I hate seeing a good idea go to waste, so I hope that a development team with more time and money accidentally played Deep Black: Reloaded and realized that if you add fun to this formula you’d have a good game. As it is, I can’t recommend it to anybody. If you want to shoot guys there are a million better options, and if you desperately want to play underwater your choices are fewer, but Deep Black still isn’t the game for you. Something like Undertow would serve you better, and it has the added benefit of actually taking place primarily underwater.
You play as Lt. Syrus Pierce, 2047’s premiere underwater badass. Syrus, like most modern video game characters, can shoot just about anything he finds, take cover, and regenerate health while sitting behind a small metal box. Syrus can also do all of these things underwater. In both places, however, he is painfully slow. The developers realized this and made the A.I. mind-numbingly stupid to compensate. While this makes the game playable, it is the equivalent of breaking your opponent’s legs to beat him in a race.
Most of the action takes place on land. This makes sense as very terrorist bases, even in the future, are underwater. Those that are, submerge the entire building instead of just the desks and computers. IT only let them try that experiment once. So you’ll swim up to a base, navigate a service tunnel, and then come up onto dry land where you’ll slowly fight with terrorists. Syrus’s speed and poor animation are both showcased in the fighting. Syrus can’t jump or crouch unless you’re sticking to a pre-approved cover point. He can’t toss grenades from cover either which makes them almost entirely useless. Tap the grenade button and Syrus slowly stands up, takes aim, and logs. All the while he’s being riddled with bullets, and at the end of the animation he won’t return to cover. He’ll just stand there, soaking up bullets. Melee is better in that you can initiate from cover, but once you’re done punching, it’s right back to standing behind a small box getting shot instead of crouching behind it regenerating health.
The underwater sections are plagued by the same problems, and the combat there is slower because it’s underwater. Syrus does have a neat underwater toy that makes me wish Deep Black: Reloaded was a better game though because the harpoon gun is actually fun to use. Syrus can use it to hack doors, reprogram robotic drones, and (my personal favorite) spear an enemy on land, drag him into the water, and then take him down where you have the advantage of being able to breath due to your scuba gear. The engine really shines here as the water effects are beautiful, but great water effects don’t make a great game (just ask the Hydrophobia devs).
In addition to being painfully slow, Deep Black: Reloaded does not allow the player to save their progress except at predefined checkpoints. Checkpointing isn’t all bad – Halo has been doing it for years, and it’s implemented well there. Finish a firefight, checkpoint. See a scene, checkpoint. Here, though, checkpoints are placed haphazardly, and if you fail there’s a good chance you’re going back in time far enough to make you want to stop playing instead of replaying that entire section of the game.
Deep Black has some good ideas, but they’re hidden behind so many bad ones that they’re not worth finding. Wait for a bigger developer to decide they’re going to do the underwater shooter right. You’ll save a little money now, and you’ll have more fun later.
Pros: Great water effects
Cons: Slow character, dumb AI, poor checkpointing, underutilized concepts