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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Dark.

TranscriptEdit

I'm pleased to report that I've done at least one review for every letter of the alphabet! Thank Christ for XCOM! But if there's one letter that's over-represented, it's "D," and that's because roughly 100% percent of game titles start with the word "dark," as in ____ Souls, ____ Void, ____siders, ____ness and ____est of Days. So the subject of today's review gets refreshingly to the nub of the matter. Perhaps this represents a final culmination of the entertainment industry's long-held notion that the epitome of cool is sitting around being miserable with the lights turned off. Pity the actual game is cajun-cooked walrus dribble, but never mind. They could always patch things up with a sequel which would logically be named "dead," as in ____ Island, ____ Rising, ____ Space and ____pool!

Considering Ride to Hell, what is this, Absolute Garbage Awareness Month? Do they even care what gets a full-on boxed console release anymore? Well, since it's the end of the generation, I guess not! "All right son, we've had fun on this boat over the years, but now it's time to sink it to the ocean floor and let all the bottom feeders live on it." "But Daddy, couldn't we just put a better engine on the boat and not have to destroy all our cherished memories?" "I think someone needs to go back in the naughty box!"

Dark opens up with the protagonist waking up with no memory except that his name is Eric Bane. Oh God, that's a demoralizing start, isn't it, realizing you sound like the pseudonym under which a struggling author writes erotic Twilight knock-offs? Anyway, Dangerous McSpookyname bumbles into a nightclub that luckily happens to be run by nice vampires, nice in the sense that they wantonly drink blood from humans but "we're really thirsty, guys!"

Traditionally, this is the point where the "oh no, it's all right, we're good vampires who like humans and survive off donated blood packs and badly made McRibs" routine comes in to play so the vampires don't seem unsympathetic, but Dark kinda skips that step 'cos it's too busy digging plot holes. Eric is informed that he is now a vampire because a vampire drank all his blood, but either they immediately forget about that particular rule or Eric creates about fifty more vampires in the course of every single combat section. Hey I've got an idea, how about we play one of them? I want to re-roll my character, one that didn't get snake-eyes for charisma!

Dark is a big fan of "tell, don't show". Maybe they can't show us 'cos it's too dark; we wouldn't see it. By the time he leaves the nightclub at the start of the game, Eric has met four new characters, learned about vampires, about vampire powers and about the powerful senior vampire he has to go kill in order to become a real vampire as opposed to the namby-pants poser he is now, all of which is delivered through tedious dialogue trees that, as tends to be the case with these things, bear about as much resemblance to actual human conversation as a butthole full of cum does to a chocolate eclair.

Here's a fun game: next time you're at a party, talk to a stranger like you're a video game character going through a dialogue tree.

"Yes, I've just bought a new entertainment system for my living room."

"TELL ME MORE ABOUT YOUR NEW ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM!"

"It's really nice, it's got Bang & Olufsen speakers-"

"TELL ME MORE ABOUT SPEAKERS!"

"Um, they're the things that audible sound comes out of."

"TELL ME MORE ABOUT AUDIBLE SOUND!"

"Um, it's an... oscillation of pressure transmitted through a medium and composed of frequencies within the range of hearing?"

"I'M DONE WITH TALKING ABOUT YOUR NEW ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM, TELL ME MORE ABOUT YOUR LIVING ROOM!"

During one conversation, Eric goes "TELL ME MORE ABOUT VAMPIRE SOCIETY." And the dude goes, "There isn't one really. See, we're not ripping off Vampire: The Masquerade." But in his very next line, he says, "I wouldn't expect a half-blood to understand." Oh, okay, no society but there is classism! Do you want to go back and maybe write a second draft? Every vampire story has different rules of course. In the Dark universe for example, the super secret weakness of vampires is bullets! And cunningly, the security guards of the world all carry guns, having figured out that your Achilles heel is any kind of physical damage whatsoever!

So Dark is strictly a stealth game. Such is the aversion to bullets that Eric cannot carry a gun himself. So do the maths here, sonny: Melee only attacks + Large number of enemies with guns + Large open environments with limited cover = It's a shame you have such an aversion to bullets, Eric mate, because a lot of them are going to be trying to make friends with you! And your one attack can be blocked by aware enemies so if you get spotted sneaking up on a dude, the action becomes a rather humiliating game of Patty-cake. I wanted Eric to go back to the club after the first mission and say, "Are you sure I'm a vampire and not just a Goth with a personal trainer?"

At first, gameplay is a frustrating trial and error grind 'cos as I said, enemies are everywhere, there aren't any decent vantage points to plan ahead and the best way to figure out if a specific spot is being watched is to bumble into it and see how much of your skull remains inside your face. Counter to good sense, the difficulty curves downwards as you proceed and acquire vampire superpowers. Ohhhh, I think I see the misunderstanding. When you said "vampires," Dark, what you meant was "X-Men!"

You can turn invisible and teleport and do that Darth Vader choke thing to finally have a long-range attack, but this superpower dessert trolley is completely unbalanced and sends pastries flying everywhere. Why does the power that merely distracts guards require exactly the same energy as the one that kills them instantly from any distance? Bit of an imbalance there! Oh, but the Darth Vader choke kill thing makes a loud noise that alerts other guards, but oh-oh, that liability is removed if you upgrade the power once. Meanwhile, upgrade the distract power once and you can distract people one metre further away. Oh well, sign me up for the fucking Justice League! Hey, wait a minute. Killing someone from long distance while making a loud noise? Isn't that exactly the same superpower as a man with a gun?

As I may have implied, it's very obvious that Dark aspires to ape Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 'cos all the superpower have the same wanky names: Obfuscation and Celerity where invisibility and moving all quick-like would have done. But Bloodlines attempted to immerse you in a living breathing society while Dark just has a voice in your ear telling you "No really, there is a world outside all this shit gameplay. I'm looking at it right now, and it's fucking sweet!"

I will say this though: if it's trying to be Bloodlines, Dark has got shitty boss fights down pat! Or should I say, boss fight. Just one, at the end. And no doubt you have a question: How can this game have a boss fight, when your offensive capability is limited to contextual one-hit kills? That would be a very good question! So what happens is that you run around avoiding a big monster like it's a schoolyard bully with a dog shit on the end of a stick, until a button appears, which you press, and then you win. A fitting conclusion for five hours of contextual stealth-kill button pressing perhaps, but a touch anticlimactic!

In conclusion, suck my dark dick! I mean, suck my dick, Dark!

AddendaEdit

I'll punch your lights out: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw

The really weird bit was when Eric Bane put a rubber spider on his face and started talking like Sean Connery

It's time gaming as a culture invested in a dimmer switch

ScreenshotsEdit

Dark2

"Dangerous McSpookyname bumbles into a nightclub that luckily happens to be run by nice vampires."

Dark3

"TELL ME MORE ABOUT SOUND."

Dark4

"Suck my dark dick!"

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart

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