Some titles, when they come out, just need a little fine tuning to make them perfect, some need a little more than that, and others just seem to need a complete overhaul or to start over from scratch. Then there’s the issue of game-breaking DRM that seems to plague just a few of my titles on the PC, which can be infuriating in and of itself, but I’ve never actually played one where the DRM made it so the game wouldn’t even launch past the menu, until now. Let’s take a look at Deep Black: Reloaded, shall we?
The premise is that you’re an operative for an agency that’s out to stop, presumably, bad guys from doing, well, things. The game itself isn’t very good at delivering on a story in the cutscenes, which seem disjointed and not all that well put together. They’re there to basically be an information dump to get you to care about what you’re doing in the game, more or less, and try to help make sense of what’s going on, and since I don’t really have a clue, I’d say that ship has sailed. You get sent on missions that involve you alternating between ground and water based objectives, shooting on both, but also some puzzle solving. You have a suit that can help propel you through the water with short boosts from rockets on your legs to get you around obstacles or behind sunken objects for cover. You take out people and underwater drones to get through to your objectives, flooding areas or dropping the water to get to others. I couldn’t ever connect to anyone on the multiplayer end of things, so its inclusion in the game is in name only at this point.
Audibly there’s not much going on. The sounds are pretty basic and do what they need to get things done, but nothing here screams out at you to get you to really think about what’s going on. The installation screen had some decent music along with the menu but I can’t remember a single moment from the game. Visually the game does some interesting things when you’re in the water. In fact, I’d say that the game’s strongest point are the water sections. Movement there is smooth, and you feel like you’re in water when you’re in it. On land it feels like a clunky third person shooter. The animations there aren’t that great, the environments are bland, and to be honest, your character and armor looks like a rip-off of Isaac from Dead Space, complete with the glowing bar on the back along the spine.
The controls are a pretty basic set-up for a third person shooter with the keyboard and mouse. The formula is, for the most part, unchanged since the 90s with the first person shooter. The controls here though, while standard, respond slowly and at their own pace. Firing works ok, but moving around and aiming feel like you’re working through a fine layer of slime to get it to do what you want. Once you get used to it, it’s mostly ok, but it just doesn’t seem to work all that great. There’s an interesting mechanic where you harpoon things in the water and reprogram them while you hang on for dear life if it’s a drone and just wait if it’s a door lock or switch to bring in more water.
The game doesn’t lend itself to balance well. The opening sequence took me multiple tried to get through, mainly because the underwater drone firing on you near the beginning needs to be hacked by harpoon while it continues to fire at you, requiring you to manage to not be in line of sight, but you have to be so you can hack it while it’s firing on you. If this had been a demo, I’d have deleted it at this point as it was beyond frustrating. It’s an odd choice letting the drone fire on you and hit for so much damage on the easiest setting. I don’t mind a challenge, but on easy, the game should be, well, easy. Being a budget title at around $20, you’re getting a decent amount of levels for your money – if you can get the game to work and can get past the clunky mechanics.
Honestly, the switching between land and water had me interested, but the way it’s been implemented here really makes me shake my head. Then there’s the DRM which actually killed the review copy I received completely dead. Basically, every time you fire it up, it calls the server to verify your serial number, which is fine, that doesn’t bug me all that much, unless of course I have no internet, then I get pissed. But this game, apparently, tells the server that it’s a new install every time it connects to the server, so it hits that five time activation limit pretty quickly, then quits working. We were sent a patch for it. However, it didn’t work as it still tries to contact the server, only now it never gets a connection to verify the game at all. Ever. So you can’t even start the game after that. I’ve waited a full week on this without any further response from the company, so the game is a complete wash for me.
If I’d spent my hard earned cash on this, I’d be livid. Sure it’s only $20 but $20 gets me to work and back for two weeks. This is a case for how not to do DRM. I’m having the same issue with Mass Effect 3 on a slightly less annoying scale as I can actually play that one. So the balance isn’t great, it was frustrating to the point I had to turn it off and go outside, and while the water mechanic was interesting, it’s not enough to keep me playing the game. On top of that, the game doesn’t feel all that original. It feels like Dead Space with a water mechanic instead of anti-gravity. Even your lead’s suit looks like a variation of Isaac’s. Replace the Necro’s with drones and beef them up but encounter fewer of them along with some human mercs to kill and there you go. Nothing really all that new to see here.
Control and Gameplay: Poor
Balance: Very Bad
Originality: Below Average
Appeal Factor: Mediocre
FINAL SCORE: PRETTY POOR GAME
Short Attention Span Summary
Deep Black: Reloaded tries to put in an interesting underwater mechanic into the third person shooter, but fails to deliver on both ends. The DRM with the game is breaking, to the point where I only got to load it five times before it quit working, and the patch we were given to fix it made it so the game wouldn’t load into menu at all as it couldn’t connect to their server. For now, until they get their DRM issues sorted out, I say avoid this at all costs. Up until the point the game quit working I wasn’t enjoying the game all that much anyway and I’d have to say if you like the idea of a guy in a suit conquering all in unusual environments, Dead Space does it better.