Deep Black: Reloaded brings familiar, almost clichéd, mechanics to an original setting and the overall result is remarkably fresh. Sporting an aesthetic similar to Dead Space as well as intense gun battles with a cover system similar to Gears of War, it would be easy to dismiss Deep Black: Reloaded as a third-person action clone, but the underwater exploration and combat is a unique focus that certainly helps it carve out its own identity.
It’s compelling too, surprisingly so. Despite a predictable pattern to combat, exploration and light puzzle solving, the pacing is tight and steady. Exposition is light, the puzzles lean towards level pulling and switch hitting, and exploration is frequently punctuated by bouts of action. As such it’s difficult to get bored and it’s easy to look past the flaws. You move through the narrative quickly and encounter just enough variation in enemies to throw up new challenges and encouraged you to see the next batch. You’re likely to find more than enough enjoyment to keep you engaged throughout the campaign.
That’s not to say it’s a perfect game though. Several shortfalls threaten to ruin your fun. The AI is very aggressive, laying down heavy fire, making decent use of cover and shifting position often. It can make for some great fire fights at times, whilst at others you can easy predict their intensions and waste them before they have time to react. However, if they pin you down, things get difficult and inevitable leads to many frustrating deaths, especially as you progress deeper into the game and the difficulty ramps up. If an enemy gets close, they truly become deadly, with weapons dealing high damage and melee attacks incapacitating you quickly. Unfortunately retaliating with your melee attack triggers an animation that leaves you vulnerable. Indeed combat can certainly get harsh, and the frustrations increase due to slow movement when walking backwards and sometimes large gaps between checkpoints. However, combat on dry ground is only half the story.
Underwater combat plays very differently. Movement is far more responsive thanks to the suit your character wears and the recharging jetpack, and having 360 degrees of movement opens up the battlefield. Even the cover system works underwater. Additionally your grappling hook can be used to hack control panels and robotic enemies, manipulating the environment and enemies respectively. It’s the action combat you would expect from a third-person action title but in a unique environment that may be harsh but otherwise hard to fault.
The narrative and its delivery are much easier to fault, however. Set in the near future, the world is split into two factions fighting for supremacy and researching advanced weapons technology. All the while terrorist groups are looking to take advantage of the chaos. It’s bland and forgettable but at least sets up the opportunity for you to fight against some interesting robotic enemies, both underwater and on dry ground. The voice acting is, at best, highly stereotypical military chatter and at worst downright laughable. The character lack believability and fail to invoke emotion or any bond between you and them. Fortunately it’s keep light and it’s easy to mostly ignore the whys and concentrating on the hows.
In addition to the eight hour campaign is a limited but pleasant multiplayer option. Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch are your only options but some interesting scenarios can unfold with underwater combat and human opponents, especially if you can find a tactical team. It certainly feels like a missed opportunity not to have some objective based modes such as Capture the Flag, but it offers some extra hours of enjoyment if you’re able to find enough players to experience it with you.
Deep Black: Reloaded is a surprisingly compelling third-person shooter whose underwater combat offers a nice distraction from the norm. Whilst textures look basic they do look very crisp and light and the water effects look great. Additionally some impressive sound effects for weapons fire and some truly blood curdling screams of anguish from dying enemies immerse you in the environments effectively.
A weak narrative and occasionally harsh combat damage the experience, and oddities such as men screaming when killed underwater and a limited multiplayer mode shows areas which could be improved, but Deep Black: Reloaded does enough right to impress overall. Better yet it’s due to arrive to XBLA and PSN later in the year, where improvement may indeed be made.
If you’re looking for something familiar in a unique setting, Deep Black: Reloaded is definitely worth your attention.
MLG Rating: 7/10 Platform: PC Release Date: 01/03/2012
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a digital copy of Deep Black: Reloaded for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of three days on a PC. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.