Are you ready to experience some of the most visceral and bloody combat on the consoles this year? The Darkness franchise is back with all new super-natural powers for you to master. In addition to the new content, and arguably the most compelling reason to play this game, is the atmosphere. The Darkness II is a dark and violent game, and it isn’t for the weak of heart. However, if you can overcome its contents, you’ll be treated to an awesome adventure.
The Darkness II follows the story of Jackie Estacado, a crime lord who is wielding the powers of evil called “the darkness”. It has been two years since the events of the original game, and Jackie is still fighting with his emotions over the death of his girlfriend Jackie. After he disposed of those responsible for Jackie’s death, he subdued “the darkness”, but now it wants out. It gets that opportunity when Jackie and his crime family are ambushed, and he is forced to let “the darkness” out after he is mortally wounded. Now with “the darkness” unleashed, he uses his powers to fight those who come after him.
The Darkness II is a first person shooter, but it has a very different twist. You are given control of two demon/serpent-like creatures that are the visual form of “the darkness”. These creatures will grab and maim your enemies on your command. They can also attack for you when you run out of ammo, and open doors if they are locked. They prove to be quite handy, more often than not. You will quickly see that The Darkness II has a deep and flexible combat system. As you dispatch your enemies, you are given essence, better known as experience in other games. This essence can be used to unlock more abilities and make Jackie more powerful. This unlock system gives you plenty of ways to customize Jackie, while also giving you plenty of tools to deal with those coming after you. You can shoot them with the weapons you find laying around, but that doesn’t give you as much essence as you could get. The better option is executing your enemies with “the darkness”, which is achieved in close combat. Once you’ve lowered the strength of an enemy, you can grab him and execute a finishing move, granting you a large essence bonus. As you can see, this game encourages you to find the bloodiest way to get rid of your enemies.
This franchise was given to Digital Extremes by Starbreeze Studios, and in that transition came of a lot of changes to the look of the game. Originally, The Darkness had a more realistic graphic quality. In The Darkness II, the graphics are cel-shaded, giving the game a look that is closer to the original comic book of which it was based on. Thankfully, these changes are sharp and clean. Despite the changes, the visual elements included in the game still grip you like a more realistic art style. The executions, the feeling of desperation and power, and even the losses are still felt strongly. The new cel-shaded graphics really contrast color, so the spray of blood looks redder and more violent, while the purply-black glow of “the darkness” make them that much more sinister.
If you want to know where this game becomes one you need to play, look no further than this game’s presentation. It does a wonderful job of setting up the story and making you pay attention. Whether it is the ultra-violent executions to shock you into paying attention, or the game’s compelling and well-paced story, you will want to see what happens. The only problems in this game come out in the balance of the difficulty versus the flexibility of combat. Jackie gets very strong, very quickly, and if you are good at shooters, this game will not take long to complete. Veterans will see about five hours of gameplay, while newcomers will get about eight. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since this game does so much well, but it is a blemish on an otherwise excellent game.
Thankfully, there is more to this game than just the single player campaign; there is a multiplayer mode called “Vendetta”. This mode allows you and up to four other people to tackle missions together. Each character has a unique set of skills, and it works well. The focus here is gun play, and there is plenty of it. Each character has a special weapon, and it isn’t necessarily a gun. Either way, this mode is a lot of fun, and though it doesn’t add a lot to the game in terms of the story, it gives some variety to the gameplay.
All in all, The Darkness II is an excellent game. It does depart from the original formula at certain points, but there is still plenty to enjoy. The story, the upgrade system, and the deep combat mechanics will provide you with plenty of memorable moments. Though this isn’t a perfect game, it is a compact, interesting FPS that is definitely worth checking out. Even if you are new to the franchise, this is a great place to start.
This review is based on a retail copy of the Playstation 3 version of The Darkness II by 2K Games