Deep Black review. Undercover, underwater action from Biart.
The PC gets itself a new third person shooter set underwater. Full review after the jump.
Deep Black Reloaded is a third person cover based shooter from Russian developers Biart. It’s set in the not too distant future in a world gone to shit thanks to global terrorism which is where you come in. You play the role of Syrus Pierce, an elite operative of the mercenary group CHARON. After retiring in disgrace after a failed mission against the terrorist network Al-Azrad you are contacted by your old CO and told that Al-Azrad have captured a bunch of researchers and you’re the only man capable of rescuing them. So with a burning desire to slap some terrorists Pierce grabs his super high-tech jet powered wet suit and swims off to fight underwater terrorism, which is widely regarded as the worst of its kind.
It’s this underwater aspect of the game that Deep Black is relying on to set it apart from other titles in the genre, as aside from that it doesn’t really do anything new. The weapons are your basic array of pistols, assault rifles and shotguns with very little variety until you begin to advance further through the game, but even then you will find yourself using the same set of weapons for the majority of the game with the occasional special weapon or turret thrown in when the game feels you might need them for a particularly tough enemy.
The enemies are the same with the majority of your dry land opponents being the standard bad guy grunt with a variety of different weapons, as well as this there is a fairly wide range of robotic opponents which range from flyers to walking turrets and under water homing mines. However despite this variety the robots are for the most part fairly unrepresented during most of your fights and when you do encounter them, they tend to just be large amounts of the same type of enemy leaving little variety to be had in the combat in most cases.
As far as Deep Blacks cover system goes it is surprisingly smooth, working better than say the original Gears of War but not quite as fluid as the later games, you will no doubt encounter the typical cover shooter problem of being snapped behind a piece of cover you were intending to run past or rolling uselessly in a wall whilst trying to take cover behind it. The game is also annoyingly specific about what you can and can’t take cover behind, this is especially inconvenient during the underwater sections where a mistake will leave you bobbing limply behind a pillar whilst terrorists attempt to separate you from your internal organs. Overall however the cover system works well for the most part and should not be a real problem during the game.
The level design is typical of this kind of game with conveniently placed chests along with high barricades in any areas where enemies are going to spawn. Everywhere you go is also littered with everyone’s favourite friend exploding red barrels, probably responsible for more bad guy deaths than Rambo, John McClane and James Bond combined. As well as this there is the problem of predictability, hit an important objective switch and you know it’s going to open a door releasing a horde of enemies who just happened to be standing there because they can stand exactly where they want with nothing you can do to stop them.
The underwater level design is significantly better, with less predictability as enemies tend to catch you off guard a lot more often and with a much lesser degree of cover it can become very challenging indeed, which is by no means a bad thing. Everything else underwater is better as well come to think of it, with a lot more interesting and difficult enemies (for the most part) very smooth controls and increased weapon and maneuverability options in the form of your harpoon gun and jet pack respectively. The harpoon gun is a handy addition to your arsenal as it allows you disable or even reprogram certain robot enemies to help you in your underwater adventures. However apart from this and a few semi physics puzzles requiring you to navigate underwater volcanoes and streams of superheated water I cant help but feel that they could have done something more with all the increased options being underwater could give you. Overall however the underwater aspect of play is very interesting and definitely fun, Biart have handled it very well and turned it into more than just an interesting gimmick to help sales, and more into an immersive and well designed alternative to solid ground play.
Deep Black does have some problems in a few areas, firstly and most importantly is the truly horrendous death screams of your human opponents. Imagine if you can the noise you would hear if you were to stab a man in the testicles and then try drowning him in a very shallow puddle, this is the noise you hear every single time you kill someone underwater. Their dry land counterparts are no better with most fire fights dissolving into screaming matches between the AI as each one tries to outdo the last, with increasingly melodramatic and over the top cries of pain as if there were some sort prize involved for the guy to make the most undignified noise possible. Aside from this most of the voice acting isn’t too terrible and the actors are at least trying to pretend they know what different emotions sound like. Other than this problem I have encountered a few different bugs such as enemies shooting through doors or cover and just making themselves a general pain to kill. As well as this the grenades have a wildly varying kill radius and seem do as much damage as they damn well please, no matter how desperate a situation you might happen to be in. Your enemies in Deep Black suffer from much the same problem with most of them taking about half a clip to take down, sometimes though they decide that enough is enough and decide to go full terminator all over your ass, soaking up bullets like it ain’t no thing. In this situation I find a quick knife to the jugular tends to work quite well.
Deep Black does also come with an online multiplayer mode consisting of death match and team death match across a variety of maps both above and below water, there’s several different character models for you to choose from before start playing and that’s about all I can tell you about the multiplayer, as despite many attempts I have as of yet been unable to find a single game online, although more people may start playing after the game has been out for a little while and had to chance to sell a few more copies, I wouldn’t count on it and I find It very unlikely that with those limited game modes that Deep Black will ever have a busy online community.
Overall Deep Black is certainly a fun game to play, it handles very well and both the cover system and underwater play were a lot better than I had expected, although it can be let down by fairly predictable level design and repetitive enemies. It has some very interesting ideas and is a nice new approach to the cover shooter genre, which is always something I like to see especially when they put as much time and effort in as Biart clearly have to ensure that their twist is both fun and smooth to play.★★★★★★★★★★
Review kindly contributed by Jaspar Howson.
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