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Darkest of Days review

AT A GLANCE
  • Fun time-based mechanics
  • Awesome futuristic weapons
  • Satisfying old-fashioned guns
  • Borrows more than a little from Call of Duty
  • Wildly inconsistent difficulty
  • Graphics look a bit dated

How would the Civil War have been different if you’d been there with a modern machine gun? I’ll tell you: It’d have been much more awesome. In Darkest of Days, you play as a 19th-century American soldier plucked out of his own time moments before becoming a casualty at General Custer’s Last Stand.

He’s then shanghaied into service for an organization of time travelers that specializes in maintaining the integrity of the timeline. His mission: to protect and extract certain important individuals who’ve been put in harm’s way by The Opposition, a time-traveling force that’s attempting to change the course of history. The twist: these interventions mostly occur during the Civil War Battle of Antietam and World War I’s Battle of Tannenberg - two of history’s bloodiest clashes.

DoD borrows more than a little from Call of Duty - like recharging health, scripted battles and legions of easily killed and dumb-as-clay-pigeon soldiers - but it also brings in a few ideas of its own. The main one is central to the plot: certain enemy troops, highlighted in blue, are meant to survive their war and therefore must be handled with non-lethal force to avoid tangling up the timeline. You can shoot them in the leg or the shoulder to bring them down alive, or toss a handful of marble-like devices called Chasers that track down and immobilize “survivors.” The presence of these enemies means you can’t just go for headshots or grenade everything in sight; you have to think a little more during combat. I wish they were a little more consistent, though, because sometimes you’ll go through most of a level without seeing a single survivor. I know the casualty rates in these conflicts were high, but not that high.

The majority of the levels are typical corridor shooter rail-rides, but DoD keeps things lively with open areas where you can choose the order you want to tackle objectives, turret defense segments, zeppelin rides, sniper missions (with an awesome high-tech sniper rifle) and more. There were a few problems like frustrating invisible walls and the inability to jump over waist-high wooden fences, but otherwise I thoroughly enjoyed most missions.

For about two-thirds of the game you’ll be armed with period weapons like the Civil War-era one-shot Springfield muskets, Henry repeating rifles and Colt revolvers, or WWI-era German Gewehr and Russian Nagant rifles, and Lugar and Mauser pistols. Every shot counts with these relics, since frequent reloading turns you into a sitting duck, making the game play differently from your typical run-and-gunner.

Getting accustomed to slow-firing weapons also has the bonus effect of making you feel like a total badass when the game hands you a futuristic assault rifle with auto-targeting and lets you loose on an entire formation of doomed-anyway Confederate soldiers. Most of the future weapons are great - and the last gun you get in particular, which I won’t spoil, is a viciously awesome weapon. It’s easy to go mad with power while wielding one; several times I ran into the open blasting away at the enemy only to find that a strong offense doesn’t necessarily eliminate the need for defense when vastly outnumbered and surrounded.

Which leads me to one of my chief criticisms. First, the difficulty is wildly inconsistent in places. While I was able to smoothly sail through most areas without dying (unless I did something stupid and totally deserved it), in others I felt completely screwed over by huge numbers of enemy troops and a lack of cover. This would have made me extremely angry at the stupid checkpoint-only save system, except that it seems to save every couple of minutes, so I never had to replay very far to get back to the trouble spots. As it is, I’m just a little angry at the stupid checkpoint-only saves.

Another quibble: the graphics seem stuck in a time warp, lagging behind most big-budget shooters by a generation or two, particularly in the character model department. On the other hand, the large, cinematic environments often do a fantastic job of making you feel like part of a bigger historical battle, especially when dozens of soldiers crowd the screen at once and the air is thick with bullets and smoke.

Would Darkest of Days have benefited from another $10 million worth of development time for polishing and voice work improvements? Absolutely. But it makes the most of what it’s got, and it’s worth every penny of its modest asking price.

PC Gamer scores games on a percentage scale, which is rounded to the closest whole number to determine the GamesRadar score.

PCG Final Verdict: 80% (good)

Sep 16, 2009

More Info

Release date: Sep 08 2009 - PC, Xbox 360 (US)
Sep 08 2009 - PC (UK)
Available Platforms: PC, Xbox 360
Genre: Shooter
Published by: Phantom EFX
Developed by: 8Monkey Labs
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Blood, Strong Language, Violence
PEGI Rating:
18+

17 comments

  • Hooterman - September 29, 2009 3:09 p.m.

    I just came from here: http://techphules.blogspot.com/2009/09/darkest-of-days-review.html And I don't understand why this game is getting such varied reviews. Dan is about the only person that I've seen that has an overall positive review on this game. That other reviewer made it sound like it was frustrating to even plan.
  • JohnnyMaverik - September 29, 2009 12:28 a.m.

    I've heard the demo represents about the best the game has to offer, and very little of it's absolute worst...
  • JohnnyMaverik - September 20, 2009 1:59 p.m.

    ^^ What he said ^^ is what you should be considering if your actually thinking about picking this up
  • HeavyTank - September 20, 2009 6:50 a.m.

    Well, I've played the game so if you want a second opinion here it is: the graphics are really crappy and, most annoying of all, the game actually lags on my PC which can run ANY modern game with all the settings maxed out...it's probably the PhysiX thingy, but hey, how can PhysiX possibly slow down a game with such horrible graphics?Anyway, one good thing is that historical weapons are fun to shoot with and you play through some historical battles with modern weapons (occasionaly). The bad thing is that the missions are seriously messed up..the maps are big, but the objective system sucks (bad) and there are loads of restricted areas..and most of the time you'll be trying to figure out HOW to go to the mission obective..there was this one time where I randomly died because I wasn't very close to the character I was supposed to protect..if I stepped a metre away from him, boom, I died...but if I stayed close to him the waves of incoming enemies would fill me with holes (lol)..oh yes, and couldn't go on the road even if there was a path leading there...my character just wouldn't advance...that's bad mission planning gents. Also, you can play some missions in whatever order you want, but you have to play them anyway so this doesn't really make any difference..and the upgrade system is good, but the weapons aren't different when modded (this one was a big "awww" for me because I loved how the Bioshock weapon mods looked..). Furthermore, the sound of the game is really broken, sometimes the same sound effect is repeated ad infinitum until you complete the mission (VEEEERY frustrating), or is altered (the bullets grazing past me made a sound that was similar to a..I dunno, but it definitely didn't sound like a bullet). THe weapon handling is OK though. Overall, I think that this game does need another year (or two) in development to be good because this just won't cut it.
  • MoChilla - September 18, 2009 5:16 a.m.

    I was almost certain there would be a Quantum Leap reference...
  • jar-head - September 17, 2009 12:03 p.m.

    Wait Wait Wait! "I know the casualty rates in these conflicts were high, but not that high." Are You Kidding!? it's one thing to sit at home and watch the world Burn, it's another to See It Burn.
  • Amnesiac - September 17, 2009 1:29 a.m.

    Surprised, most of the reviews for DoD have ranged from mediocre to awful (including a 1/10 from D-Toid.)
  • CreeplyTuna - September 17, 2009 1:12 a.m.

    i played the demo, and although fun, i thought it would get a low reveiw because the graphics were iffy and i got killed from nothing, but now i think ill try it
  • erreip199 - September 16, 2009 10:50 p.m.

    Man if i can use the Mauser C96 and kick ass with it im bought
  • Ricochet3438 - September 21, 2009 9:49 p.m.

    i just played the demo and found it kinda fun. I mean come on guys, running around with an assault rifle wile all the guys around you are shooting pussy little muskets? BADASS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Centros - September 20, 2009 7:26 p.m.

    I was expecting a slightly lower score from what I played in the demo, but nothing as low as 1-3. Maybe a 6 at best.
  • JohnnyMaverik - September 17, 2009 12:48 p.m.

    Ignore this review, it come a few weeks before the actual game dropped, and everyone else has said avarage to very bad. If your really that interested play the demo, which I did, and I thought it sucked, but hey... you might enjoy it.
  • listerfeend - September 17, 2009 5:26 a.m.

    This is a review of the PC verison. Most reviews are for the console ports. Including an amazing Quick Look on giantbomb.com
  • forza - September 17, 2009 4:54 a.m.

    Dan my man wtf you smoking this game is terrible and most online gaming sites gave this game scores of 1 out of 5, or worse.
  • Octaviux - September 17, 2009 4:27 a.m.

    Gamesradar and PCGamer have the most trustworthy reviews in the industry. I've been getting PC gamer for 10 years and I can say from experience they are very accurate. I enjoyed the demo for this game.
  • Samael - September 17, 2009 3:11 a.m.

    Yeah...I...don't know what to think of this at all. Such wildly different scores.
  • Fishow753 - September 16, 2009 11:40 p.m.

    Wow, this game has been getting really all over the place reviews.Destructoid called it the worst first person shooter of the generation, while Gamesradar gives it an 8.I'm really confused.

Showing 1-17 of 17 comments

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