Darkest of Days Review - The Next Level

Game Profile

Xbox 360
Release date:
September 8th, 2009
Valcon Games
8monkey Labs
First-Person Shooter

Darkest of Days

Fix time by killing everyone in sight.

Review by Aaron Drewniak (Email)
September 20th 2009

You were just minding your business, shooting marauding injuns on top of Little Big Horn, under the direction of your fearless commander General Custer.  When all of the sudden there's this flash of light, and some greenhorn in shiny pajamas pulls you right through it!  Now there's a devil-mirror with big eyes that claims to be a woman named Mother, while a cowpoke named Dexter starts going on some fool nonsense about 'time travel,' whatever the hell that's supposed to mean.  Then they hand you a gun.  It's a real nice gun.  Shoots bullets faster than greased lightning!  Time for your first mission....

The best moments of the game tend to be too brief, while other portions are left to drag.

Strictly a single player FPS, Darkest of Days has you reliving legendary battles, mostly from the Civil War and the Russian front in WWI, setting the sights of historical weapons to mow down lots and lots of people to somehow fix the timeline warped by members of a mysterious group called the Opposition.  The story is like every other element of the game, a mix of bright ideas and lost opportunities.  For instance, ninety percent of the story is told through your NPC companion Dexter, a former firefighter who nearly had the twin towers dumped on him, even though he sounds straight out of the 1950s.  While he can spin a yarn, it would have been so much better to have the reactions of the man whose boots you fill to all of this, but instead we suffer the curse of the silent protagonist.  Another problem is while it gears up near the end to a cool showdown with the Opposition, the first half of the game is spent on saving the bacon of two guys you never really know, and sure don't care about.  Then you need to save their relatives too.  Ugh.

Shooting controls are as smooth as butter, making precision aiming a breeze with a wide range of weaponry.  Primitive rifles might seem like a pain at first, but it becomes a matter of skill and accomplishment when every shot needs to count, though you will get to use futuristic weapons in certain segments.  The normal flow of the game is following along a path, clearing out any bad guys along the way, to reach a fixed location you'll need to defend as waves of armed hombres flood in.  The game also mixes it up from time to time.  Sometimes in poor ways, like riding a blimp and taking down enemies you can barely see, and sometimes in amazing ways, like working as a lone soldier armed with an advanced machine gun tagging enemy bases under the cover of darkness.  The AI is pretty decent in doing its best to shoot from cover, and not focusing fire entirely on you when there's an army at your side.  Wide open spaces mean flanking opportunities, but these are sometimes blocked by invisible barriers.

The best moments of the game tend to be too brief, while other portions are left to drag.  The entire section with World War II as a backdrop is fun from start to finish, but it's only three brief levels compared to the seven or so for the Civil War, which peaked during its cornfield raid in the second mission.  The ending featuring the final showdown with the Opposition with the backdrop of Pompeii being buried in ash is as picturesque as it is a blast, but there's so much packed into it, including two new weapons, that would have better been cropping up earlier in the game.  Visuals are similarly schizophrenic, sometimes looking like an original Xbox game, until the smoke and light falling through the trees result in an awe inspiring moment, quickly torn apart by the charge of battle.

Clocking under ten hours with zero replay value, Darkest of Days is a weak buy but a great rent.  It's a shame there isn't any level select with option of choosing what weapons you want to bring into each era to extend the experience of some of the better missions.  It's a shame the bonus level wasn't some crazy survival mode with every weapon in the game, instead of yet another Civil War segment.  Co-op alone would have been reason enough to give the game a second spin, but as it is, it's a temporary holdover until the big guns of the FPS genre arrive.

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