Deep Black - Episode 1|
When I was asked to do the review for Deep Black: Episode 1 I did a bit of research and saw that this was a cover-based shooter that takes place, both on dry land and underwater thanks to a high-tech scuba suit. I love cover-shooters and I love diving so it seemed like a logical fit Ė sign me up!
I was only a few hours into the game when I realized why this was coming to the XBLA and not a retail release. Deep Black isnít a terrible game but it is terribly average. It does offer a few unique features and gameplay tricks but then it exploits and repeats those until you are sick of them. Honestly, how many times must you harpoon a control panel to lower a ramp into the water, and why canít you just climb out yourself? Maybe my suit is too heavy.
The story is laughably bad, and the dialogue equally as clichťd with excessive cursing and unnecessary comments. For some reason, whenever you pick up a new gun your character feels the need to report it back to his handler and she feels equally compelled to respond. Really? I know what a shotgun looks like. I donít need to eavesdrop on your com-link chatter to realize what I just picked up.
Movement and controls are fairly standard, both in the water and on dry land. You can run and crouch behind cover then pop-up for quick bursts of fire. Your damage heals over time so the game basically devolves into a series of shooting galleries. There is a bit of stealth to the gameplay in that you can harpoon a guy from dry land and execute him underwater, complete with laughable gurgling noises. Dry land death screams are just as hilarious and over-the-top.
Your D-pad lets you switch weapons and you have buttons for reloading and tossing grenades. There are plenty of explosive targets scattered about that you can use to cluster-kill guys or damage them even behind cover. The enemy AI is surprisingly aggressive and will charge your position giving you a short chance to put them down with some in-your-face gunfire or simply wait for them to reach you then execute them with a one-button instant-kill. Likewise, there are underwater attack drones that will rush you and you have no chance of killing with guns, so the encounter always results in a rapid-tapping of the B button until they explode.
There is also a lot of inconsistent damage where both you and the enemies can either take a lot of hits or just a few before going down. At first I thought it was the difference between headshots and body shots (not the tequila kind), but there is simply nothing predictable about the damage. Your one-hit kills and the harpoon snatch are the only guaranteed kills in the game. In fact, the harpoon is really the only original weapon in the mix; a multipurpose tool really, that you can use to stealth-snatch target or hack door panels, lower ramps, or even stun robot security droids.
The graphics arenít bad; in fact in some places they actually impressed me; usually underwater, but most of the dry environments are reused repetitive sections of architecture, sometimes mirror-imaged to give the illusion you are somewhere else. There are only a handful of enemy modes, and a few unique robot designs. Your character looks cool enough Ė reminded me of the Dead Space guy, but some of his animations are horribly wrong, like his dodge roll.
There is a multiplayer component for up to 8 players but during my several days of testing I couldn't find a single person to play with. I even delayed my review by 48 hours in hopes that somebody would show up. So if you are going to get Deep Black then make sure you are getting it for the single player game only.
Deep Black has an interesting premise that is marred only by its purely average by-the-numbers game design. If you remove the underwater elements you are left with a below-average cover-shooter with a cheesy story and B-movie dialogue. Itís only $10, but the title clearly hints there will likely be at least one more sequel, so you could be spending as much as a AAA release before itís over. If you want to get your feet wet then check out the Trial version, or just skip this soggy shooter entirely.