The highlight of my Deep Black Reloaded playthrough was the moment where, from my position of underwater tranquility, I targetted an enemy on dry land and grappled him towards me, plunged a blade into his gut and listened to him gargle to death as his corpse slowly floated to the surface. Sadly, moments such as this are rare.
Deep Black Reloaded is a third-person cover shooter which tries to be different by situating many of its environments underwater. To its credit, these underwater segments are not hamfistedly shoehorned into the game for variety’s sake, they’ve obviously had time and effort invested into them as cover and combat systems stay consistent while the flow and pacing of events remains.
Unfortunately for Deep Black Reloaded, that’s not to say that any of those things are any good in the first place. Movement is a cumbersome affair; while moving forward your character automatically ‘sprints’ – although it’s one of the slowest sprints I’ve seen – which can make dodging enemy fire a very challenging task, and a mad rush to cover is mostly not possible. This means that you’ll spend long stints behind cover, picking off enemies as they come in their waves. If you get ideas above your station and want to try to seize the initiative with a brave push forward you will, in all likelihood, die.
While underwater, men with guns are not as much of a problem. Instead you’ll only be worrying about killer robot drones which are an entirely different nuisance. While exploring the depths of aquatic life, one of these drones might suddenly appear and rush at you, and unless you can predict its presence or be ready with a stun gun, you’re always drawn into a melee battle with it. This would be fine if the melee battle involved anything more than just hammering the F key until the drone gives up the struggle and dies. I’d also forgive this monotony if it weren’t for the regularity with which these stupid events happen. In any given water section you’re likely to come across at least three or four of these robots and your F key is going to hate you for it.
With the previous two paragraphs, I’ve pretty much described the structure of Deep Black Reloaded’s campaign. Above land you’ll mostly be in cover just fighting off enemies, moving into the next room and repeating the process until you get to an underwater section. Here you’ll swim through tunnels, trying to kill drones and opening gates with your magic harpoon – capable of hacking any control panel from distance while also acting as a lasso for unsuspecting enemies on dry land, as mentioned above. It’s all very predictable, formulaic and monotonous, it’s as if the game’s crying out for something different – such as the occasional puzzle – just to break up the established routine I found myself going through every 20 minutes or so.
Again, these would be forgivable errors if I had a decent narrative to fall back on, but I felt so much apathy towards the plot and the characters. I was never really sure where I was or what the purpose of my latest objective was, I just knew that I had a Hispanic lady and a gruff sounding military general barking orders at me. The underlying plot is generic and nonsensical. I lost track of where I was and who I was fighting against quite quickly and I didn’t have the inclination to bring myself up to speed.
Of course, this all makes Deep Black Reloaded seem like a terrible game, but it isn’t. That would be harsh on Biart because I can only think of one immensely frustrating flaw that I had to experience; even with aim assist turned off (powergamers such as me [insert eyeroll - Ed.] don’t need it), the aiming system still has a habit of locking onto the worst possible targets in front of you. Come on now Biart, we’re PC gamers, we have a mouse, an extremely accurate aiming device at our disposal, don’t keep trying to seize control from us at crucial moments because such incidents just give the impression of a poor console port. As I mentioned, it would be harsh to accuse Deep Black of being such a thing because everything else is just very mediocre or average, not awful.
As such, I can’t recommend spending money here. For its £14 price tag it’d need more than just a rather tedious and predictable singleplayer campaign to justify a purchase and it once misled me into believing that it did have more to offer with a shiny ‘multiplayer’ option on the menu, until I realised it was LAN only. I went into Deep Black with hopes that Biart could do some exciting things with a shooter that was mostly based underwater and I always applaud developers who are willing to stray from the beaten track. Somewhere along the way, however, they just seemed to lapse into a lull and forgot to vary their level structure and mission objectives. Consequently, I fell into the same lull and forgot that I was supposed to be enjoying myself.