Review: Deep Black
After the experience I had playing through the broken and poorly designed Deep Black it’s hard to even figure out where to begin. When we first posted about Deep Black on the site I’ll be honest that I didn’t expect a great game. If anything I had more of an ironic curiosity for the game on top of Deep Black reminding me oddly enough of Hydrophobia. Granted only due to the focus on water gameplay within each of those games. What I didn’t expect was for Deep Black to be downright awful.
Deep Black puts you in control of Pierce. He’s been put on a mission to rescue some hostages which, as it turns out, don’t exist. At the start of the game you learn that the mission your own is much larger than it originally seems and themes of betrayal follow suit not long afterwards. That’s about all I could honestly get from the story as Deep Black’s plot is an incoherent mess. There are moments in Act 2 where some heavy Biblical references are made (I originally thought that perhaps they were alluding to some sort of twist towards the end) with nothing ever coming from it. The majority of the dialog comes in segments back and forth between Pierce and another woman in which absolutely nothing of importance is ever said. There’s a few random sexual hints that Pierce will mention but other than that it’s almost always “go do this” and “affirmative”. On top of that sometimes the dialog will play at the wrong time or too late. For instance there was one moment where I came up to some snipers on a building far off and proceeded to take each one out. After doing so about thirty seconds later I was warned of snipers on the roof despite having already completed that section. I could go on and on about the dialog in this game but to put it all into perspective when Pierce begins Act 2 by saying “What the frag?! It’s a giant enemy crab.” you know you’re in for something special.
Perhaps that’s the best way to describe Deep Black. You have bad games and then you have games that are a special kind of bad. Just to get things out of the way Deep Black is a technical mess. Throughout the vast majority of the game Deep Black’s frame rate was dropping and the game would even freeze for a brief second on quite a few occasions (mostly when throwing a grenade). Frame rate wasn’t too terrible in the initial act but as things progressed I came across segments where I felt as if the game was going to crash at any given moment. On top of that I ran into a few different moments in the game where I honestly thought I was going to have to restart the entire game. In these moments I came upon a checkpoint which would follow by a few enemy drones attacking me. After taking out these drones a door was supposed to open to allow me to continue. This didn’t happen. What DID happen was that usually one less drone than normal would appear around me and, once each drone had been destroyed, the door would simply not open. I restarted the checkpoint and even went back to the main menu numerous times without much success. It wasn’t until I completely turned the game off that I was able to continue the game with it working properly. This wasn’t a one time thing either. This happened multiple times as I was forced to quit the game in order to even continue.
Looking back I think the most frustrating thing about Deep Black is a combination of just how poorly the game controls and how fast you die in the game. As a third person shooter the movement of Pierce is just terrible. I always felt like I was battling with the game to get him to move anywhere. Pierce just feels terribly slow, clunky and even when he’s running it still doesn’t feel like much of a difference. What you’ll find is that Pierce will usually drop dead in a few seconds when under fire. In the right situation I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. However when the game does such a poor job at displaying how close to death you are, that’s when your very low health becomes more of a frustration. I died hundreds of times playing Deep Black. I would wager to guess that the vast majority of those times were when I honestly thought (due to on-screen indicators) that I had full health and found myself dead with one bullet from one of the weaker enemies you’d fight. The other vast majority of those deaths probably came from the times when the cover that I was hiding behind decided to just not work at all.
Usually when I’m playing a third person shooter and I hide behind, what I think, is a pretty thick wall I’d like to think that I’m not going to die unless I reveal myself. This isn’t the case in Deep Black. Sometimes the cover will work properly and you’ll be safe from fire giving you time to reload and heal. Then other times it is almost like the cover isn’t even there. Though I guess Deep Black will do you a favor and in some occurrences I found that I wasn’t even able to crouch behind cover. There were in fact times where I’d run up to cover (this being separate from times when I was holding a rocket launcher which for some reason doesn’t allow for use of cover) and I’d go to hit the X button with nothing happening and then… I’d die.
Movement and cover (or perhaps lack there of) aside the shooting in the game is okay. You don’t exactly have a wide range of guns to use and most are pretty much what you can expect from a game like this. At least they all work correctly. That said the main attraction to Deep Black and perhaps the only reason it might have been on people’s radars is the fact that underwater gameplay was supposed to play a major role. I’d say that this is mostly true but only just. The game is pretty heavy on the water segments in the first two acts with the final three playing out mostly on the ground. So much so that I sometimes completely forgot about the water segments entirely. As you’d expect the water segments don’t control very well and are often times more annoying than anything. It’s hard enough to correctly maneuver in the water during a firefight but in one particular boss battle the addition of currents pushing me around, and often times directly into rockets, do nothing but make things so much more annoying. In addition you’ll also find yourself coming into contact with underwater homing mines that are nearly impossible to dodge on your first few times through each segment.
With all of this said I think one of the things that sticks out to me the most is the number of times I would be stuck on one segment for upwards of an hour wondering how any of this made sense design wise. I could ramble off a dozen different segments where I honestly felt that major parts of the game’s design itself were broken in numerous ways. One example that tends to cover numerous segments was the way the game handled throwing numerous enemies at you and then adding a flying drone. The way these firefights would play out is that I’d choose some cover and every so often peak out and try to take out another enemy. This works fine until the flying drone comes in. This drone will go behind you forcing you to stand up from your cover and try to destroy it. Because everything in the game is a major bullet sponge this takes some time and will mostly result in your death within a couple seconds due to the dozen enemies that are still firing at you. As is the case with a lot of the game I found myself dying a handful of times until I either perfected step-by-step every encounter or just got really lucky.
I should also note that this also is the case for both grenade use and melee in the game. Even just tapping the grenade button to do a blind-throw results in you stepping out from cover for a good four to five seconds as you absorb enemy fire due to a long throw animation. This usually results in you being close to death. Melee on the other hand is contextual based. Sometimes an enemy will run up to you during a firefight in which you’ll hit O to preform a melee kill. Pierce then stands up and you are run through a really long animation sequence in which the game turns into Assassin’s Creed and a hidden knife comes out from your wrist area and you stab the guy in the neck. At the end of this sequence you then have to turn Pierce around and go back into cover which takes another few seconds on its own. You’ll either die or get lucky.
Deep Black also features a mutliplayer mode which, surprise surprise, no one is actually playing. If you were watching the livestream last week you probably saw a pretty good example of what the multiplayer is like. First sending invites to friends doesn’t seem to actually work and just finding a game together is more trouble than it’s worth. I personally had to quit the game and restart just to find a the quick match that Chris had set up. Once in the game we experienced a good deal of lag.
Deep Black is broken, poorly designed, at times its a nightmare to control and above all else it’s a colossal waste of everyone’s time. (Yes, there’s a platinum. No, it is absolutely not worth the trouble.) I wanted to list out the handful of specific situations that drove me insane within the game but that would have made this review way too long. The point is that I honestly can’t think of one thing that you could possibly take away from Deep Black as being even remotely okay. It’s a game that feels like it’s trying to take elements from Dead Space, Vanquish, Portal, every third person shooter out there and toss in some water for good measure while failing on every count. Deep Black is the worst game I’ve played this year and I would strongly urge others not to spend money on it. Heck even for free it still wouldn’t be worth it.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation 3 version of the game.
What I Like:
What I Dislike:
- Incoherent story
- Story features its own poorly done GlaDOS?
- Underwater combat
- Controls both above ground and underwater are poor
- Poor frame rate
- Being forced to quit the game to fix bugs
- Poor representation of health
- Rolling explosive bombs are the devil
- Cover not working or Pierce not taking cover at all
- Melee animation length leaves you open to enemy fire for way too long