Way back in 2007 there was a first-person shooter released for both the Xbox360 and the PS3, which told the story of a young Mafia hitman who is betrayed and marked for death by his boss, and the ensuing journey of revenge he takes. It is also the story of the ancient entity that calls said hitman it’s home. I am referring to, of course, The Darkness, which last month had its sequel released. But does the sequel compare to the original title? It cannot be denied that there was a certain creepy, haunting, and emotional atmosphere to it, and these are some of the things that made The Darkness so enjoyable.
The Darkness 2 opens with Jackie Estacado, who has taken over as Don of a crime family, coming under attack while at a restaurant. Near death, and desperate not only to live, but for revenge, Jackie unleashes The Darkness, the supernatural force which he has brought under his control, setting into motion a violent killing-spree and search for answers, as Jackie tracks his way back towards the people who tried to kill him.
Those who have played The Darkness will certainly remember the two angry looking tentacles, which served as Jackie’s main weapons, in addition to his guns. The system for using these has been revamped for the sequel, allowing players to quad-wield. What this means, is that at any time, you can have four weapons ready to go. Two of these, of course, are your guns, and while you can wield two guns at once, there are also shotguns and assault rifles at your disposal. The other two weapons come in the form of those same demonic tentacles, one for grabbing, and one for slashing.
This combination allows you quite a number of options when it comes to dispatching doomed enemies. Aside from simply shooting them dead from a distance, you are also able to snatch objects from the environment, such as statues and pool cues, knocking down, or impaling your hapless victim. If your enemy gets closer then you’d like, it only takes a few flicks of the analog stick to slice them in half. Or, if you are feeling particularly brutal, laying your grabbing demon-arm on a living enemy allows you to perform an execution. These particularly gruesome methods of dispatching your foe range from simply holding him still with one demon-arm, while slashing his head from his shoulders with the other, all the way up to ripping on their spine.
Of course, the brutality doesn’t stop there. The game’s system for increasing Jackie’s power is based off receiving essence for killing your victims, but the amount rewarded for each kill increases with the brutality of them. Shooting someone, for example, rewards less than grabbing him and ripping his head off. If you do kill your enemy with your gun, you can still squeeze a bit more essence out of him by consuming his heart, which also has the added bonus of restoring some health.
While it may appear at first glance that Jackie is an unstoppable engine of death, this is not quite the case. It’s true that in most circumstances you will be able to tear through scores of foes with little more than a second glance; there is still one enormous threat to The Darkness, and by extension Jackie. Light. Much like The Darkness, in keeping with the Dark-vs-Light motif, any source of light is going to be a huge problem. The instant it happens, you will know. Light floods Jackie’s vision, his ears ring, the demon-arms vanish and are unusable, your health ceases to regenerate at all, and The Darkness itself starts to yell. Fortunately, most lights are able to be broken in advance with a simply bullet, or by throwing something at them, but there are some lights which are not broken so easily, as well as foes who are clever enough to use this weakness against you.
Visually the style of The Darkness 2 differs from its predecessor in that it has been developed with cel-shading. This gives the entire game a graphic novel sheen, which makes sense since it is based on one. The style works for it, though, helping to add a sense of what can almost be described as surrealism, particularly in certain areas of the game. The game is almost too bright at times, though, and in certain areas it can be hard to tell the dark areas from the well-lit ones, making it all too easy to stumble into the light.
The sound effects really stand out. As you shoot, slash, and rip your way through your enemies, each action is accompanied by the squish, snap, or tear that you might expect to hear when tearing someone in half. The demon-arms growl and snarl while Jackie interrogates characters, and all the while the fantastically creepy voice of The Darkness whispers, urges you on, or yells instructions at you.
The games main problem comes in the fact that it is not particularly long. The entire main story is finished all too quickly, and although there are the co-op Vendetta missions, these simply don’t add quite enough extra onto the single-player to quite make up for the short single-player campaign. These missions are also a little too short, and lack any particular challenge making them end far too quickly. That is not to say they are worth skipping over, it can be quite fun to team up with someone and blast your way through a bunch of mob goons.
While The Darkness 2 seems to have traded away what made its predecessor stand out from most other first-person shooters in favour of bloodthirsty action it still, at its heart, has a story. Driven as much by emotion as it is by revenge, featuring some tender moments, which helped make the original great.
While certainly not for children or anyone who dislikes over-the-top violence, those looking for a brutal revenge rampage, with a surprisingly emotional core, a creepy atmosphere, and the ability to shoot and rip people apart at the same time, should enjoy The Darkness 2.