Deep Black: Reloaded is a PC third-person-shooter from independent Texas-based developer Biart, of Russian origin. Biart has created a proprietary engine, dubbed biEngine, developed across an array of in-development titles, with certain dedication to underwater sequences honed by their kit.
Deep Black: Reloaded is a semi-submersed arcade shooter, which is a largely untouched territory in games; so, is the final product a testament to their independent work?
After a completely ignorable run-down of the near-future set up of the world, Lieutenant Pierce is quickly introduced and similarly thrown-away. Pierce arrives as an ex Special Ops agent who takes on a role in mercenary group CHARON, unraveling the dastardly plans of government-controlling corporations. In a completely linear path, Pierce splits his time between the open air and shallow waters, following an ever-moving, never clear objective. Using a harpoon, and a variety of other weapons including a pistol, shotgun, sub machine gun and grenades, enemies appear often to break up the flow of objective-chasing.
You’ll quickly find that Pierce needs to rely heavily on cover to disband groups, step out in the open for just a moment, and even on easy difficulty, Pierce’s threshold for pain is quite slim. The heavily armoured enemies, including the deadly turrets and mechanical under-water snappers, are no match for a burst of placed SMG rounds or an arm blade to the neck, and for that the combat is quite entertaining. It just seems as though most of the shooting is just finding the right rhythm to avoid being hit and start dealing damage. Misplace this rhythm for just a few seconds, and patience falls as fast as Pierce hits the ground.
Player-control for most part is un-precise. A bi-product of too much compromise between water and air and lends itself to further frustration if your movements aren’t quite what you intended. Despite having lateral jet-powered assistance through the water, I harboured a desire for some vertical assistance from the get-go. I think the game had a lot of trouble deciding what to do in this department, leading to some peculiar viewing angles through the water.
The story, the backbone that should be holding this game together, is a single thread that is frayed throughout. From the setting, to the plot and characters, it is an ever-growing snowball of poor execution on a presumably tight budget. The game would be a far more comfortable experience if the end goal was clear and something you could care about. The linear structure, with absolutely no side quests or collectables, would be more suited to a multiplayer-only shooter. There is a multiplayer portion to Deep Black: Reloaded, but it appears you need a great deal of luck to find any matches.
Deep Black: Reloaded has a saving grace in its aesthetics. The game, from a standstill, looks fantastic from ground level or below water. The textures and lighting are just right for the modern setting. However, whilst on the move, holes start to appear where, respective of their independent status, any sense of physical being in the environment is completely removed. Animations are far from fluid, to the point where it becomes easy to allow Pierce to slide across the ground. Coupled with that, try firing the Stun Gun from behind cover and Pierce’s barrier will suddenly gain some super friendly-fire absorbent properties. The bug wouldn’t be such a game-breaker if Pierce’s life didn’t depend on both adequate cover and a workable weapon simultaneously.
There is some definitive potential to be taken from Deep Black: Reloaded, but unfortunately those at Biart seem to have a full spectrum of feedback for the game as a whole. The static look for the game has been executed to perfection, and the first time hit of underwater combat gives an immediate ‘wow’ moment that most independent titles crave.
Everything else quite simply leaves too much to be desired for an out-and-out recommendation, but we will defiantly be keeping an eye out for Biart in the future.