The Darkness 2
Like disemboweling fish with fucking tentacles in a barrel
Played to completion twice on both Thug (Easy) and Don (Very Hard) difficulties (Xbox 360)
In the nearly 5 years since the original Darkness came out, it has held up surprisingly well. Although I only played an hour or so of it myself, fans continue to praise its virtues to this day. Now the long awaited sequel has appeared, done by a different studio and with a radically different look. Can it live up to the first games cult appeal?
The game opens on a high note, with a last stand sequence in where youíre dragged through a burning restaurant shooting frantically to survive. In the end though, youíre forced to embrace The Darkness to save your own life. From there you gain full control of the games protagonist, Jackie Estacado. Jackie starts the game as your typical mob boss, having restrained The Darkness for the past 2 years. Brief load screens covered by monologues fill in his backstory and set up plot points throughout the game.
The game is probably the most brutal game that has ever been created. Using his Darkness powers Jackie has the ability to tear up a battlefield and leave only gallons of blood and buckets of gore in his wake. The gameplay makes use of a system pointedly dubbed ďquad wielding.Ē Jackie can duel wield single handed weapons such as pistols and submachine guns, the quad part comes into play using the darkness tentacles. While the guns make use of your standard shooter controls, you also have access to 2 tentacle arms mapped to the left and right bumpers. Each tentacle has a specific ability, the left tentacle can grab and throw, whereas the right tentacle can slash directionally by holding the button and directing it with the right stick. Running through enemies slashing enemies in half while pumping lead through dual wielded submachine guns is one of the most visceral and satisfying experiences Iíve ever had in a shooter. Complementing this is the execution system, which enables you to kill enemies in the most graphic way possible. Itís easy to execute enemies; all you have to do is stun an enemy either by shooting them or slashing them, then grabbing them with your left tentacle. From here you have the option to execute the enemy to gain health, ammo, a shield, or darkness energy. Every single option has multiple executions ranging from the Butcher, where you cut someone in half then in half again, to an execution where you pull their spinal cord and skull right out of their body a la Sub Zero. On top of that you have a skill tree that over time will give you access to more abilities including a black hole that will suck up enemies in a certain range and turn them into red mist.
The start of one of the various executions, this is going to get bloody
All this killing is complemented by an excellent plot revolving around Jackieís control over The Darkness. Constantly throughout the game you are pulled into a mental asylum, manned by the characters from Jackieís life. Here you are put through scenes that lead you to question Jackieís mental health and how far the Darkness has taken over his mind. Jackieís deceased girlfriend Jenny makes multiple flashback appearances throughout the game, leading to melancholy scenes that show what Jackie had before his life became twisted by The Darkness. The story is far more important to the game then I thought it would be from pre-release media, and strings you along gracefully through the gore soaked gameplay.
The look of The Darkness 2 is a kind of variation of cel-shading that really gives the game a unique look among a sea of grey games. This look makes the game less brutal then it would be with realistic graphics, and really attaches the game to its comic book roots. The soundtrack is a great mix of background noise and some choice licensed songs that might bring a smile to your face. One thing to watch out for though is the lack of facial emoting on characters; it can really draw you out of the game amid the rest of the excellent presentation.
Quad wielding at it's finest
Alongside the single player campaign, thereís a co-op campaign called vendettas, which feature 4 darkness wielding characters running missions for Jackie alongside the main campaign. Each character has one of Jackieís abilities from the game and a darkness infused weapon with which to wreak havoc. While the co-op campaign can be fun with friends, it gets old quickly when you only have 1 unique ability and only about 2 hoursí worth of missions.
The Darkness 2 is one of the most fun and unique shooters to come by in the past few years. Itís both a breath of fresh air and a familiar friend. Itís solid throughout, but throughout isnít very long. With a 6 hour campaign and a low replayability co-op mode, the value proposition isnít very strong. Itís an excellent rental and a great buy when it hits the sub 20 dollar range. Despite that advice, I really hope the game sells well, because the ending sets up for an extremely interesting sequel that I sincerely hope happens somewhere down the line.