Darkest of Days Review

By Paul Semel - Posted Sep 14, 2009

This game is so badly done, so sloppy and unfinished, that it would be funny if it wasn't so frustrating. That it also squanders an interesting idea just makes it that much worse. Had the basic idea behind this game been as lousy as the rest of it, Darkest Of Days would've just been a crap shooter. As it is, it's a big disappointment, too.

The Pros
  • Has an interesting premise.
  • Won't distract you from important obligations.
  • Good example of how not to make a game.
The Cons
  • It squanders the aforementioned premise.
  • Stupid enemies.
  • Doesn't seem finished.

Last year's Turning Point: Fall Of Liberty was a deeply flawed first-person shooter. But poor game mechanics were not its biggest sin. No, the big problem with that game is that it had an interesting premise - in which the U.S. never enters World War II and, as a result, the Nazis invade New York City years later - but didn't tell that story well or have gameplay that lived up to its story's potential.

But as disappointing as Turning Point may have been, Darkest Of Days is an even bigger letdown. Granted, its story - in which you play a soldier who travels back in time to correct historical mistakes - doesn't have the impact of seeing Nazis marching down Broadway (especially since its territory that's been previously mined by the movies The Final Countdown and TimeCop as well as episodes of Star Trek: Voyager). But in terms of the gameplay and presentation, this low-rent first-person shooter is way, way worse.

Darkest of Days

“Fell On Black Days”

When the game begins, it's June 25, 1876, and The Battle Of Little Big Horn is about to become Custer's Last Stand…and yours as well. But you're saved by a man in a strange suit of armor who walks out of giant watery ball and tells you to come with him if you want to live. Next thing you know, you're in the future, some woman in this weird-looking window is talking about time travel and problems with the timeline and some missing guy, and while you shouldn't know anything about this stuff, it all makes sense to you somehow.

She then says that it's now your job to go back to various points in history to make things right. So you're sent back to various battles in World War I, World War II, and the Civil War, and charged to make sure they play out just like they did in the history books.

What's ironic is that someone from the future didn't use a watery bubble to come back in time and tell the 8monkey development team, “You've got a good idea here, but your game has some serious problems. Come with me if you want it to be better.” The game is so flawed that I half expected my Xbox to spit the disc out and give me that “this disc is not playable” message. Which, having played the game, would've been preferable.

For starters, the game's controls are bad. Sure, you can move okay, but trying to melee someone is like being a blind skeet shooter in an earthquake: you just keep poking the button until you somehow hit the target.

Not that shooting them is any easier. Because you use historically accurate guns, you spent a lot of time shooting a bolt-action rifle or a musket, and if you've ever had to reload a bolt-action rifle in a game before, you know why you it doesn't exactly yell “action.” Granted, there are missions when you get to use modified, more modern, and even futuristic weapons - such as an auto-targeting machine gun - but this just makes things so lopsided that it's not like shooting fish in a barrel, it's like nuking them. After you've slipped sleeping pills into the water. And tied them up.

The game also cribs the active reload function from Gears At War, except that there's no advantage to doing it right, just a disadvantage to doing it wrong.

But then, there's no point in having good controls if the enemy A.I. is so dumb that you can run right past a squad of guys and none of them shoot you. Which isn't an exaggeration: on a couple of occasions I ran right through a bunch of guys and none of them shot me.

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And The Hits Keep Coming...

The game's visuals also make this look less like a 360 title and more like a PS2 game -- and not a good one. They're so boxy and lacking in detail that it's often hard to tell your enemies from your allies. Not that the game indicates the difference anyway. Unlike most shooters, which change the reticule color to red when you're aiming at something you should be aiming at, this game only changes the reticule color to green after you've shot a friend.

But the biggest problem is that game just doesn't seem finished. Not only is the voice acting badly recorded, but it doesn't sound like it's supposed to be the real audio, it sounds like something one of the producers did as a temporary track. Similarly, the menus and typography also look like they're just placeholders, while the animations are stiff and lifeless.

There are even times, when there are a bunch of guys on screen at the same time, that the game slows to a crawl, and others when characters pop in from out of nowhere. It even crashed sometimes when it was trying to load, while the subtitles often come up faster than the dialog is spoken. It's like amateur monkey hour.

Darkest of Days

A Light In The Darkness

There is one little wrinkle we actually kind of liked. While you're supposed to kill people, there are some people you're not supposed to kill. Instead, you're supposed to use these superball-like things that work like a tossable stun gun, or you can shoot them in the shoulder or the leg. But even this isn't done well. Sure, a headshot will always kill them, but you can pretty much just shoot them anywhere else once or twice and they'll flop to the ground and hold their leg.

But even this interesting, if misfiring, mechanic can't save this botched job of a low-rent shooter. This game is so badly done, so sloppy and unfinished, that it would be funny if it wasn't so frustrating. That it also squanders an interesting idea just makes it that much worse. Had the basic idea behind this game been as lousy as the rest of it, Darkest Of Days would've just been a crap shooter. As it is, it's a big disappointment, too.