As someone who played and loved the previous Darkness game, I was genuinely looking forward to the latest instalment of the Darkness. It has to be said that I was so impressed with the original game that it prompted me to read up on the original comics to understand more of the back story. However, the latest incarnation by incumbent 2K games left me with mixed emotions.
In the Darkness II you once again take up the reins as Jackie Estacado, cursed bearer of the Darkness, one time hit man for the mob and now head of your own crime organisation. I was glad to see Jackie doing so well for himself. Not for long though - life throws Jackie a curveball in the shape of a car and just when you think “Oh my God – look at the state of my horribly mutilated leg!” Life decides to really hammer it home by sending in a few dozen goons to finish you off…and this is when the Darkness steps in after a long sabbatical.
Hands down – the controls are more versatile than the predecessor, actions seem more natural and fluid. It feels that little bit smoother. You still have you standard fire arms including various pistols, smgs, shotguns and assault rifles. As before you can dual wield weapons, in fact you’re not just dual wielding – You’re quad wielding (if you include your spikey tentacles of death)! There is also now a character progression element which allows you to mould how you’d like the darkness act in tandem with Jackie.
Not only that, but as well as being able to eviscerate someone with a touch of button (while tossing their torso across the room and gunning down the victim’s drinking buddies) you can now quite literally, for example, pull someone’s spine out of their arse and get rewarded with ammo, health or even strangely enough an ‘alien-esk’ riot shield. It’s amazing what you can do when you dig deeply enough!
Now onto some of the glaringly obvious disappointments.
WHERE IS MY DARKNESS? Ok, so I have my heart eating tentacles of death – great – and I have my darkling and…wait…I’m a mighty being of darkness and evil and all I can muster is one darkling????
In all honesty I think games like Overlord come closer to what it mean to possess ‘the Darkness’ with its horde rush mentality. Heck, if I just refer to the last version of the Darkness I had three darklings as well as my death tentacles! Now I just have a stereotypical British darkling who insists on calling me ‘monkey’ all the time.
Also, when we’re using hardware like Xbox 360’s and PS3’s I’d like the graphics to be noticeably better than what I’d expect from the previous generation of console. Visually, the comic book style is reminiscent of “Number XIII” which simply is not good enough. The single player campaign is far too short, especially when considering in the original Darkness a large amount of the game is spent battling the demons of hell. It is so short the single player campaign is completeable within an afternoon. Also unless I ‘prestige’ in the Darkness II – i.e. complete the game and do it all over again – I don’t really get a good opportunity to really enjoy some of the back end ‘Darkness upgrades.’
For me this creates two areas of concern. Due to its short length it’s really hard for non-fanboys to really fully understand the reason why Jackie is so messed up or grow attached to any of the characters other than through a number a short collection of cheap visuals at the start of the game. A game’s success relies on its ability to be picked up by both the newbie and the veteran and for both parties to know what’s going on from the word go. More importantly – buy into it. My second area of concern is probably closer to home – Why would I invest in this game over any other if I knew it would be over so quickly?
To try and combat this shortfall there is a multiplayer ‘co-op ’element which allows you to take on the role of one of four very different Darkness wielding characters. These characters are sent on various missions by Jackie and his mob which tie in with the main campaign. Now unlike some games where it seems like this is an element that has been tagged on very clumsily at the last minute, this multiplayer aspect actually looks original and puts a new twist on things. This does extend the playability of the game for a few more hours but can get boring quickly if you find yourself in game playing a character whose style of fighting is not to your liking.
Ultimately, the Darkness II is not a clever game. In fact it doesn’t even feel like it’s a complete game – merely an episode – but it is fun and it is satisfyingly graphic – right down to capturing the absolutely look of terror as you pull your victims head off. There are dozens of ways to disembowel, decapitate or generally tear people limb from limb in a short space of time – Literally, to the point where towards the end you’re doing it more for the points and less for the perverse fun associated with pixelated mass murder. However because of the length, visuals and lack of really capturing the Darkness, this game falls short of its predecessor and will not stand the test of time.