Feb 28

GAME REVIEW: The Darkness 2 (Xbox360/PS3/PC)

Do you have that personal favourite game? You know the one. It’s that game that not too many other people you know have played but it feels like it’s perfect. Like the developers made it specifically for you. Where the story pulls the right strings, the controls feel natural and the stars are aligned and it hits every note that you didn’t even know you liked. But try to describe why it’s so great to someone else and they look at you like you’re speaking in an alien language. For myself, The Darkness still stands as my favourite “next gen” title. So when I heard a sequel was coming, I didn’t exactly think happy thoughts.

My main concern was that the first game was so well wrapped up. When the ending came, you felt the sweet satisfying kiss that only an extremely violent revenge fulfilled can pucker. So whatever story they were going to spew up for The Darkness 2 was obviously going to feel sticky taped and blu-tacked to the end of the original. I’m going to go through a comparison from the first Darkness to this new one so for those of you who haven’t played the first, and don’t worry, I forgive you, can skip a few paragraphs to the “new comers” section. See you guys in a minute.

So The Darkness 2 is set two years after the events of the first game. During this time, our sort of hero Jackie Estacado has kept his awesome demonic powers at bay until a war breaks out during his dinner with two floozies that leaves him near death so the only way to survive is to let the evil darkness out. So yeah, you can almost see the brand of staples used to tack this on. The story is annoying if you live and die by the first game. Hell, I prefer the first games story over the original comic books. And I do realize that marks me for death to some of you.

Jackie is being haunted by his memories of Jenny, who met a tragic and truly tear jerking end in the first game (one of my all time favourite video game moments). Maybe it’s just me but this is what really killed Dead Space 2 for me as well. We went through the heart string moments before, don’t try to cheapen those emotional moments by dragging them out over another game and wear it thin. If they wanted a way to bring back The Darkness, they could have just used an angelus angle from the comics. It would have made sense and not seemed to ride on the coat tails of an obscure game! Ah well…

The Darkness 2 is much more linear than the first open world affair, with exception to the small interludes between levels set in Jackie’s mafioso mansion digs. These between level sections do help break up the crazy fast paced gameplay and even offer some laughs if you listen in to the goons scattered around the place but it’s a pale comparison to the subways and TV stations from the first.

The action levels are blisteringly fast paced and thankfully, the controls keep up perfectly. One thing that transferred over from first game is the freedom of gameplay choice. The Darkness 2 rarely ever forces you to tackle a hostile situation in a particular way. You can play this game like a typical first person shooter, stealthy quiet kills or using your powers like the true nightmare that you are. If so inclined, you can change around between these at any time to your liking. You have an amazing control over the demon arms and Jackie’s weapons all at once. Shoot, grab, whip, impale, reload and repeat, all within a split second. It’s truly amazing how well set out every button is.

Graphically speaking, it’s not bad. Not as good as the super gritty realistic look from the first, but the new slight coat of cel shade paint has given this game so much leeway with it’s gore content. The blood and violence in this game is second only to Splatterhouse and makes Mortal Kombat look like sunday school.

Ok newcomers, the rest will make sense now. You can join back in.

The Darkness 2 has clearly been made to suit the everyday first person shooter fan. This is not just a game for the die hard fans of the first. The fluid controls, fast paced over the top gorefest action and constant purpose is easy to swallow so don’t think that you have to play number one to be up to speed.

The graphical detail will confuse some players and that’s understandable since there are parts where the environment is realistically detailed and bits where they really rough sketched the textures to give it a graphic novel look, with no obvious reason to the sporadic changes but the dark atmosphere isn’t broken by this oddity.

One thing that does make this game stand out a tad, is its smattering of humour. There are many times where you’ll find yourself popping a laugh at either the insane amount or gory violence or the funny dialogue from the various characters in the game. Especially your sidekick, The Darkling who has been given his own personality and cockney accent to boot. I was always skeptical about the removal of the other Darklings from the first game but I must admit, I have been proven wrong with this case! He is brilliant.

As you shoot your way through the waves of, admittedly boring repetitive enemies, each kill earns you dark essence which you can use to buy upgrades and there are a lot of cool upgrades here. Everything from enhancing your gunplay and extending your list of execution moves to new abilities for the darkness itself, so they cleverly put an option to play through the game after beating it, with all your upgrades intact. Just like Batman Arkham City.

The Darkness 2 is a bloodbath of crude humour and lightning fast action with superb controls that keep you on top of the carnage while you go through a vast repertoire of abilities to disembowel your doomed enemies. Crazed fans of the first will find plenty of things to hate about this sequel, but if you are new to the story, this one holds your hand as you set fire to hell. A cracking good first person shooter with a comic book twist and if you ever played one of those adventure games before and come up against a really badass boss and thought “Wow! What would it be like to play as THAT guy?!”, this is the game where YOU get to play as that monster under the bed!

– Stubby