The Darkness II Review
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A bloody and entertaining experience that offers a nice break from traditional war-style first-person shooters, The Darkness II may be a bit too linear and short for some, but the action never gets old.
- Quad-wielding combat is a joy
- Some strong narrative elements
- Co-op mode extends the experience
- A bit too linear
- Very short campaign
- Graphics sometimes get muddy
There is a sequence towards the end of The Darkness II that does a pretty good job of showing off the game’s strengths and weaknesses. Our protagonist Jackie Estacado is at an abandoned carnival in pursuit of the Brotherhood—the game’s chief antagonists—and through a series of hallucinations or flashbacks, his dead lover, Jenny is by his side. The pair end up on a frightening fun house ride, and players lose most of Jackie’s controls. As the pair of lovers continues along the rails, Jackie fights off enemies while Jenny offers loving comments as if she’s still alive. One of the most interesting parts of the Darkness II is the relationship between Jackie and Jenny, and this sequence does a fantastic job of capturing that emotion of a lost lover. However, this segment also holds your hand a bit too tightly, and the metaphor of riding on rails couldn’t be more appropriate for a game with levels that are a bit too scripted and linear. But despite this dichotomy of an emotional narrative and a narrow approach to gameplay, I can say there is definitely something fun here for first-person shooter fans, but it doesn’t quite hit the level of some of the stronger, more story-driven alternatives to popular war shooters.
Digital Extremes created an extremely brutal, bloody gore fest. One moment you’ll blow the head off an enemy at point blank range with a shotgun, the next moment your anaconda-like demon arms will rip apart an enemy like a piece of notebook paper. Jackie’s powers come from the darkness, which was introduced in the first game. The darkness gives Jackie quad-wielding combat abilities—his human arms can hold guns, while his demon arms can beat enemies like a rag doll or throw objects into crowds of baddies. You are a killing machine, and this is easily the game’s strongest point. I had an absolute blast with my demon arms and tended to run into battles to thrash away at enemies than stay back and play the game like a traditional first-person shooter. There is definitely freedom to play the game as you’d like, but the level design and enemies have a tendency to restrict some options—more on that later.
While executions are extremely rewarding, there’s not much that beats that first time you impale an enemy against a brick wall with metal pipe. Throwing objects at enemies is extremely easy and was one of my favorite ways to destroy my opponents. Car doors can split enemies in half, while wooden chairs can stagger your foe, allowing you to grab them and perform an execution. The art of killing never really got boring in the five hours it took me to complete the game. Yes, this is a short affair, but I wasn’t all that thirsty for more—for better or worse.
As you gain experience through essence, you can upgrade your character. It’s a fairly simplistic leveling system, but there are some fun and helpful additions. For example, you can level your executions to get perks for ripping enemies to shreds. These perks include more health or ammo, for starters. You can also get abilities that correspond to your darkling—a mental manifestation of Jackie that serves as your goblin-like sidekick. With a new game+ available, you can play through the game again to try out different leveling options.
The story sees Jackie regaining his darkness powers after two years of fighting it back. As the boss of a mob, you call the shots, but that’s strictly for storytelling purposes; it’s not blended well into any gameplay elements. You mansion serves as a hub, of sorts, for a break in between levels and it gives players a chance to learn more of the story. There are some annoying FPS-style story elements where you have to tap a button to interact with object—like lighting a candle or turning on a faucet—but the best story telling occurs in Jackie’s hallucinations. ... (continued on next page)
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