Every once in a while a game zips so far beneath the radar, you’d be forgiven for missing it entirely. A humble Google search merely scrapes up nothing more than flashes of other, more prestigious titles. DARK isn’t even listed on developer RealForge’s website. Money is money, and with a budget game like DARK you don’t really except any kinda of fanfare. That is until you play, because DARK is not a game to be proud of.
In what can only be presumed as a misguided attempt at creating a game which doesn’t contain zombies, DARK begrudgingly tells the story of Eric Bane, a lone pleb who done got himself bitten by a vampire, and now must predictably kill a load of other vampires, to stop him from dying, or something.
Whenever he kills the vampire he and everyone else are certain is the right one, another squirms out in like the dandelion of rubbish storytelling. Whatever the reason, it’s hard to care for Count Blandula when he comes across like Agent 47 during his ‘alternative’ second-year at Coventry University, reciting ‘edgy’ self-penned poems at open-mic nights.
All of the voice acting is duff and lip-synching seems to have only barely been attempted, but these would’ve been forgiveable in a game with more heart, or even an iota of charm. The dialogue is either awkward exposition or hilariously under-acted, written like terrible Buffy fanfiction.
DARK plays like a tribute act to 2001, sifting through nostalgia to trigger the long-suppressed memories of yesteryear’s rubbish game design, when vampires were still relevant, and these sorts of games were rife.
Taking the same path other cut-price recent releases, like the excellent Call of Juarez: Gunslinger, DARK is fairly pleasantly cel-shaded. Presumably through budget rather than artistic endeavour, the brighter and more vivacious levels look all the better for it, but with a name like DARK, that isn’t what we were after.
Most areas are semi-open spaces, facilitating multiple approaches to a given subject, or so you’d think, but combined with some appalling enemy placements, DARK becomes a cautionary tale into how linearity isn’t a dirty word. It’s admirable that unlike your Dishonoreds and Hitmans, DARK never presents the player with a single obvious route, or clear paths dedicated to different play-styles, but in practically it only breeds frustration through excruciating trial and error, compounded by sparse and nonsensical check-pointing, regardless of difficulty.
Any joy which could’ve been gleamed through DARK’s combat -the blurb promises ‘melee attacks!’, curiously absent for the most part- is lost under a cavalcade of poor design choices. As vampires often do, Bane possesses vampiric abilities, each unlocked when enough vampire points are accrued, but on top of a cooldown, each costs a point of Vitae.
This can only be gained through biting enemies, the animation looking more like a laboured hickie, but this takes so bloody long that it becomes only feasible on isolated enemies.
The use of Vitae may have proved useful in a greater game, but its limited availability only exacerbates, giving the combat no sense of urgency or tension. Because of this, Bane never feels even vaguely powerful, even when utilising the more creative aspects of his skillset, like shadowkill, immediately alerting every nano-particle in the vicinity, instantly shredding Bane into a vampire colander.
Stealth comes in the form of sticking to cover, but movement and biting become so finicky, even DARK’s answer to blink struggles to alter encounters in any meaningful way.
DARK plays like a tribute act to 2001, sifting through muddy pools of nostalgia to trigger the long-suppressed memories of yesteryear’s abhorrent game design, when vampires were still relevant and these sorts of games were rife. Passable visuals are nullified by virtually every other aspect, making for a truly tiresome experience, leaving you longing for the far superior Hitman: Absolution and your money back.
Version Tested: Xbox 360