The Darkness II
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Digital Extremes
Platforms: Xbox 360 (Reviewed), Playstation 3, PC
Release Date: February 10, 2012
Price: $59.13 – Available Here
2007 saw the release of The Darkness, a shooter with a unique twist of demonic powers. But what set The Darkness apart from other shooters was its focus on narrative. Five years later, a long awaited sequel has finally emerged. Developed by Digital Extremes, there is much to enjoy in this very dark, gory and fun sequel.
Set two years after the events of the first game, Jackie Estacado is forced to conjure up the ancient demonic force known as The Darkness after a hit on his life takes place. With The Darkness out of him, he must once again face his own demons along with a new foe: The Brotherhood. A secret society bent on controlling and using The Darkness for their own purposes – *hint hint* world domination. Meanwhile while all this is happening, Jackie is still guilt struck over the loss of his girlfriend Jenny. And with The Darkness out again for the second time, there may be another chance to find her once again.
The Darkness II’s story is the main draw card for anyone that played the first game, but this isn’t the dark and gritty revenge story of the first game. The Darkness II’s story explores far more into the game’s comic books roots expanding the mythology behind The Darkness, something that was questionably lacking from the first game.
While the developers have done a great job in the way narrative is told, overall the game’s story feels rather flat in comparison to the first game. The main campaign isn’t lengthy as well, clocking in at around 5-6 hours only. There is however a very good co-op multiplayer that extends The Darkness II’s longevity, and fills in some of the gaps of the main campaign.
The four player co-op multiplayer Vendetta campaign tells a parallel side story to Jackie’s. While the paper thin Vendetta story is more of a premise rather than an actual in-depth story, it’s a good enough reason for teaming up for some four player co-op action. There is some cross over between the two campaigns, but for the most part the campaigns remain in their self- contained scenarios.
Another major drawcard for The Darkness II is its gameplay, inventing and boasting the catchphrase “Quad-wielding” in all its trailers. Whilst some may brush this off as a shameless gimmick, this is certainly not the case – Quad-wielding works and defines gameplay in The Darkness II. Players are given four weapons to use at all times, two standard weapons and two demon arms, hence the name ‘Quad-wield’. This new gameplay mechanic allows for fast and far more fluid combat, as you aren’t swapping through Darkness powers like in the first game. The right demon arm is used for throwing and picking up objects, while the left is used for slashing.
The game constantly rewards the player for gruesome kills, in the form of Darkness Essence which is used as the game’s currency to level up Jackie’s Darkness powers. A lot of depth has been put into the levelling system. It’s up to the players to decide where to spend their Darkness Essences, whether to level up Jackie’s weapon skills or invest in new Darkness Powers – Gun Channeling and Swarm, to name a few. The game also introduces player choice in certain sections of the game, whereby players are forced to decide an outcome. These light RPG elements are a welcome addition to the game and certainly did throw me off guard (in a good way) while playing the game.
Gameplay is overall very fun and very fast, however in the heat of battle (especially in hard sections of the game towards the end) quad-wielding can become all too hectic, with too many commands and prompts on the screen at the one time. The frustrating example of this is that the X button is used for consuming hearts (to regain health) and to pick up other weapons/ammo. You will accidentally be picking up weapons when you meant to consume a vital heart, and all too often this means dying and restarting from the section from the checkpoint.
And also as gruesome and horrifying as the executions are the first time around, after the 50th time you’ve ripped a goon’s head off or split him apart the character animations just get repetitive and slow down the fast paced gameplay. And it is very noticeable in the Vendettas campaign as you will be smashing hearts and executions enemies a lot as the game rewards the most Darkness Essences this way.
Where the single player campaign ends, multiplayer comes in to pick up the slack. The co-op multiplayer component of The Darkness II is no shoehorned experience. It is a fully fleshed out part of the game, with four very interesting and quirky characters to choose from, and who all have their own unique Darkness infused weaponry and powers. The same levelling up system from the single player have been taken and adapted in the multiplayer. Like in the single player, you will be earning and spending Darkness Essence to level up your character.
Audio & Visual
The most notable and striking thing about The Darkness II is its visual look. There is no denying that the game looks gorgeous, sporting a comic book look and feel thanks to its cel-shaded graphics. Everything in this game looks like it has been taken straight out of the comics themselves, and translated into the video game. Character models look fantastic with close facial details, expect for in Jackie Estacado’s loading screen monologues where he looks oddly flat in comparison with some of the other characters.
Audio is similarly top notch as well. Voice acting is also absolutely spot on, and so it should be as the majority of the story is told from the characters. Mike Patton of Faith No More fame returns as the familiar creepy, haunting, mocking voice of The Darkness. Music is also used in an interested way with particular flashback moments with Jenny. The music here really adds to the emotion of the scene, which is off-beat in itself for a dark natured game. Yet these scenes feel all so right, and not out place at all.
The Darkness II is a deserving follow up to 2007’s The Darkness, introducing new gameplay features and RPG elements that ultimately enhance the overall experience without losing sight of what made the first game so great – its narrative.
It’s just a shame that the main campaign ends quite abruptly with the main credits rolling just when you thought you were in the thick of it. It great while it lasts and most certainly leaves us wanting for more, which can be picked up in the game’s excellent co-op multiplayer. There are no gimmicks here, The Darkness II is a game that delivers.