Destructoid reviews games. The Darkness is a game. So we reviewed it. And, all things considered, it probably wouldn't kill you to read it.
Within this hallowed post, you'll find the opinions of Nick "Brutal" Chester, Alan "Gamboi" Johnson, and myself as we dissect the latest game from Starbreeze studios in an effort to help you, the reader, decide whether or not it's worth your time.
Are you a bad enough dude to read about Nick harping on Darkling A.I., to see Gameboi gush about the achievements, and to witness as I give the single lowest review score I've ever awarded?
If so, then hit the jump. If not, you can leave. Your kind is not welcome here.
I don't remember my 21st birthday very well. I think it involved 12 shots of Patrón and barely legal strippers licking whipped cream off of each other, but I could have just as easily spent it playing Mario Kart 64. For Jackie Estacado, a young-blooded New York City mafia hitman, and the protagonist of Starbreeze Studios' The Darkness, the experience of turning 21 will not soon be forgotten.
Verdict: Buy It!
Playing through The Darkness has been a bold reminder of how much fun a comic book based game can be, even if it has some quirks that detract from the experience ever so slightly. The colorful language driven storyline is interesting, the controls responsive, and the creepy dialog voiced by Mike Patton is on the mark. To save those of you with poor attention spans out there the trouble of reading further -- The Darkness Rocks.
The first thing that caught my attention was how great the game looked, even on my standard definition TV. The level of detail was impressive, and I remarked to myself on more than one occasion that I must head North to NYC soon. As I expected, the cinematics of the game were fantastic, although there was one nagging problem that stood out. For whatever reason, Jackie Estacado, while a fine mob hitman, never learned the subtleties of opening his mouth while talking. Reminiscent of an old Kung-Fu flick, it stood out like a sore thumb next to the otherwise polished visuals that The Darkness showcased.
One thing that I found quite pleasing is how the game was so free to hand out achievement points. The Darkness throws them at you left and right. As someone who's Gamerscore isn't exactly going to send opponents running for cover in hopes of not being shown up by its unfathomable number, seeing those delightful prompts coming up in regular intervals were a real pleasure.
The Darkness powers are certainly what separates this game from the endless first-person shooters that the Xbox platform is known for. I never grew tired of using them to dispatch enemies, although I must admit that the whole Darkling thing never grew on me. They pretty much took a backseat to the action. Besides the lack intelligence that these guys seem to suffer from, as Nick spoke about earlier -- why send out these guys, when you can take care of business yourself? After all, you are a supernaturally-enhanced hitman, right?
Other than this, the only potential drawback had to be the constant need to extinguish any light-sources around you, in order to use your Darkness powers. Not too big a deal, but you do spend a bit of time doing this throughout the game -- when you really just want to get to work punishing those pesky guys who keep firing away at you from all directions.
So what more is there to say about The Darkness? I bought the game expecting a pretty good adaptation of a comic book character, and I got just that. It had a nice horror theme, great voice-work, a decent storyline, interesting locations along the way, and just the right amount of variety to keep me interested for the long haul. The Darkness isn't likely to become my favorite game on the Xbox 360, but it is poised to make the top ten list. I can and do recommend the game to everyone. Forget about a rental -- you should own this game.
Verdict: Buy It!
The Darkness just didn't do it for me. The gunplay is underwhelming, the characters and story are irritating, and the level design and pacing are absolutely abysmal.
While there is one moment in particular that I really enjoyed (the scene where Jackie must decide whether to stay and watch a movie with his girlfriend, or ditch her and cap a gangsta), the story and characters felt uninvolving and annoying. Jackie looks and acts like a combination of Criss Angel and Steven Seagal, making him an absolute chore to watch, and thereby impossible to care about. Mike Patton's voicework as The Darkness seems kind of fun at first, but by the end of the game he sounds less like a ferocious, evil demon and more like a regular guy trying to sound like a ferocious, evil demon. Not to mention nobody seems to be particularly surprised about Jackie's newfound Darkness powers -- they appear very abruptly, and when a major bad guy sees them later, he just makes an offhand remark about Jackie's "demon shit." Seriously? Nobody's even remotely surprised that Jackie controls a sentient evil demon?
The combat, unfortunately, is similarly dull: while the Darkness powers are undoubtedly cool (though the Darkness tentacle has an irritating habit of attacking objects rather than people when you don't want it to), the gunplay itself is extremely underwhelming. Baddies take far too many shots to kill, the guns handle oddly (a shotgun doesn't feel like a shotgun -- the pellets don't seem to spread when they're fired), and worst of all, there's really no reason to engage in long-distance combat when it's easier and more practical to run up to a guy and press the trigger once, initiating a ruthlessly violent instakill animation.
However, I would have been willing to forgive these flaws had it not been for the unforgivably awful level design. The main problem with the world layout in The Darkness is that it attempts to mix a nonlinear world with an extremely linear gameplay style: as a result, the player will often find himself in the middle of a large city with absolutely no idea of where to go or what to do. The in-game map is all but useless, and certain aspects of the environment suggest incorrect paths.
By way of example, at one point in the game a chopper was shooting at me. If I didn't find cover, I'd be dead, and directly in front of me lied a huge, well-lit tunnel that seemed to literally scream that this was the right way to go in order to further the story. I run through the tunnel and end up in the pier. Whilst there, a bunch of goons come out and start firing at me -- again, another bit of game design that functions to tell the player that he is, in fact, in the right place. But after the goons are dead, there's nowhere to go. None of the doors open. No levers to pull. I (and, judging from the Gamefaqs forums, many others) spent about fifteen minutes running around the pier until I realized -- I was in the wrong area. When the chopper fired at me, instead of running forward through the obvious tunnel exit, I was evidently supposed to turn around and run through a small gap in a wooden fence that looked all but invisible beyond a distance of three feet. Put simply, this is poor level design. The problem is, this happens a lot, and it practically kills the game. Much of your time with The Darkness will be spent either wondering where the hell you're supposed to go (especially in the special, secondary area Nick mentioned), or slowly (and I do mean slowly -- Jackie's movement speed is some of the slowest I've ever experienced in an FPS) walking from one end of the city to another just to get in another quick, underwhelming fight.
In the end, the graphics are great and the Darkness powers are fun, but the story, gunfights, pointless sidequests, and leaden pacing rubbed me in all the wrong places. While there are some great moments of fun to be had in The Darkness, they're sandwiched between long, long stretches of underwhelming action, irrelevant narrative, and horrendous map design. As much as I will no doubt be mocked for my score, it has to be said: I cannot recommend The Darkness.
Verdict: Forget It!
Destructoid Final Verdict
Final Score: 6.8
We round down with our star ratings. We are not savages.
Anyway, what do you think? Think someone was too easy on it? Too hard? Just right? Hit the comments with your own opinions of the game and/or our review of it.