Deep Black: Reloaded: review

  • Platform: PC
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Biart
  • Developer: Biart
  • Players: 1 – 8
  • Site: www.biart7.com/node/11

Remember the underwater combat scenes in the Bond film Thunderball? It was all a rather sedate affair, with henchmen and the secret agent trading spear gun bolts and kicks with each other. Have you ever thought it would have been better if Bond had an underwater jetpack and a submersible assault rifle? The folks at Biart certainly thought such a thing would make a good concept for their new third-person cover shooter Deep Black: Reloaded.

Whilst a big chunk of the game takes place on land a lot of Deep Black is set underwater, where players have the ability to swim, shoot and even take cover against enemy diving teams and water based drones. It’s easy to see where the game has taken inspiration from Dead Space, with the underwater sections handling in a vaguely similar way to the sans-gravity areas Isaac Clarke battled through, even if they are a lot less open and corridor based. The main character also looks slightly Isaac-like, with an exosuit that has a glowing blue gauge on the back that indicates the state of his health.

When within poking distance, robots are likely to respond with electricity.

The underwater sections bring a slightly unique edge to the game and offer a change of pace from the battles that take place on land. They also allow you to use a sophisticated harpoon device to drag enemies into the water or hack terminals through grates and other such obstacles. Underwater combat is certainly a fresh experience; with the 360 degree movement introducing a slightly different game mechanic to those found in more vanilla third-person games. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take away from the monolithic flaws found throughout the game.

A decent cover system is a critically integral part of any cover shooter, but Deep Black: Reloaded manages to screw this up to an unbelievable degree. All environments are littered with the usual bits of scenery that stick out just enough to provide you with cover; but it comes as a total mystery to us as to why the game’s snap-to-surface cover system doesn’t apply to lots of it. Half of the scenery in every area cannot be utilised as cover, something that gets ridiculously frustrating when in the midst of a gunfight. Advancing becomes a lottery as the game refuses to differentiate the crates that provide cover from the ones merely placed as scenery until you actually approach them and look for the ‘take cover’ prompt. If you get it wrong the consequences are fatal.

Even when you do lock onto a piece of cover, the attack options get it wrong too. You have the standard lean out and shoot or manic blindfire strategies to employ with your firearm. These are usually straightforward strategies common to all cover based shooters. Aimed shooting works as expected, but blindfire is broken. It provides all of the negatives aspects of blindfiring, but none of the positives, you know, like better protection. Start blindfiring and you might as well stick your head out as you still take lots of damage from incoming fire, with the added inconvenience of not shooting straight. Similarly, bullets seem to leak through cover should you attempt to move along whatever piece of arena debris you’re hiding against.

Shoot water pipes that have botched repair jobs for instant swimming arenas.

This game has one of the fussiest cover systems we have ever come across. You need to be facing the object you want to shelter behind head on in order to take cover, and even then you need to be standing in the sweet spot to make the button prompt appear. The lack of a smooth way to transition between cover makes things even more awkward, with a rather clunky wrestle against the controls required to detach, run off and then reattach to new cover. This isn’t helped by the lack of a sprint button, or that you can only gently amble sideways and backwards. Unless moving forward, your character has no sense of urgency in any situation.

Other game design crimes are abundant, including enemies that magically appear once you cross an invisible threshold. There are too many occasions when you patiently clear an area from cover before advancing two feet, only for the next wave to come running around the corner. It’s as if the gunfight wasn’t loud enough to draw their attention, but the gurgling screams of their fellow henchmen being eviscerated deserves an investigation. This enemy spawning mechanic just staggers gameplay and further adds to the frustration.

Whilst the game doesn’t look terrible, it’s certainly not the prettiest contender out there. Having said this the graphics are competent and do their job. Sadly the animations, or rather lack of them, disappoint. All weapons are reloaded with a quick hand shuffle, with no evidence of weapon parts or magazines moving. It’s a small detail, but in a game where the main character faces the fourth wall when in cover, a bit of eye candy goes a long way and a basic omissions sticks out like a sore thumb at an index finger convention.

Game frustration #347: You can't take cover with the rocket launcher equipped.

There is a multiplayer mode but we were never able to test it because there was nobody around to play against. Therefore we can’t really give a fair comment on this component of the game except to say that the multiplayer scene is dead at the time of writing.

Deep Black: Reloaded has some nice ideas that suffer from sloppy execution. Whilst the underwater sections are a neat idea, they still suffer from plenty of the problems which become crushingly noticeable on dry land. Pair this with a story and characters that are completely forgettable and nothing stands out about the game other than a distinct lack of polish. It feels like Biart ran out of time or resources on this project which is a shame. Whilst it tries to offer some slightly unique ideas, it’s best to leave Deep Black: Reloaded sinking to the bottom of the deepest sea trench fathomable.

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Written by Anthony H

Anthony has been playing games for far too much of his life, starting with the MS-DOS classic Mario is Missing. Since then his tastes have evolved to include just about anything, but his soft spot lies with shooters and the odd strategy game. Anthony will inspire you with his prose, uplift you with his wit and lie to you in his biography.

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