Jackie Estacado is back in the sequel to the 2007 video game based on The Darkness comic book series. Proudly, 2K Games was able to stay true to the comic’s origins while simultaneously packing in new features that provide a pretty gratifying experience. New gameplay mechanics and a cooperative campaign add to the unique feel that the series introduced with the first title, steering clear of being just another first-person shooter.
Immediately following an intense and exhilarating opening sequence, you will get introduced to the game’s newest and funnest feature, quad-wielding. There is nothing quite like the power you feel when you can impale an enemy using with a thrown object from the environment, or whip your demon arms knocking your foes off balance, while also pumping other enemies full of rounds from your traditional human hand equipped firearms. The controls work with this quad mechanic so seamlessly and fluidly, that you might wish some other modern shooters implemented something similar. Now, your underworld powers are sensitive to light, so it is nice that you no longer need to waste ammo taking out light fixtures, when you can now swing those beautiful arms around and break them with ease. Sure, you could favor using either the Darkness power or bullet filled weapons exclusively, but with either mechanic so readily available at your disposal, you won’t be able to resist gruesomely finishing a grabbed enemy and knocking off a few others with headshots.
The gun targeting for the most part is pretty accurate, with the exception of if you are dual wielding, but it doesn’t differ much from other dual-wielding shooters out there. Taking more focused aim with the left trigger offers a handy assist that focuses on your enemy, only when currently equipped with a single gun. The demon arms can be used as simple melee combat weapons, or as grab-and-throw or grab-and-finish weapons of power. Just facing an off-balance enemy’s general direction, and being within a reasonable range, generates an icon to let you know that you are free to snatch up your enemy and do as you please. Neither mechanic has a steep learning curve, so if you are comfortable with modern shooter controls, you will have relatively no problem jumping right into this game.
As you progress in the single player and co-op modes, you earn varying amounts of Dark Essense, the in-game currency, for taking down enemies a certain way, collecting their hearts, and picking up collectibles. This in turn is spent to augment Jackie’s abilities in the single player campaign, or your chosen character in the co-op campaign. The upgrade menu, known as the Talent Tree in the game, is specific to each character, so fully upgrading any chosen character will take quite a bit of time. The good part is that you can focus on your particular play style when upgrading your abilities. If you want to have a deep foundation for your darkness powers and executions, you can completely ignore the guns side of things. On the other side of that, if you want to have the greatest advantage when utilizing your arsenal of firepower, you can enhance your weapons skills to create a Jackie Rambo of sorts.
The single player campaign can feel a bit short, as you can casually finish it in roughly 5 or 6 hours. Most of the missions utilize the shooter/quad-wielding elements, while there are still a few areas without powers and even areas where you control your darkling friend. Gone are the elements of snaking your way around obstacles with your demon arms, so if you were hoping for more of that from the first game, don’t get your hopes up. Once finished, you can play through again in the New Game+ mode, having the option of playing your chosen level with everything you’ve earned and upgraded thus far. Of course, there are collectibles spread throughout the game which are not only seen in the game’s explorable hub-type level, but give you a respectable amount of Essense to help build your skill tree.
The game looks great with the new hand-painted graphic noir style, that at first glance may look to be of the more cartoony cel-shaded variety. However, the more you look at the game, the more it is apparent that the visuals resemble that more of a graphic novel, which is what the developers were looking for. The sounds do a great job of creating the right environment and the voice acting really makes you feel like part of a New York mafia style crime family. Your sidekick Darkling, who assists you throughout the single player experience, selflessly attacks enemies on your behalf and as he calls out helpful hints during intense fights or just nudges you to hurry up, his British accent really just gives you the feeling of him being your friend. The other notable voice is that of the The Darkness itself. Faith No More front man and rock legend, Mike Patton, creates the unmistakable voice of the underworld entity so well, that you really feel like it is a part of you in the game.
While there are no competitive multiplayer modes, the co-op Vendettas mode can be played online with up to four total people. The events in the co-op run alongside that of the single player, and give you four new characters to play as, each with their own unique abilities and a familiar darkness power to utilize. Vendettas is story driven, and is meant to be played with a team. Although you are able to attempt the missions by yourself, once you step up to the higher difficulties, it will be apparent you’ll need a little help from your friends.
Overall, The Darkness II gives fans of the series a video game adaptation that is both fun and appealing. After you have finished the single player campaign, the co-op mode will keep you busy for a few more hours. Even if you’ve never even picked up an issue of the comic book, the game provides entertainment that is just plain fun.
*2K Games provided SlimGamer.com with a review copy on Xbox 360.