|System: X360, PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Starbreeze||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: 2K Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 25, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-8||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Pending||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jwan Jordan
January 26, 2007 - The Darkness is a comic book series created by Top Cow Productions which had mild success in the early 90s. The plot focuses on a man named Jackie Estacado, a man blessed (or cursed) with the power of The Darkness. As if being possessed by darkness wasn't enough, Jackie has also lived out a majority of his life in the mafia, as a henchman. As you can imagine, the comic has some pretty dark, gritty themes, and developer Star Breeze has taken the task of bringing the series to life for the PS3 and Xbox 360. In combination with Jackie's dark mafia lifestyle and unimaginable dark, The Darkness seems to be coming along as a great and innovative game.
As the darkness-possessed mafia goon Jackie Estacado, you have a very large assortment of dark abilities to wield as you see fit, alongside Jackie's natural obsession for dual wielding hand guns. Both these elements play a large, intricate, and fun part of the game. Let's start with the basics, shall we? The game itself is, at heart, a first person shooter. Being raised in the mafia life has naturally given Jackie a strong lust for sex, violence and handguns. Being that the focus of the game isn't sex you're left with the other two. You will perform your most basic attacks with Jackie's favorite 9MM handguns, which he prefers to dual wield whenever possible. Jackie's personal preference doesn't mean you'll just be using handguns as through the course of the game you'll find weapons like sub machine guns, assault rifles, and shotguns. Unlike the popular Chronicles of "Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay" Xbox game, Jackie doesn't have any hand to hand combat skills but he does utilize stealth like attacks using the blunt part of his guns.
Let's face it though, with the use of Jackie's dark powers you'll rarely need to engage with fisticuffs. The Darkness within Jackie grants him strange powers that only seem limited by the quantity of darkness surrounding him or the lack of his own creativity. The game initially starts off with Jackie (you, the player) attempting to exact revenge on his adopted, crime lord uncle. This also serves as the tutorial where you learn to play the game using only Jackie's guns. It's after your dear, old, evil uncle begins to finalize a fatal blow to you that your darkness powers mysteriously awaken. Developer Star Breeze has stayed true to the comic and from this point on you'll have a very impressive amount of darkness powers to pull from.
As a user of the darkness, you now possess great powers and, unlike a web headed hero, Jackie doesn't use them responsibly. Since the darkness allows Jackie to create practically anything from pure darkness he can exact revenge with minimum effort. Jackie can use the Darkness in order to form strange, demonic-like tentacles from his back. An assortment of uses applies to these gruesome appendages; they can easily be used to flip over obstacles or rip humans apart. In the comic, he even uses his tentacles as eyes that can peer through vents and around corners; I sincerely hope this plays a part in the game too. Aside from the dark tentacles, Jackie can open dark, portal like vaccums that suck everything, including people, into them. I would imagine tactics like that would require a lot of darkness to be in the area though.
I think one of the most entertaining and useful powers is the ability to summon strange gremlin like creatures known as Darklings. Darklings are wiry, gremlin-like creatures that attack in swarms and with extreme prejudice for Jackie. They have sharp teeth, claw-like hands and monkey-like agility and speed. Despite being dangerous as they are, Darklings can carry close combat weapons. In a demo shown at E3, several of them appeared with weapons like chainsaws, knives, and a drill, after being summoned by Jackie. Each Darkling acts independently also and, much like the comic, has its own personal identity. For example, after ordering one darkling to attack someone, it actually responded, "Forget you," and reluctantly went on to perform its task. Some even go as far as to do victory dances after defeating foes or randomly urinating on enemies. Thus far, the Darklings by themselves are enough to make me want to purchase this game!
The overall game also has a lot of technically neat aspects that hardcore gamers will greatly appreciate, thanks to developer Star Breeze. Like the Xbox's Chronicles of Riddick title, you can shake the camera around as you please during cinema clips. Though it serves no purpose in the game, it's a nice touch. Also, during a level that places you near a television set, you can watch the previous chaos that Jackie (you) caused in the city. The great unique feature about the television set is that you can also change the channel and watch an assortment of full motion, lengthy videos, like the classic Nosforateu film and Popeye episodes. Star Breeze is currently adding even more intricate features to the television set options - here's to hoping for some Naruto episodes! The environments are also fully destructible which will make for a lot fun when using your tentacles to toss objects about like an angry Wal-Mart shopper.
The graphics also are running very smoothly. Though it's still a few months from release, it's already past the frame rate of Chronicles of Riddick. The texture mapping on people looks excellent so far, and the environment is looking just as detailed, all the way down to the crevices of the brick walls of buildings. Since Jackie's darkness powers can only be used in the dark, lighting and shadow effects will play a big role in the game. Thus, even now in its early development, light and dark particle effects are very fine tuned and ominous in presentation. You really will feel like a creature of the night lurking in the shadows. Anyone who has played Chronicles of Riddick will know they can trust this aspect of the game. There will also be voice work by HBO series Oz actor Kirk Acevedo, Lauren Ambrose from Six Feet Under, and Mike Patton of Faith No More.
Online multiplayer will also be included in The Darkness for those of you who want to compete against others, though your multiplayer experience will not be with Jackie but as one of his many Darkling minions. We have yet to see how this will fully come into play, but there will be up to 16 players. As creative as Star Breeze has been with their previous work, I'm sure their going to ensure an enriching multiplayer and single player adventure.
The Darkness is shaping up superbly and looks to be another sleeper hit from the developer that brought us Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay. Not only are they staying true to the comic, Star Breeze is actually making a somewhat lackluster comic seem very much worth picking up and reading, much like how they made Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay more thrilling than the movie. Any company that can take B-list movies or comics and transform them into phenomenal games is more powerful than the characters portrayed in the game itself. So now my next question is who really is powered by The Darkness?
CCC Freelance Writer