|System: X360, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: 8monkey Labs||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Phantom EFX||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sep. 8, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Cole Smith
August 28, 2009 - Killing for sport? Or killing for a higher purpose? It's all part of the thrill in Darkest of Days where you are commissioned to go back in time and take part in some of the bloodiest battles in history. Your mission is not just to kill the enemy but to assist key characters from meeting their demise. In some cases, you'll be killing both sides. Darkest of Days is a unique FPS where it's not just about running and gunning. You must be careful not to make any mistakes or you will change the course of the future.
Think of it like a time-traveling safari. You take part in any or all of five major battles including the Civil War, Little Big Horn, WW1, WWII, and Pompeii. Pompeii you say? Yeah, while the volcano is spewing lava and poisonous gases, you'll be fighting for more than just your life.
Purists be damned! In Darkest of Days you can take weapons of the future back in time just to see what kind of carnage you can create. Imagine taking an AMP-60 machine gun to the battle of Little Big Horn. Well you don't have to imagine, in Darkest of Days you can actually see firsthand what impact you and your weapons will have on the battlefield.
In Darkest of Days you are a time-traveling crusader. A mysterious organization has recruited you to take part in these missions. They monitor the number of kills, but more specifically, they restrict the people that can and can't be killed. If you accidentally kill one of the restricted characters, the game will freeze and you might have to come back as the enemy to fix that mistake. It may sound confusing, but nobody ever said that time travel was going to be easy.
Characters with a blue outline should not be killed. As the enemy it's imperative that you stop them from fighting. That will involve non-lethal action such as shooting them in the leg or shoulder, or incapacitating them with a futuristic stun weapon. The reason these characters cannot be killed is complex and at times seemingly sinister. They live to affect future events through their actions or through the actions of their offspring.
Battles will be fought with a variety of weapons including period-specific weapons such as a six-shooter and a musket. You can also bring along machine guns, assault rifles, and even a rocket launcher; whatever it takes to get the job done. There are 20 weapons in all.
The developers have done an incredible job with their first playable demo mission. The landscapes are immense, exquisitely rendered, and fully explorable. The huge mountains in the distance are not painted walls; they are part of the environment. Employing the newly developed Marmoset engine, the game is capable of rendering huge battlefields along with 300 characters onscreen at the same time. According to the developers, extensive research went into each time period to make everything as accurate as possible including the environments, costumes, and weapons. Very little is left to the imagination. Few details are overlooked including the concentrated smoke from the muskets to the individual blades of grass blowing in the wind.
Expect a lot of freedom in the game. Even though you have specific objectives, the procedure is up to you. Strategy plays an integral role in the gameplay, especially when it comes to using the environment to your advantage. Hills provide vantage points to pick off large amounts of enemies in many directions. Caves, caverns, trees, and buildings offer cover, and with hundreds of characters taking place in any one battle, you will have to find a lot of hiding places if you want to stay alive.
Even though Darkest of Days is a single-person game, it has the feel of an online massive multiplayer. Frontline soldiers push through enemy territory while the Calvary invades from different angles. The A.I. does a good job of making all of the characters appear to be intelligently controlled, instead of it felling like one big mass. Each character can be engaged individually on the battlefield and will react accordingly, especially during melee combat. When they sense they have numbers on their side, they will fire relentlessly upon you. If you manage to reduce their numbers, some of them will get the hint and start to retreat, demonstrating that they have the capacity to think for themselves. Otherwise, they follow orders and behave as a realistic unit.
The safari aspect is evident in Pompeii where thousands of people are fleeing for their lives amidst the chaos of the volcano. Here it's a foregone conclusion that most of these people will die, so load up your weapons and have at it. Morbid? Of course. Fun? How can it not be? But you can decide for yourself in the early days of September when Darkest of Days is available for the Xbox 360 and your PC.
CCC Senior Writer