Dark Void is basically Crimson Skies with on-foot combat. That may be overgeneralizing things, but Ed Fries co-founder at Airtight Games and former Microsoft Game Studios guy essentially pitched the game as such at Capcom's Captivate 08 event as the type of game that the team wanted to make. With a mechanic the studio is referring to as "vertical cover combat," Dark Void looks to distinguish itself from the 3D action game crowd by way of Crimson Skies know-how and a sci-fi mythology that pits man against alien invader, selectively borrowing from classic science fiction properties in intelligent places.
The story of Dark Void, if you aren't up to speed, is that our hero Will becomes trapped in the Void during a routine cargo flight that ventures a bit too closely to the Bermuda Triangle. Will and his compatriots, known as the Survivors, will battle a "mysterious alien race" known as the Watchers in order to save the Earth from (what else?) total destruction. Or something.
In addition to stock over the shoulder run and gun gameplay, Dark Void adds a few interesting tricks to the mix. Aerial ship-based combat, something that looks to please Crimson Skies fans, looks more than solid, as demonstrated by designer Jose Perez. He showed off the "skyjacking" of alien UFOs, classic saucer-style ships that can turn on a dime and be hijacked by Will without too much work. Using a rather simple mini-game, Perez showed how the player must avoid a UFO's security system while trying to access its control panel, ejecting the alien pilot and taking over.
Will can fly too, courtesy of a handy, Rocketeer-style jet pack, one that appears to be built (and further upgradeable) via alien technology. That jet pack not only gives him the opportunity to take flight to bypass traditional routes, it brings the "vertical cover combat" into play.
That mechanic can best be described by a 90-degree rotation of the player's axis of progression, as Will will take cover behind rocky ledges as he scales the side of a cliff, spaceship or building. It's pop-and-stop gameplay, with bursts of flight and a grip system that utilizes a mini-game to keep Will's hold on his surroundings steady.
Dark Void is still said to be at least a year off, with plenty of room for improvement and development beyond the brief portion we saw at Captivate. The team at Airtight have already ruled out multiplayer, something that may not sit well with gamers expecting that feature as a given—especially after they see the UFO combat and skyjacking gameplay.
We were pretty impressed with what we saw of Dark Void, despite some rather bland character design (that unfortunately reminded us of Haze in parts) and the lack of multiplayer modes, but with so much time left to get the thing right, we hope it stays on track. And we certainly look forward to getting our hands on the controller next time.