Price: £22.99 (£11.49 launch price)
While FPS games have ruled the action roost for some time now across all formats, third-person shooters have always been around and have offered gamers a different approach and a different perspective – quite literally – when it comes to a bit of running and gunning and further to that games like Gears of War have given us a whole new angle, the Over The Shoulder (OTS) shooter. The OTS perspective brings you closer to the action, rather than having you hovering from a distance like a trad third-person shooter (TPS), while still giving you all the benefits of being able to get a better feel for environment and interact with it more readily than an FPS game does. And now there’s a new OTS shooter on the market to get stuck into, Deep Black: Reloaded.
Despite the name, DB:R is actually the first of a series of Deep Black games being released by developer Biart, the others being a home console version and a mutiplayer online version both of which will be launched later this year, but for now if you fancy getting involved in some underwater action, you’ll be needing a PC.
DB:R is an arcade TPS that give you over eight hours of game play spread across more than 40 missions that come together to tell a tale of sci-fi, espionage and bio-terror and what’s special about DB:R is that as well as plenty of action on terra firma, you’ll be spending plenty of time exploring and battling enemies under water in the game’s many aquatic environments.
DB:R gets off to a good start thanks to its stunning visuals – in a word, it looks superb. My year-old rig is no gaming powerhouse but my 768 MB GeForce GTX 460 card had the game looking pretty spectacular even on my SD monitor, with detailed environments and characters, excellent lighting and fantastic water effects. Reflections are plentiful and impressive and the water moves with a wonderful realism, as do objects floating on the surface; when you head beneath the surface the graphics continue to impress and do an exceptional job of creating a convincing underwater environment. Shoals of fish dart around, there are bubbles aplenty and I particularly like the way the water runs off the camera when you emerge above the surface and the jets of gas that escape from your diving suit when you come out of the water. At a resolution of 1280×1024 and with all the details set to high, I experienced a little slow down when running through certain sections and also came across a couple of graphical glitches, but on the whole DB:R puts in a solid and impressive visual performance.
Of course, graphics count for nothing if the game play’s not much cop, but DB:R doesn’t disappoint and delivers a thrilling and immersive arcade experience. The controls are slick, adopting the traditional WASD control set up, with additional functions such as picking up weapons and activating locks handled by the E key, while manual reloading is done with the R key, both within easy reach of a finger when you need them. Space handles rolling and hiding behind scenery to protect yourself from enemy gunfire and while you might sometimes find yourself rolling when you want to hide, the flip side is that when the heat is on you can easily roll towards a piece of scenery, keeping nice and low, and put your character in a defensive position instantly. There’s no cross hair on the screen during normal game play and you instead have to press and hold the right mouse button to pop on onto the screen, which takes a little getting used to but it works well once you’ve got the hang of it and you also use the right mouse button to pop out from behind shelter and take aim at enemies. I particularly like the fact that in order to pick up ammo you need do nothing more than sand on top of a fallen enemy’s gun and you collect their unused rounds – not especially realistic, I know, but then DB:R is firmly rooted in the arcade action genre.
Each mission is broken up into sections and sees you progressing from way point to way point, gaining access to new areas along the way and taking down enemies when they appear, a traditional mix of exploration and action, with the combat above and below the water executed in a similar fashion while all the time being varied enough so as to keep you challenged and interested. Getting out of the way of enemy bullets behind a solid piece of scenery is essential to your survival in both environments and your gun is just as effective below the water as it is on land, usefully. While your foes above the waterline are mostly of the human variety, underwater you’ll also be facing off against numerous robotic creatures and you can even reprogram some of them to fight along side you. The combat is a nice mix of real time gunfights and QTEs, such as when you tackle the numerous robotic eels that patrol the waters, though these particular encounters require nothing more strenuous than hammering the F key repeatedly, though this means you can actually enjoy what’s happening on screen rather than concentrating on what buttons to push. You also get a harpoon and while it’s primarily used for activating switches both above and below the water, it’s also handy for dragging unsuspecting guards into the water where they get a knife to the neck. Special mention must go to the wonderfully OTT death cries of the numerous evil-doers that you’ll be dispatching as you progress through the game, the gurgling, choking, drowning sounds that other divers make when shot being my personal favourite. The soundtrack and sound effects are also excellent and suitably atmospheric while the voice acting is surprisingly good.
At eight hours, Deep Black: Reloaded isn’t especially long and there’s little replay value to be had, but with its impressive graphics, intuitive controls and fine blend of fun and thrilling arcade action and exploration in richly detailed environments you’ll enjoy every last minute of those eight hours. While it’s true the TPS market isn’t lacking in titles and Deep Black: Reloaded might not be a game-changer, it’s still a thoroughly entertaining game and different enough to deserve your attention. And, with the current launch price promotion, such good value that you can pretty much forgive its shortcomings.