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Darkest of Days (Xbox 360) artwork

Darkest of Days (Xbox 360) review


"Darkest of Days isn't going to win any awards for being one of the prettiest games on the Xbox 360, as it's a 2009 title that looks like an indie-made Source game released shortly after 2004's Half-Life 2. But if you've been aware of this game, chances are its looks aren't what piques your interest, instead you're intrigued by the premise: time travel."



Darkest of Days isn't going to win any awards for being one of the prettiest games on the Xbox 360, as it's a 2009 title that looks like an indie-made Source game released shortly after 2004's Half-Life 2. But if you've been aware of this game, chances are its looks aren't what piques your interest, instead you're intrigued by the premise: time travel. Beginning in 1876, as a soldier fighting with General Custer at Little Bighorn, you eventually lay wounded with an arrow, fending off your impending death against the Native American assault. Before you can slump over and die, though, a liquid orb appears, a mysterious figure pops out, tells you to jump in, and minutes later, you have involuntarily joined an agency in the future responsible for keeping tabs on history. The creator of time travel has apparently gone missing, leaving disruptions in different eras, and you, the newcomer, is given the daunting job of fixing things and finding said person. Of course, being the modern-made FPS, you're also given an experienced buddy to tag along with, who wears a cowboy hat and tells bad jokes. From there, you jump through numerous periods, patching up potential rifts in various, creative ways.



Except, not really. For nearly the entire story, all you do is fight in two periods, America's Civil War and World War I, and clearly the medium hasn't had enough war games depicting German deaths. It's not only till the very end where the devs decide to send your guy to new periods, and one of those two happen to be World War II... where you kill Nazis. That's quite the leap. So you're thinking, "As long as they're being unique, right?" That's what I thought, figuring they would incorporate some fancy, hi-tech weapons and gadgets to aide in securing history. Every so often, your firefighter-turned-time traveling helper does pull a futuristic weapon out of his butt to lend you, with examples being an assault rifle and a heat-seeking rocket launcher; it really is a sight to see confederate soldiers mowed down in a cornfield by rapid fire, or utterly annihilated by a rain of rockets. However, it literally is every so often, and in the rocket launcher's case, used only once in a brief segment. For a game supposedly based around time travel and the allure of using foreign weaponry, the devs do a wonderful job of teasing those concepts.

Actually, you know what Darkest of Days feel like? It's as if a history professor woke up one day and said, "How can I spice up history for my students?" Then he hired some fresh programmers and told them to make a game based around certain, historical battles while trying to write the overall plot himself. And in their wake, they created a very basic FPS where you constantly go from Point A to Point B to Point C to Point D, completing "objectives" like killing off opponents in specific locations, or going to marked areas on your virtual paper map (I don't know...) to plant explosives by holding a button for three seconds. Very, very noticeable issues plague the gameplay, as well, with enemies in the distance suddenly vanishing, the framerate chugging when the action picks up, and character models blending too much with environments, making it irritable to find the bastard shooting away at your health. The latter is the most annoying, since it'll get you killed more times than what you're expecting.



I really should be hating Darkest of Days, especially since the product is full of problems and undermines its main gimmick to an absurd degree. But I pressed on through to the game's very idiotic and sudden climax, because surprisingly, Darkest of Days has some genuinely fun moments. Emphasis on SOME. Most of them, too, are centered on segments where you have no choice but to jump head first into a huge conflict; whether it'd be the Union versus the Confederacy in an open field, or Russians charging Germans on a slanted forest, it's such a thrill to see everything descend into chaos. Personally, I love the Civil War battles more, since you occasionally encounter a cavalry giving your side grief with their speed, so it's always a great feeling nailing a rider. Not to mention your usual main weapon for that era, a musket, requires a reload after every shot. Maybe it's just me, maybe I'm nuts, but that element is such a refreshing and challenging take on your usual rapid fire FPS. Every shot needs to count, and it's always fun watching you and your direct foe reload at the same time and see who attacks first.

Hilariously, the AI in the game can be silly at times, and if this were any other title, that would be a killer, but it actually suits Darkest of Days' crazy battles perfectly. You'll constantly see men on opposing sides, inches away, making eye contact, and yet they continue on their merry ways. There will also be times where you'll spot an enemy sitting beside you, shooting someone off in the distance, and a simple melee can knock them out. The pure nonsense of it all heightens the calamity and stands as the game's unintentional charm factor. I mentioned the framerate takes a dive when things get intense, an unfortunate issue, but I still found myself engrossed, which I guess is a testament to the raw nature of these showdowns.



Even after all the gushing I wrote about the bigger fights, this title is something you shouldn't go out of your way to play. It's a weird combination of problems and ideas that aren't fleshed out, and instead of being frustrated, you're left in a state of "Huh???" I will say, though, that Darkest of Days is nowhere near one of the worst games ever, a claim some players have given it (and a term that's been tossed around too liberally this gaming generation), it's just a victim of being made by a small team with a small budget. That still doesn't excuse the generic mission structure and lack of creativity with the time travel angle. The game gets bold with the last missions, but that's just way too late, even with the visuals and atmosphere taking an impressive turn. I do find it greatly ironic that the areas I enjoyed most in Darkest of Days had nothing to do with the sci-fi elements. By the time I was consistently handed hi-tech weapons and being attacked by an army of Master Chief and Combine wannabes, I just wanted my musket back...

Rating: 4/10

pickhut's avatar
Community review by pickhut (April 28, 2013)

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