Frankly, it was at this point that I began to lose interest. One of my biggest issues with time travel stories is the inherent and inevitable logical incongruities and inconsistencies. So here I was, drafted into a service whose sole goal was ostensibly to protect the delicate timeline from influence from the future, blasting away at hundreds of Germans with a 22nd century gun. And no one fighting alongside me noticed? One would have expected at least a few questions along the lines of “Just what in the hell is that??” But no, it’s as if the guy fighting next to you using a vastly superior and completely unimaginable weapon (and, by the way, not even offering to share) was the most normal thing on the planet. Still, the game just might have gotten away with it if not for….
If I could travel back in time and have a sit-down with 8monkeys, I’d use that opportunity to point out to them that not everyone (in fact, almost no one in relative terms) has a dedicated PhysX board. Are the graphics in Darkest of Days pretty? Well, yes, although not to the levels seen in Call of Duty and the like, in my opinion. Sure, the little wisp of smoke drifting from the rifle barrel after firing is pretty neat, but the overall hit to the frame rate on a non-PhysX machine is not worth it. My PC, which handles Call of Duty at maximum quality with aplomb, struggled with Darkest of Days, particularly so during the worst possible time: during battles.
That said, if you have the machine for it, the battles should have been extraordinary. They involve literally hundreds of AI controlled soldiers on both sides mixing it up in cornfields and mountainous areas. The problem, however, is that the AI is dumber than ocean krill. That doesn’t matter quite as much in the Civil War battles were troops just lined up in nice, tight groups (all the better to shoot at in the days prior to the introduction of the accuracy-enhancing rifled barrel) and shot at each other. It doesn’t take much AI (or, for that matter, real intelligence) to do that. But in the battles where troops could move more freely about the landscape, it was just mayhem. Without a doubt, a peace-loving beatnik would be impressed by two soldiers from opposing armies standing side-by-side shooting at their respective enemies, but for the rest of us? Not so much.
To top it off, the writers populated the voice scripts with plenty of F-bombs and other profanities. I'm no prude, and if you were to hear what I yell at the car radio every morning when NPR comes on the air with their version of "news," you'd probably call me a hypocrite. But when it comes to games that are more fun to play with the speakers turned way up high in order to adequately convey the sounds of a battlefield, I'd rather not have to explain to the wife and/or daughter why words you wouldn't utter in front of a drunken sailor are being screamed through the house.
At the end of the day, the convoluted plot and weak AI serves to label Darkest of Days as pretty much nothing more than a test bed/prolonged demo for PhysX. If you don’t have a dedicated PhysX board, well, Darkest of Days is more of a disappointing mess than it is a satisfying game. If only they had found a way to work Al Gore into the story…
A meandering plot and lackluster game play relegate Darkest of Days to the "save it for a snowy, can't-get-out-of-the-house day" shelf.
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