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Deep Black: Reloaded

Third-person shooting has gone lots of places since it was popularized by Gears of War: land, outer space, underground, but never underwater until now. Deep Black: Reloaded, from Russian developer Biart, aims to freshen up tired third-person shooting mechanics by taking the action to the briny deep. Rather than providing a shot in the arm to the genre, Deep Black: Reloaded feels like being thrown overboard tied to a rock in the sea’s darkest depths.

Soulless, faceless Lt. Pierce is pulled out of retirement for one last mission to infiltrate a terrorist compound and rescue some hostages. Things quickly turn out to be much different than what Pierce was led to believe as he “infiltrates” the complex. Infiltration translates into scrambling from one area to the next engaging in firefights. Whatever opportunity there was for a passable story quickly dissolves amidst terrible, stilted voice-acting and immensely uninteresting cutscenes.

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Gameplay fares equally poorly. For a title that was sold as an underwater shooter, these sequences are vastly outnumbered by those on land. Land is where most of Deep Black: Reloaded takes place, and it’s here where it reveals itself to be little more than a broken shooter with generic environments and dim-witted enemies that have a knack for soaking up bullets.

The environment is littered with walkways, industrial-sized fans, and concrete barriers that serve no practical purpose outside of giving Pierce cover. There are exploding barrels everywhere, and enemies love to crouch right next to them, practically begging you to shoot at them until they blow up. Every level blends together and although the graphics are far from horrid, they lack any kind of creativity or uniqueness.

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Pierce is equipped with the standard array of weaponry: an automatic assault rifle, pistol, and shotgun which is used for much of the game and offer little in the way of entertainment value. If Pierce is underwater and locks onto an enemy on land he can shoot a harpoon at them, reel them in, and kill them faster than you can say “get over here!” although Pierce can’t use it on land for some unexplained reason.

Enemies are idiotic and stubbornly refuse to die in equal measure. In addition to placing themselves near flammable objects, they’ll also make suicidal charges at Pierce which can easily be dispatched with melee attacks. Beyond that, they take potshots from behind cover and absorb far more damage than what a few generic soldiers should rightly be able to handle.

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Pierce himself suffers from the opposite problem as he has a hard time surviving a few hits, forcing the player to reload yet again. Dying occurs far too often, and this problem is made worse by infrequent checkpoints leading to many occasions where tedious, lengthy segments must be played an infuriating amount of times.

Control issues further compound the frustration. Pierce is slow and unresponsive, sometimes ignoring commands to take cover during critical moments. Even when he does, cover often provides little protection and it’s not uncommon to die despite hiding behind something. Blind firing is all but useless and Pierce lacks the ability to elegantly roll away from danger or easily pass from cover-to-cover.

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The water sections serve as nothing more than gateways to more land firefights, and the controls are just as bad as they are on land. A frequent annoyance is having to use Pierce’s harpoon to hack a console in order to open a gate due to sheer repetition, and although there are a handful of enemies in the water, they don’t amount to much in the way of challenge or excitement.

Deep Black: Reloaded features incredibly repetitive gameplay and broken, frustrating shooting. It’s devoid of the smoothness in controls and exciting action that made the Gears of War series such a joy to play. The presentation is generic from its protagonist, weaponry, and environments, and the stilted controls kill any chance the game might’ve had at being a decent shooter. There are far better shooters to choose from, and compared to them Deep Black: Reloaded is best left adrift in the middle of the ocean.

3 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in March 2010.

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