the normal bang-bang, these probes let you render an important target unconscious so they are not accidentally killed in battle. The important characters are filled throughout each scenario and will be noticeable when you see a glowing aura around their body. Then you simply release the drones, they work their magic and return to your hand. This concept of saving certain characters in the past is cleverly executed and makes the gunplay in the game a little more interesting. It also makes you use a little restraint as you observe the battle before jumping into the action. Look before you shoot.
Coming out of the tutorial, you will be ready to go. From the central uninspiring hub you will hop into the teleporting time-traveling device bubble to engage in mission of your choosing. Then its a simple as 1-2-3, as you run through the paces of saving the important historical figures in a fluctuating time stream. So far, as you can tell, 8monkey has the concept nailed for the most part. It’s actually quite brilliant and surprising that more games don’t play around with our rich history. ...and this is where the good parts end, and the problems begin... and it all starts with the gameplay.
The Forest of Invisible Walls
It’s been a while since I’ve played a shooter, or any game that the problem of invisible walls pop up. Invisible walls are rather annoying when you have been spoiled with this generation of gaming. What’s even more frustrating is that Darkest of Days feels a little similar to Far Cry 2 with its idealism to search the land for your target and hunt them down, and stolen map system (which is cool), but this isn’t Far Cry 2 and you’re practically restricted in how far you can move, even when the path is unobstructed and the map says its clear to go. Running into an invisible walls in every area is not fun and an obnoxious after a while. Using outdoor environments can work out great in shooters when done right. Really what good is an outdoor setting if you can’t even run around and explore them? Darkest of Days wanted to be so much more and sadly it only ends up feeling dated and dull.
More Glitches Than The Matrix
It doesn’t help that Darkest of Days has a number of glitches that keep appearing, mainly characters clipping through the screen, characters popping up from nowhere, and framerate issues. Like the indivisible walls you really don’t see these problems in most modern games, and even though they don’t make the game unplayable, they are distracting and laughable bad. Continuing in the mist of disappointment the A.I. is pretty much nonexistent. Enemies will run straight into your bullets and stand around as you pick them off, one by one. Best of yet, when the odds or overwhelming and you can’t defeat all the bad guys, all you have to do is sprint past them, easy! While running watch out because you will likely see characters popping up and disappearing all around you, the clipping is real bad here and at times down right comedic. This is only the start, and I don't feel like bashing a dead horse. Bottom line is that Darkest of Days has some problems that we're never fixed before the game shipped, and worst of all they are all noticeable issues. Even if you're not an experienced gamer, you will spot these puppies and wonder what is going on. Glitch in the system, yup.
Its a shame that Darkest of Days didn’t turn out better. One thing that is for sure is that Darkest of Days doesn’t feel 100% complete. Darkest of Days needed to use its own time-bubble to return to the drawing board and work out some of the kinks in its code. What should have been a cool and innovative shooter in some of histories more reviving moments turns into a laughable sloppy playground of brain dead soldiers and matrix like glitches. It’s too bad the glitches and smaller issues couldn’t have been dealt with before the game shipped because underneath all the layers of bad lays a game that is just itching to be made. It’s obv4ious a lot of thought went into the direction of the game, it’s unfortunately it didn’t translate to the gameplay. Sadly this one is a skip.
Gameplay:4.0, Graphics:4.0, Sound:4.0, Innovation:5.0, Mojo:4.0 Final: 4.2 / 10
Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy | 09.12.09
- great concept with historically accurate events
- get to visit several different time periods
- using future weaponry in the past is fun
- graphics are a behind the times
- too many questions, not enough answers
- loads of invisible walls
- delivery is harshly dull
- lots of glitches
- non-existent A.I.
- no multiplayer
- feels incomplete