Thursday, January 14, 2010

Darkest of Days Review

I am watching you play this terrible game.
Time travel is a bad plot device, used more often than not to make up for running out of new ideas. (We just brought Spock back from the dead, now what? To the eighties!) Even when it is is applied 'logically' it becomes confusing, barely consistent, or just plan stupid so quickly that I believe it should be avoided at all costs. In the game world, only Braid seems to have gotten it right, and that uses time as a game play mechanic, not a crutch for shoddy writing. Taking this worthless plot device and dropping it into a budget shooter that already had the wonderful idea of setting large portions of the game in the goddamn civil war where muzzle loaded rifles are the latest and greatest killing device and you get Darkest of Days - the worst game of any kind I have played since putting fifteen uncomfortable minutes into Fusion Frenzy 2.

There is nothing wrong with a budget title being a budget title, so long as it doesn't pretend to be more than an afternoon time killer. Little games by small developers usually have enough charm to overlook small technical problems, especially if they populate underrepresented genres and are priced accordingly. Darkest of Days' greatest mistake was just being a first person shooter in the first place. The local GameStop bargain bin is already full of budget FPS's, most of which are better than what is offered here. Visually, mechanically, musically, it does not matter: every part of this game is broken. Textures hearken back to PS2 quality: of low resolution and repeated every few virtual feet. All three of the character models are an embarrassment to look at, much less to watch move awkwardly though the bland, ugly world, getting stuck on square tree trunks when then should be bayoneting you in the face. On more than one occasion I watched an enemy run right into me during the eternity it took to reload my rifle and die to my ungainly melee attack instead of shooting me from the relative safety of their bullet porous cover. To make up for being idiots a good chunk of the bad guys can shoot you right through rocks, trees, historically misplaced zeppelins, and the like. Most bad games have the decency of being easy; Darkest of Days is both bad and impossibly difficult in places thanks to inconsistent and broken game play.

I'm sorry, there are four character models.

Listening to the game is almost as bad as looking at it, with musical tracks that consist entirely of four simple bars looped ad naseum and voice acting that makes Resident Evil sound like Shakespeare. Lines like 'My German blows goats' are delivered with such amature earnestness that I almost believed the character speaking had a nazi in a cage in his backyard with a weakness for farm animals. This particular gem was delivered on the heels of a tragically good section. I say tragically because for a few scant moments Darkest of Days managed to be a much better game. After being captured by nazis (who apparently can appear at will, where is BJ Blaskowitz when you need him?) I was dumped into a train car full of scared russion prisoners of war. The lot of us were then forced out, cold and without subtitles, into a POW camp. From being pistol whipped by cranky Germans to being menaced by their hungry dogs, the mood created was one of desparation and panic. Nothing else before this or after worked, and it was quickly ruined by my guides odd fetish with bestiality, which actualy made me dislike the game even more. To waste a section this good was actually worse then never getting better in the first place.

Darkest of Days is worse than a bad game; it is a collectin of ideas that should never be used, and it should be studied as an example of what not to do. Don't use preserving the time line as a central plot point when your idea of preserving it is jumping back to the civil war and murdering rebels with automatic weapons from the future. Don't let the janitor do all of your voice acting just because you have run out of money. Don't drop a PC port of a bad game on a console that is already rife with mediocre examples of the genre, especially when a game like Modern Warfare 2 came out a few months before. And finally don't expect mercy or understanding just because 'this was your first game,' doing so may ensure that it is the only game you get to make.

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