Company: 2K Games
Platforms: Playstation 3, Xbox 360, PC (Reviewed on Xbox 360)
Genre: First-Person Shooter
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What would you do if you had near-limitless demon powers and abilities? What if you could never die? Would you sell your soul for those powers? What if it cost you the soul of someone you loved? Those are the questions that haunt Jackie Estacado every day of his life.
Before my marathon session of the two Darkness video games, I was somewhat familiar with the comic books that they are based on. I wouldn’t say I was a follower, but I’ve read a few random issues now and again. If the overall story of the comics is as compelling as the video games (which I’m sure they are) then it’s time to empty my wallet on some real soon. This isn’t a review of the comics…that’s for another website so let’s get on with it, shall we?
Having played through and finished the first Darkness game, I could immediately feel the difference between the two. In the first game your Darkness powers are very simple to use and you only get a handful of powers to get you through the game. With the sequel, you are given some of the basic powers right from the start and there is an RPG-style skills wheel similar to Borderlands or Darksiders where you can unlock new powers and abilities by performing special attacks or kills and by being creative in dispatching your enemies. What I liked about the skill wheel is that you can completely customize the character to how prefer to play the game. If you don’t use guns much, pump those skills into execution abilities or into certain Darkness powers like “swarm” or “shield”.
I also noticed that the sequel has a more chaotic feel to it than the first game did. The first “Darkness” game was a very story driven game and felt more like a supernatural mobster movie. In “The Darkness II” you can grab and toss just about anything, use car doors for shields, duel wield weapons while using two Darkness tentacles at the same time. It also has a more comic book feel to it with a very comic-booky organization called the Brotherhood moving in on you to try and claim the Darkness powers for their own. The script was written by veteran comic book scribe and former Darkness writer Paul Jenkins.
The presentation of “The Darkness II” also visually represents the look of a comic book with the graphics moving away from the moody, dark, realistic look and instead takes a cue from Borderlands with a cell-shaded, hand-drawn look. I think that the comic book style fits the series more than the realistic look although it would have been pretty awesome to have Marc Silvestri hand draw everything for the video game but the artists and designers did a damn good job as is.
The main storyline in the game is a single player campaign but, as with the first game, there are some multiplayer elements to keep you busy with your friends although this time they are co-op. You and three of your friends…or random people that you meet on the internet…can play through a side story that runs parallel to the events in the single player campaign. You can choose from four unique characters that have found an item imbued with Darkness power and go after targets that have a hit on their heads or play through a completely different story called “Vendettas”. In the vendettas mode, your group of Darkness groupies must seek out relics and reclaim them from the Brotherhood and their cronies. I thoroughly enjoyed this mode with a friend and found that even the “secondary” characters seen in “Vendettas” mode were well written and had very interesting personalities and backstories. And, as with the entire series, the voice acting was excellent in every aspect, even the side modes.
If there were anything that I would have to nitpick about in this game it would easily be how cheap and repetitive some of the enemies were and how annoying the use of light is in the game. Cheap enemies that steal your weapons and drop flash-grenades every two seconds should not be forgiven easily…the use of light as an advantageous weapon can be because it was intentional. You had to think outside of the box in certain levels. Instead of mowing through the waves of enemies firing at you, you had to seek out generators or a particular enemy carrying a light gun on his shoulder. Was the light aspect overused to a point? Yes. If you were fighting a demon whose only weakness was the light, wouldn’t you do the same? Yes. As frustrating as it was at times, it added to the challenge and charm of the game.
When the smoke cleared and my Darkness marathon was over, I found myself sad and disappointed. Not because the games were bad and I was glad that they were over. No. I found myself sad that a third game isn’t out on the shelves yet and I found myself disappointed that my trip through Jackie Estacado’s demon infested, psycho-thriller mob land had ended so soon. The ending is somewhat of a cliffhanger so here’s hoping for a new installment. Life sure is Hell for Jackie, huh?
Bottom Line: An action-shooter based on the Darkness comic books that is nothing but pure, unadulterated fun. A well-written script, excellent voice acting and beautiful visuals make this a must play game for shooter fans and gamers looking for something a little out of the norm.
Favorite Aspects: Quad-wielding two guns and two Darkness tentacles, the graphics and voice action, playing as a Darkness Darkling with a British accent, impaling and slicing enemies with random junk.