Deep Black: Reloaded – Review

Title   Deep Black: Reloaded
Developer  Biart Company
Publisher  505 Games
Platform  Windows PC (reviewed), Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 later 2012
Genre  Third Person Shooter
Release Date  March 1, 2012

In a world where the first and third person shooting genres are so heavily saturated, it can become harder for games of those types to differentiate themselves. Duke Nukem does it with an over the top, outdated lead character, Deep Black: Reloaded does it with promises of underwater combat, and Call of Duty does it by making several billion pounds a year without fail. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work. Duke Nukem sold well, but not well enough for a game that took so long to see to fruition, and Deep Black: Reloaded… well, let me explain.

Developed by Biart, and published by 505 Games, Deep Black: Reloaded tells the story of Pierce, who has come out of retirement one last time to help put a stop to a potential terrorist threat, being the only man who can do so seeing as he’s mugged Isaac Clarke from Dead Space and modified his suit to be used underwater. However, when he gets to his location he soon finds that his boss has double crossed him and instead expects him to start dismantling a rival military company who then turn out to be manufacturing a new bioweapon from an alien substance with the help of an AI that goes a bit mental.

As you can guess, the story doesn’t really pick up and, annoyingly, a lot of the ‘twists’ are delivered quite flatly. Really, the only aspect of the story you can appreciate is that the AI decides to kill humanity after being exposed to the internet. Otherwise, it’s a bit of a mess; elements of story are brought up and barely mentioned again, such as when Pierce reveals himself to be a bit claustrophobic in a cutscene, then never mentions it again until the final act of the game. Which is all well and good until you remember that a great deal of the gameplay takes place in confined spaces without the protagonist moaning, so I’m not really sure what they were doing or where they were ever planning on going with that. Dialogue between characters is often so bad it’s terrible, with your main character sounding like he’s just come from his fifteenth porn of the day and, with choice lines like someone complaining they have “butter knives” in their stomach, expect to be underwhelmed.

You should also expect yourself to get quite frustrated at having to witness several dialogues again, thanks to the game’s abysmal checkpointing. Granted, you can skip any cutscene you come across, but if you’re forced to repeat long sections of gameplay, which you will have to, repeatedly, it can start to grate on your nerves that they didn’t just move the checkpoint to after the cutscene. In fact, you’ll often find yourself lamenting what the game deems to be checkpoint-worthy. Quite often, you’ll fight your way through one set of enemies, then fight several more slightly later on, then fight even more, then die right at the end and do it all again. Deep Black: Reloaded is a game that thinks nothing of throwing a boss battle at you, then throwing a wave of soldiers or two at you right after without giving you a checkpoint between, meaning that failure also means having to fight that boss again. It’s almost as though the concept of checkpointing was introduced halfway through the development of the game, yet no-one was told how it was meant to alleviate the stress of repetition, rather than exacerbate it.

Speaking of the stress of repetition, I hope you like fighting identical bosses, because you will be fighting at least seven. I say at least seven because I honestly lost count of how many times I had to fight a ‘giant robot crab’ (in the game’s words, not mine, as it just looked like inevitable frustration to me) after the sixth one. There was literally a point where I fought a boss, went through a frustrating section of several gunfights, then had to fight another boss . This was in less than ten minutes of gameplay. I should also clarify that, while the bosses themselves are identical, the battles themselves aren’t, but they make up for that by often being gimmicky, ridiculously frustrating affairs. These fights often come with seemingly-infinite waves of enemy soldiers or robots, and will always come with the bosses themselves being temporarily invincible for stretches of time while they unload missiles and machine gun fire through your cover unopposed, and are some of the biggest health bar sponges around.

Expect battles to last much longer than they should, and reward you with little more than the sight of the robot collapsing limply. One boss fight in the game took me several hours to finish; it was one of four boss battles that didn’t involve a giant robot crab (although all four of these battles were spent fighting identical gunships, so swings and roundabouts), involved a gunship, infinitely spawning waves of bad guys and explosive barrels that would often inspire no reaction in the soldiers sitting right next to them, and no cover. I eventually managed to get past this point, then was shot up by a wave of enemies that I didn’t expect to see appear. Then I found out the game hadn’t checkpointed any of it and so I had to skip the cutscene and do it all again.

The frustration doesn’t end with boss battles either, as some encounters can aggravate before too long, and you’ll frequently be outnumbered and outgunned, and often to a point of unfairness rather than feasibility. Do you like enemies that explode on impact? No? Have two types! Do you like enemies that fly around, are hard to hit, and pummel you to the point where your screen is rocking like a sinking ship and you can’t actually see anything you’re doing? Congratulations then, as these infinitely spawn during some boss battles! It’s not uncommon to have more hordes of enemies show up mid-battle and tip the scales even further against you, and it often feels like it’s more to punish than challenge you.

All of these factors betray how badly Deep Black: Reloaded was put together, but it also manages to get worse. Much worse. For a cover-based third person shooter, an overwhelming amount of my deaths happened when I was hiding behind cover. It turns out that anything you’d expect to be able to do behind cover in other games, such as reload, blind fire or even move, are things that will get you killed as quickly as if you didn’t bother with cover at all. Your character will move completely out of cover to throw grenades and is completely vulnerable when forced to use close combat moves, often meaning that you’ll be ambushed by an enemy while running to your cover and have to wait for death as disposing of him will get you killed as well. Also, your protagonist can’t sprint, jogs at the pace of a mugged elderly man with a wet baguette for a walking stick, rolls ineffectually and often outright ignores your repeated demands to reload or attach to cover when he’s not already glitching on stairs or exits to lifts.

So what about that underwater stuff that’s supposed to be the main thing differentiating it from other games in the genre? A complete waste of time. Each act only uses it for a fraction of their total running time, and most of it is moving to another location so your character can move back on land and continue being in a terrible video game. The worst part is that the underwater stuff isn’t at all bad, but it’s underutilised and often filled with frustrating moments as if to punish you for not being back on land yet. A saving grace is thrown to you with the idea that some robots can be hacked with your harpoon and made to be on your side, but said robots can often completely reject the hacking and kill you for your troubles too. The idea is that you’re meant to stay within twenty feet while using the harpoon or the hacking fails, but I actually found it was more common for the robot to reject it without moving out of range and then weakening you to the point of you dying, as if the sections weren’t annoying enough to begin with.

Even having one on your side can open up a whole raft of problems, with one section refusing to let me progress after a particularly tough showdown as not all of the enemies had been eliminated as one of them was on my side and, as such, invincible to my gunfire and attempts to destroy it so I could progress. Cue having to take on the section by myself and even more gnashing of teeth. There can be cover underwater, but it’s essentially pointless as all enemies will just move around it and plug you before you’ve had a chance to do anything. There was plenty of potential with the underwater mechanics, but that potential was squandered so impossibly badly that it could put you off underwater action in games forever.

There’s plenty more to moan about, but I’ll do my best to summarise the game’s failings in the form of a checklist.
Incredibly bland story that does nothing to make you care about the characters? Check.
Repetitive boss battles with infinitely-spawning bad guys? Check.
Small, hard to shoot, enemies that explode on contact? Check.
Lacklustre selection of weapons, including some that refuse to let you move to cover if you’re holding them? Check.
Shooter where your character walks like he’s in a museum, can’t sprint, and can be shot at behind cover? Check.
Brilliant gameplay concept that is bungled so awfully it doesn’t even manage to be gimmicky? Check Republic.

I wouldn’t just say that Deep Black: Reloaded is a bad game, I’d go as far as to say it’s one of the worst games I’ve played in several years. It’s presented well, and doesn’t look ugly by any means, but the presentation and graphics don’t make up for how miserable it is to play. The process of finishing this started to feel like it was draining my soul away, and I can’t even comment on the multiplayer as there wasn’t anyone playing whenever I attempted to check it out. I was given Deep Black: Reloaded as a review copy and, even at that, I feel like I’ve been mugged, so I feel especially bad for anyone who choose to pay money for this. There aren’t even any sharks.

  • Well, it looks alright and it's presented well
  • Poor story that does nothing to enhance the gameplay in any significant manner.
  • Repetitive boss battles filled with frustrating gimmicks, massive health bars and infinitely spawning enemies.
  • Some of the worst checkpointing I've ever suffered.
  • Squanders its most interesting idea horrendously.
  • Multiplayer is dead on arrival.
  • Drains your soul as you play.

Deep Black: Reloaded is a game that bills itself as having an interesting idea unlike anything else in the genre, then proceeds to absolutely waste it and makes the rest of the game almost painful to suffer. There was a lot of potential here, but the answer of where it went is probably more interesting than the final product of the game itself. The only people I can safely recommend Deep Black: Reloaded to are game makers who want to see absolutely what not to do when making a third person shooter.

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One Comment

  1. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    Dunno what to say mate. I had such high hopes for this game; I really did. It was the underwater aspect that had me excited, as it’s just not the done thing really. I hate shooters, for the most part, but I can also be very forgiving of them if the circumstances are right (Borderlands, as one example) and I was really looking forward to this. That said, there’s nothing worse than bad savepoint placement, especially after boss battles or cut scenes, and that alone would put me off. I think the most off-putting thing is, as you’ll no doubt agree, the fact that it’s NOT actually an underwater-based shooter but a shooter which, now and again, ventures underwater.

    This could have been so good. Could have been Dead Space underwater. Have to admit though, your approach to it makes me tingle inside. You could very easily just have slated it, slagged it off, ranted about how shit it was and not looked at it objectively in any way… but you didn’t. You scored it low because it deserved it, and not just because it annoyed you. Good.

    Undecided as to whether or not I’ll give it a go. I still love the premise, and it could just be a matter of taste rather than outright dodgy mechanics (the more you like something, the more forgiving you are… ask any Bethesda fan) so I may still end up having an entirely different experience from you. I can’t write it off yet. Not with the whole underwater thing going on… as I don’t fancy SeaLife Safari much.

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