Embrace The Darkness, Jackie
Back in 2007, we were introduced to a creepy shooter called The Darkness. It had its flaws, sure, but it was easy to love despite its little quirks. The startlingly empty New York, tedious phone number collecting, and bland fetch quests were easy to ignore because the story and characters were so engrossing. The game wasn’t a huge success, mainly because of the aforementioned issues, but the stellar storytelling helped solidify it as a cult hit. Apparently, the game performed well enough to earn a sequel. It’s a good thing too, because The Darkness II is very likely to blow you away.
I’ll never forget a scene in the original game where Jackie visits his girlfriend Jenny at her new apartment. It’s his 21st birthday, and to celebrate she surprises him with a cake. There’s not much to it, but the connection between Jenny and Jackie is immediately something you, as the player, can truly feel. Afterward, he sits on the couch with Jenny and watches To Kill a Mockingbird —the player can watch the entire movie, which was a nice touch—then it’s over. It’s such a simple scene, but it was something that hadn’t really been done before in a video game.
Later in the game, Jackie is forced to watch as the love of his life is murdered. Jenny’s tragic death ends up being the fuel that drives Jackie to do all the terrible things he does in order to seek vengeance. In The Darkness II, that motivation is still there, but Jackie’s since been able to quell the Darkness inside him and some of his hatred along with it.
Then, much as you’d expect, everything quickly falls apart and all the effort Jackie invested into containing the Darkness within him soon unravels.
Almost as soon as the game begins, Jackie is forced to loosen his grip on the Darkness, letting it take him once again. In the original game you could impale enemies, swallow hearts from corpses, dual-wield, and use one of Jackie’s many Darkness abilities to sneak up on unsuspecting enemies, create black holes, etc. The Darkness II takes this concept and brings it to the next level.
In the first Darkness game, you could summon different types of Darklings, suited for specific tasks. It felt a little awkward, and you never had any real connection to your minions no matter how many times they saved your life. This time around, you’re limited to a single Darkling, and he’s with you the entire time. Because of this, and his expanded role in the story, I finally found myself caring about his well being, even if I did catch him peeing on corpses every now and then.
“Quad-wielding” might be my favorite new term, right up there with “Strategic Dismemberment” and “Procedural Content Creation System”—the incredibly not catchy name for Borderlands’ dynamic loot system—and after a few minutes tearing goons apart while you’re pumping their friends with your dual guns, I’m sure you’ll agree. Over the campaign’s six-hour running time, I never grew tired of grabbing enemies from afar with one Darkness tentacle while the other promptly dug into their chest and ripped out their spine.
Did I mention this game is brutal ? It is, and every second is glorious
Blood will spill, limbs will fly, and you’ll be in the middle of it all. The abilities have evolved since the last game; now you have a skill wheel that can grant you new abilities if you have the Dark Essence to unlock them. Killing enemies gets you Essence, and the more creative you get with your kills, the more Essence you receive. In this way, it’s a little like Bulletstorm, only you can’t chain combos and there aren’t quite as many ways to kill people in this game (maybe they’re saving that for the sequel).
The skill wheel includes upgrades and special abilities for you, and some of them are crazy cool. One of the abilities is the Black Hole, a feature that makes a much-needed return, only this time you don’t summon them. Now, when you unlock the ability, there’s a chance that you can grab a Black Hole from the corpse of a slain enemy, in the place of the heart you would normally find. Then all you have to do is toss it into a group of unsuspecting enemies and watch it do all the work for you.
There’s also the Swarm ability that summons a bunch of hellish insects to temporarily incapacitate your foes, another power that envelopes you in a protective carapace when you’re in the dark, and an ability that channels your Darkness powers through your guns, giving them a temporary boost in power. If you really want to be a powerhouse, you can get the abilities that load your guns with explosive ammunition and larger clips.
If I had one major complaint about The Darkness II, it’d be how short its campaign is. It’s not difficult to beat it in around six hours. While that might sound a little disappointing compared to its predecessor’s much longer runtime, it’s really not that bad. If you were to cut out the first game’s mundane side missions and mindless wandering around the labyrinthine city and the subway tunnels below it, both games would be about the same length. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather have six incredible hours of gameplay than twelve mediocre hours with a few good parts thrown in.
A major addition to this game is the multiplayer, which has been completely overhauled since the first game. The competitive mode of the original has been replaced by a four-player co-op mode that lets you and some friends jump into the blood-spattered shoes of four Darkness-powered mercenaries. The mode, dubbed Vendettas, has been woven into the main story, and some of the characters from the campaign have roles here as well.
There are four characters you can choose from, and their unique skill trees and Darkness weapons make each of them worth checking out. There’s Inugami, a swordsman who has to kill to satiate his cursed katana lest it take his soul; a Scotsman named Jimmy Wilson, who has a (stereotypical) love for the drink and a fondness for splitting skulls with a powerful axe; a voodoo shaman named JP Dummond, who wields a powerful staff; and Shoshanna, who gets up close and personal with her double-barrel shotgun. None of them are particularly relatable characters, but they’re all solid, and their unique weapons and skill sets offer some incentive to play through Vendettas more than once. That’s a good thing too, because the mode only takes a few hours to complete.
The Darkness II is everything I wanted a sequel to The Darkness to be. It’s almost excessive in its violence, the combat is addicting, the hand-drawn Graphic Noir art style is gorgeous , and underneath it all is a game with a heart and a truly interesting story. Jackie’s a supremely messed-up individual, but we still love him because of all the crap he’s willing to go through in order to save Jenny. If you’re looking for any of these things, The Darkness II won’t disappoint.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.6 Graphics
The animations might not be that believable, but the hand-drawn Graphic Noir art style is consistently gorgeous. 4.8 Control
Quad-Wielding is more than just another cool term; it’s also an insanely addicting way to unleash all sorts of pain. 4.6 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music is beautiful, even haunting at times. The voice acting, especially Mike Patton’s work as The Darkness, is better than ever. 4.5 Play Value
The campaign might be a little on the short side, but the New Game + option and the cooperative mode add quite a bit of replayability. 4.6 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend|
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid||2.5 – 2.9 = Average||3.5 – 3.9 = Good||4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy|
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor||3.0 – 3.4 = Fair||4.0 – 4.4 = Great||5.0 = The Best|