Genre: First Person Shooter Developer: Publisher: Classification: MA15+ Release Date: 10th Feb 2010 Platforms:
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The main character in The Darkness 2 is a man with a very particular set of skills; skills he has acquired over a very long career. Skills that make him a nightmare for... just about everyone. Actually, he's a living nightmare. Meet Jackie Estacado - the mob boss host for 'The Darkness'.
Those of you who remember the first game will know this already - and you'll be familiar with the beginning, where Jackie is suppressing the Darkness (before it is uncaged again). Those of you familiar with the comics will have to cut me some slack though - I haven't read the series, and I may attribute things to the game that are constructs of the comics.
The Darkness 2 charts Jackie Estacado's dual struggles - this time around he wants to rid himself of the demon within and keep it out of the hands of an ancient Darkness worshiping group, The Brotherhood.
Like the first game the strength of the game lies in the narrative - and The Darkness 2 pulls no punches in that regard. There are serious helpings of character progression as Jackie (and the player) learn more about the intricacies of our anti-hero's past. There are even some genuine heart-tugging moments - haunting use of The Flamingos "I Only Have Eyes For You" is only one shining example of this.
Things get even better when Jackie ends a level only to begin the next one in an insane asylum. Clever placement of main and satellite characters throughout the hospital - and intelligent reuse of lines from the core game - successfully had me questioning which world was Jackie's reality.
The gameplay is nothing short of tight as well. The shooter mechanics are tough to mess up, but the implementation of the two Darkness arms is perfect. Managing area lighting in the middle of a gunfight can make things quite hectic - especially if you're trying to set up some enemies so you can utilise Jackie's many powers.
The Darkness 2 is more than just an extra pair of arms. You can give your guns the power of 'never using ammo', send a swarm of flies around to stun enemies - and heaps more. If you're looking for a particularly harrowing attack unlock the "Black Hole" power and watch as people get churned into a bloody mist.
Actually, speaking of bloody mist... how the hell did this game get rated? You can rip people limb from limb, slice them viscerally in half - and when I say viscerally, I mean it in the sense that you can see viscera - or just pop their heads off like you're opening a bottle of champagne. Not to mention the fact that people beg you not to... you know, tear them in half. You can look right into their eyes while you rip their screaming head from their body.
One mitigating factor might be the stylistic graphics. The Darkness 2's art is very heavily influenced by comic books, and this can be seen in the game via the use of heavy black lines and thick shading. First impressions actually peg the game as a bit ugly - but the clever use of colour and shadows eventually grows on you.
Yet another highlight is the voice acting. It's stellar - peripheral and crucial characters deliver their lines as if they're in the moment, doing wonders to immerse you in their world. Mike Patton once again delivers as The Darkness - though Kirk Acevedo is replaced by Brian Bloom in the role of Jackie this time.
It's not all high notes for The Darkness 2 though. The game is short - seven-ish hours long - and the multiplayer is Coop only. I didn't enjoy Coop much, leaving me with just the singleplayer to go on - drastically reducing the longevity in the title. A proper multiplayer mode - like in the first game - would have negated the game's brevity, especially with clever use of The Darkness powers.
The cliffhanger the game ends on is also odd - I don't feel like I'm anxious to find out what happens next, I feel like there should have been more. It's tough to describe without spoiling (heavily foreshadowed) things - let's just say I felt like there should have been more to the story and the game.
The characterisation, acting and story are all spectacular - and the way it works to create connections between the player and the characters within should be taught in schools, if such schools existed. The gunplay is frantic but at the same time you feel powerful, and the art style doesn't strive towards realism because it doesn't need to. Still, it's short and the coop lacks a lot of the charm of the campaign - and $100 might feel like a bitter pill to swallow to get the experience it does deliver.
That's the curse of weaving a superb tale - people will always want more. The Darkness 2's strength is also its weakness - though maybe you can find more in the multiplayer than I did.