Hands On: The Darkness II

Note, this contains mild early story spoilers.

I’m gunning down mobsters at crazy angles whilst being dragged backwards through a restaurant; I’m eating hearts from the recently deceased as I accompany a stripper to her room; I’m being tortured by a sinister fellow with an taste for the occult and a nasty physical affliction; I’m dancing with my dead girlfriend in the empty cafe she works in.

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But above all that, I’m the fucking Don – I’m as hard as galvanised, reinforced nails, an unstoppable beast of a man – a deadly shot but even deadlier with these demonic arms that sprout like the wings of a fallen angel from my back.  They’ll tear you to shreds and I’m not giving them up, not that easily, no matter what you do to those around me, those I love.

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I’m Jackie Estacado.

[drop]It doesn’t take long for The Darkness II to grab you by the balls and throw you headfirst into what’s probably one of the most bombastic first person shooters for years.  It’s not outrageously daft nor rote and formulaic; it’s dynamic, flowing and plot driven but never forgets to let the player have all the fun.  It definitely ramps up the spectacle, but hardly starts off slowly either.

A lot has happened in the two years since Estacado’s adventures in The Darkness: he’s now the boss of the Franchetti family, living it up in a luxury mansion but haunted by the visions of his murdered partner.  Setting the pitch and pacing from the off, an ill-fated meal ends abruptly, setting off this particular arc of the story swiftly whilst teaching you the ropes.

Those ropes will – at first – be familiar to many: shove a gun in your hand and you’ll hardly need much persuasion to start shooting back at those around you equally equipped; but The Darkness series doesn’t just rest at firearms. Jackie’s fate, long since decided, might have been subdued over the months between games but it wants out. You’re going to need to let it.

The Darkness II is better in every way over the first title.  Now the demonic appendages are much more useful and developed – the right being used to dish out direct pain and the other mainly for grabbing, with combinations of the two producing the most effective results.  And, rather brilliantly, you can still use guns whilst utilising the arms, so you can fire off a few rounds to stun someone, grab them from a distance and then shove the second arm through the unfortunate assailant’s chest, Alien style.

The action moves quickly, but you’ll soon learn how to make the most of the Darkness’ attributes.  Indeed, the new addition of Dark Essence means that the game now has a currency system, with a skill tree opening out before you as you power up your abilities – the new moves and effects start off simple (like being able to throw enemies up in the air) but other modifications promise temporary unlimited ammo and some devastating attacks.

It’s all hugely fun, not least because for the most part, if you’re playing the game with a combination of guns and the Darkness, you can’t help but feel like the ultimate bad-ass.  The enemy AI isn’t anything particularly advanced, but the game manages to avoid lengthy shoot-outs and promote close range combat via a number of clever methods, not least the use of light.

[drop2]You see, when the Darkness is activated, Jackie’s effectively super-human and downright terrifying, but he’s susceptable to light.  In a brightly-lit area he’s vulnerable, the vision blurred and movement tricky – and whilst the game starts off by giving you easily shootable bulbs to bring back the balance in your favour, armoured glass and distant generators soon turn the tables.

Visually it’s solid enough, the game more closely matching the comic books in terms of style; hand drawn textures abound and a light cell-shading touch pervades the world.  It gives off a really individual aesthetic, matched by the often over-the-top dramatics and increasingly outlandish locations, and on the whole The Darkness II looks great.

It sounds equally as punchy too, with voice acting particularly good (even though the lead character’s actor has been replaced) and Mike Patton as the titular entity is always a joy, his subconcious taunting and goading is really quite scary.  There’s an extensive cast this time around, and although they’re fairly typical gangster stereotypes, they’re nicely done.

I’m itching to talk more about the plot, but that would spoil things, suffice to say that things take a turn for the wierd more than once.  If you liked the first game this is bigger and better, more refined (especially in terms of the use of Darklings) but much broader in scale and scope, and all the more interesting for it.  And definitely something a little bit different.

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10 Comments

  1. It’s a must buy for me. The Darkness was a fantastic game, and well worth a pick up even today.

  2. Yay. I loved the first despite it feeling a little unpolished and hectic in some places. This sounds like it’s been tightened up in those areas.
    It’s been a long time coming, I’m excited.

  3. I cannot wait for this just had another wee balst at it a few months ago on Xbox 360 although I have completed it 3 times and that was years ago. The months ago I got stuck and forgot what/where to do/to go lol. Still already remembered the story on the first and looking forward to this. Only fear is the mutliplayer it was not fun at all!

  4. Cant wait to read the review.

  5. Nice read cannot wait for the Review! im not quite sold on this yet as i thought the first one to be abit inconsistant it would feel great one minute and awful the next

  6. Sold! Don’t even need to wait for a review, sounds like the exact thing I’m after and I really enjoyed the first :)

  7. will there be movies in this one?

    i watched to kill a mockingbird in the first one, i’d never seen it before.

  8. Sounds and looks awesome. Loved the first one. Glad to know they are making this

  9. Just watched a video detailing the story and it looked really impressive.

    I can’t help but feel they missed a trick with the first one by not re-releasing it with trophies because it was and remains to be an excellent first-person perspective game with unique gameplay mechanics and a solid story.

    Still, I’m pleased they had enough faith in the franchise to green-light this excellent looking and sounding sequel.

  10. Can’t wait for this, loved the first one.

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