|System: PC, PS3, Xbox 360|
|Dev: Digital Extremes|
|Pub: 2K Games|
|Release: February 7, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Adam Dodd
The wait for The Darkness II has been a long one; four years after the first game hooked us with its gripping story and unique combat, we're finally getting a sequel.
For fans of the original, this will be both familiar and very different from the dark and gritty world we remember. This time, the world has been given a gorgeous visual makeover its developer is calling "graphic noir." There's also an exciting new addition called "Quad-Wielding," which promises to make Jackie even more deadly by giving him the ability to use guns and his Darkness powers at the same time. "Quad-Wielding" is destined to join the pantheon of badass gaming terms like "Strategic Dismemberment."
The first game introduced us to Jackie Estacado, who on his 21st birthday discovered he has a terrible evil festering within him. This evil had lived in his family for generations, feeding off the darkness to grant Jackie demonic powers like tentacles for impaling enemies, the ability to disable lights, and vicious imp-like Darklings he can summon to do his bidding. When Jackie was targeted by the head of the New York Mafia, "Uncle" Paulie Franchetti, the Darkness that had been hiding within Jackie awakened, giving him the power he needed to fight off everything Paulie threw at him. But no battle is without its casualties, and the first for Jackie was his girlfriend, Jenny Romano. Watching Jenny die was more than enough to fuel his vendetta for vengeance against Paulie, but now that the Mafia head is gone and Jackie's thirst for revenge is quenched, what does he do next?
The Darkness II picks up just two years after the events of the first game, and Jackie has since filled Paulie's shoes to become the Don of the Franchetti crime family. Thoughts of Jenny still haunt him, but he's learned to control the Darkness inside him. That is, until an unexpected assassination attempt on Jackie kicks off a full-scale mob war. The attack also leaves Jackie on the brink of death, forcing him to release the Darkness in order to save his life. When Jackie sets off on a mission to find out who wants him dead, he meets Viktor. Viktor says he's a member of an ancient order called The Brotherhood, which was formed long ago with the sole purpose of controlling the Darkness that now lives within Jackie.
For the most part, The Darkness II will play much like its predecessor, only with one big exception: "Quad-Wielding." That's a fancy term for Jackie's ability to fire dual weapons while also using his Darkness abilities. Now you'll be able to fire your weapons while you destroy lights, impale enemies, and summon Darklings. The Darklings will also have a much larger role. In the first game, they mostly solved puzzles or helped Jackie take out enemies when he got overwhelmed. But this time, they'll be able to interact with the environment, torture enemies, and even have a role in the story.
As if guns and Darkness powers weren't enough, Jackie can now use the environment to his advantage, using various objects in combat. For example, he can use a car door as a shield.
The execution moves from the first game have also evolved. They're no longer limited to simply finishing off an enemy with your guns—now Jackie can use the Darkness tentacles to tear enemies apart in incredibly brutal ways or watch as his Darkling executes an enemy in an equally as vicious way. And for those of you who don't like having to play nice around others, you won't have to hide your Darkness powers in public. This time, you can use them anywhere.
In the original game, you used the Darkness to consume the hearts from the corpses of your fallen foes to gain new abilities and become more powerful. This system has been tweaked a little, as every time you take a heart, kill an enemy, or use an execution move, these actions add to your Dark Essence. This Essence can then be used as a currency at Talent Shrines to purchase new abilities like the black hole gun, x-ray vision, and Gun Channeling, which temporarily grants unlimited ammo and bonus damage. Jackie has also become more sensitive to light; it now blurs his vision and creates a ringing in his ears.
The first game aimed for realism, throwing you in one dark and gritty world after another. This time around, the art style has seen significant change while still staying true to the source material and the gothic look of the original game. It retains much of the grit, grime, and gore, but this time it looks much more like the comic books it's based off. There hasn't been word yet on the game's multiplayer, but I can only hope that if it does return, they'll make it feel like it's a part of the world rather than an afterthought. Whether or not we see a multiplayer mode, Digital Extremes has said they're working to craft a longer, more engaging single-player experience. If the campaign is meaty enough, the game might not need a multiplayer to make it worth our hard-earned cash.
The Darkness II looks to be shaping up into a pretty fantastic game. It's refreshing to see a developer take risks with its game, letting it stray from the look of the original and adding exciting new mechanics. If the story is as solid as it was in the original and the tweaks and additions to the combat pay off, this could very well be another great game to help kick off the next year.
CCC Contributing Writer