Deep Black: Reloaded Review

By Colin Tan on March 14, 2012

It's easy to get excited about what developers try out in games, especially when they're concepts that are new, unique and looks very promising. Deep Black: Reloaded is one such game, promising a unique third person shooting experience set underwater. That idea alone is pretty interesting and the thought of it invokes some epic spec ops action, but the reality of it is unfortunately quite grim. Here's to finding out what works, and what doesn't.

Developed by independent developer Biart, Deep Black: Reloaded is set against the backdrop of the world where nations have either collapsed or joined forces to wage war against each other. Seems like they never learn. In any case, the opening sequence of the Deep Black: Reloaded is awfully reminiscent of Metal Gear Solid.

You play as Pierce, a retired agent of the Chief Amphibious Reconnaissance Operations Network (CHARON) "“ and as the organization name implies, expect lots of underwater action. Pierce gets brought out of retirement for a mission to rescue hostages from a nasty group. What lays in store for him, however, is a critical retrieval and sabotage operation.

There are twists and turns throughout the story, all of which have proper potential to turn heads. Sadly, the execution is simply poor at best, and the game quality is on the level of budget movie tie-ins. The situation isn't helped by the amount of cheese in the writing, or the performances by the voice actors, which come across as awkward and forced. Events and cutscenes are generally boring and don't do the plot twists any real justice. While the game boasts quite a lengthy campaign "“ roughly seven or eight hours, it's roughly seven to eight boring hours of firefights in linear corridors.

Gameplay is where most of the promise lies, but again suffers from poor execution. The tutorial does well to ease players into the amphibious mechanics. Pierce is able to freely navigate underwater, take cover behind large enough objects, and assault whatever foe is standing between him and his objective. Unfortunately, there is little innovation here, and even then the core mechanics are a thing to fight with. Taking cover is an exasperating effort, as is rolling out of danger. On the latter note, performing a roll is like watching the wind try and move a boulder. Not that it's anything beneficial as the action barely covers any distance.

Shooting is the same tried and true formula of this generation. Take cover, and plan your shots accordingly. Pierce won't last long if he's standing around and gunning the place down. The enemy AI can be very punishing and the only way to push through is to take shots from behind cover where they can't get you. Sadly, it's awfully difficult to get a good shot on anyone, it may be the aim assist setting, but bottom line is you'll be putting a lot of lead into an enemy just to put them down.

It gets increasingly frustrating the further you infiltrate into enemy territory. Instead of dealing with just a single squad of troops at a time, you come face to face with platoon level groups, all of whom seem to have achieved marksmanship level. It gets to the point where it becomes difficult just to pop out and shoot without absorbing a decent amount of rounds before going back into hiding in an attempt to regenerate some of that lost health.

While the AI can be punishing, that's mostly in terms of their firepower and dead-eye accuracy. Not so much in terms of intelligence. Enemies will run right up to you, stand out in the open, run around in circles, and the like. This makes hitting them all the more infuriating as they can still get every shot on you while you struggle to take aim without eating lead.The meat of the game is its underwater mechanics. As mentioned earlier, you can take cover underwater as you would on land, and pop in and out to take shots and incoming enemies. Underwater, however, Pierce has to deal with more than just the regular foot soldier. Drones, mines and menacing robotic eels are the regulars that inhabit the game's underwater segments. They don't necessarily pose much of a threat alone though. Robotic eels will swim right up to you and trigger a quicktime event where Pierce can stab its face with the harpoon strapped to his arm. Boss encounters are pretty interesting, but like their land counterparts can become more frustrating than challenging. In the end, the underwater action doesn't feel all that much different from land-based operations.

Some neat mechanics include the ability to grapple objects with Pierce's harpoon. Doing so will allow the operative to hack into terminals to open gates, lower bridges, or to simply harpoon an unsuspecting guard into the deep where he stabs him in the face. Lovely stuff. The harpoon can also be used to temporarily deactivate mines, or hack an enemy drone so that it fights for you instead. Unfortunately, while the ideas are all sound, the execution is underwhelming. Killing a guard stealthily doesn't really yield any sort of reward, and it's always the same kill animation, or the same, and really annoying, death cries.

Multiplayer doesn't offer a lot in terms of variety. You've got the standard 8-on-8 player deathmatch and team deathmatch modes with little else in-between. The experience itself is nothing spectacular. In fact you'll probably be hard-pressed to find a large enough install base to play with in the first place.

The game does look nice on a purely aesthetic level. Physics work well and the underwater portions are nice and murky. The atmosphere underwater feels rightfully tense and the soundtrack adds to it "“ sadly the rest of the soundtrack sounds like generic action flick filler. The best part of it all is probably the EMP grenades and explosive barrels. Say what you will about the poor execution of most of the game, Biart at least got explosions right, and really satisfying. Nothing feels better in this game than blowing up enemies hidden behind cover with high explosive barrels, or dropping an EMP nade within the proximity of electronic containers that string together to create an even bigger explosion. It's a show, to say the least. A very satisfying show.

Final Thoughts

Deep Black: Reloaded showed quite a bit of promise. It's too bad that so much of it just falls under mediocrity. The story isn't very exciting; gameplay can prove infuriating; and, unfortunately, the underwater segments are underwhelming. Which is quite sad to say since it's the game's major selling point. The game is available for $29. That's a tough sell, even if Deep Black: Reloaded offers some interesting mechanics. Shooting fans will likely be more satisfied with free-to-play options such as Blacklight Retribution, or Ubisoft Singapore's upcoming Ghost Recon Online.

Grapple mechanics are interesting.
A good balance between underwater and land-based operations.
Explosions are awesome.
Boring story and awkward performance.
Gameplay had lots of potential, but reality showed lack of innovation.
Gunplay is more frustrating than fun.
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