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Saturday
Feb182012

The Darkness 2 Review


Duel-wielding is a big part of the game... as are demon arms.I never played the original Darkness. I rented it once, but it just happened to have been in that outrageously busy period towards the end of last year. Between Battlefield 3, Skyrim and Arkham City I just couldn't find the time to play it, which was a shame, because I always liked the look of it and wanted to catch up with the story/gameplay mechanics before I dug into the sequel. Luckily, the Darkness 2 is accessible enough that I rarely felt out of the loop storywise, and easily got into the swing of the brutal beheadings and skin ripping.

The Darkness 2 follows the story of Jackie Estacado, a mob boss in New York City and human vessel to The Darkness, the embodiment of all the darkness in the universe, pretty pissed that God decided to turn the lights on. Jackie started out as a pretty low-level mobster before his 21st birthday when a job went wrong and the Darkness emerged. A hit is put out on Jackie and in an effort to get back at the mob, Jackie decides to kill anyone and everyone that screwed him over. In the process his girlfriend Jenny, the only good thing in his life, is killed right in front of him which doesn't go down very well with Jackie. Needless to say he murders everyone in his path, and eventually, kills the boss of the mafia. Jump to 2 years later and we're at the start of The Darkness 2. Jackie is the new boss, and has been suppressing the Darkness the whole time, until an attempt is made on Jackie's life and he is forced to once again call upon the Darkness and do a fair-to-high amount of killing.

The Darkness manifests itself in a couple of ways, most notably You never, EVER get desensitized to this...as 2 demon heads on long necks which peer over Jackie's shoulder, acting almost like 2 extra arms. One of the heads likes to grab (and eat) things and the other likes to violently slash things. The control over these demon arms is super easy, with the left bumper controlling one, and the right bumper controlling the other. You're constantly slashing away at incoming enemies, plucking up bad guys as they try to run away from you and eating the hearts of the dead to regain health in a tight spot. The darkness also allows you to summon a little, British demon, who will attack enemies and help Jackie out in various other ways. He has his own personality and, while potentially annoying, never overstays his welcome.

While the Darkness powers may be what differentiates the game from other first person shooters, it still does contain it's fair share of guns. Jackie can dual-wield pistols and sub machine guns, and can carry assault rifles and shotguns too. The shooting is okay, but when you can grab a guy from metres away and rip off his head, a few bullets seem suddenly less effective. That was probably the worst part of playing the Darkness 2, anytime I needed to shoot something instead of to just 'Darkness power' it, the game was at it's lowest point. What's so great about how effective the Darkness powers are, is that it makes sense. In any other game (NeverDead, I'm looking at you) the thing you character could do that makes him awesome, would be nerfed as the game drags on to increase the difficulty. In The Darkness 2, from start to finish, the Darkness makes you feel like an absolutely indestructible badass, which, when you consider that 'The Darkness' embodies the near-unlimited power of all darkness in the universe makes sense. Jackie is essentially a god in the universe of the Darkness, and you feel like one. Each new power you level up is cool, and makes you even more of an invincible badass than you already were.

Levelling up in the game is done in a similar way to Bulletstorm, with Jackie getting points for killing, and more points the more brutal the kill. Killing somebody with guns will net you 10 points, but, for example, ripping a guys spine out Your little imp friend comes in very handy.will get you 30 points. It's a great way of keeping you creative, aswell as rewarding you for playing the part. Some of the things that you can level up are pretty standard, like increasing max ammo or giving you armor, but then some things you can level up are genius. If you spend points wisely you gain the ability to execute enemies to gain one of 4 mid-combat boosts: Regain ammo, regain health, recharge powers or gain a shield. This makes combat fun and active, "Do I need more ammo? Okay, ammo execution. How's my health? Okay, slash that guy, then health execution." Feeling like you have options, and that you can accomplish whatever option you choose, makes fighting bad guys exciting and never boring.

The game is incredibly brutal, each new execution animation I saw had me physically recoiling from the screen. Some of the stuff those demon arms do is pretty out of order... There's a line, and they cross it constantly, I mean I know these guys are shooting at me but still, don't yank THAT out. Fortunately I think the game's art style helps to keep last night's dinner down, with the entire game having a great, almost hand-drawn, vivid style that works really well (especially in the context of a game based on a comic book). When you rid a head off, bright red blood will come out, almost jokingly so, which helps. If they had gone for a realistic art style I could see myself losing control of my stomach more than once during the course of the game.

The game is paced tremendously, it's not just non-stop Yeahhhhh, this guy probably not as useful CUT IN HALF.shooting action in the likes of a Modern Warfare, there are real story moments, and long periods of time where you don't pull a trigger which work and work a treat. I won't spoil a single minute of the game for you, but I will say that the way it justifies you taking a break from the action is probably done in the most interesting way they could ever do it, and really lands in such a way that impressed me to no end, even the mafia side of the story is well told, in fact, you'd be hard pushed to find a better (and more brutal) representation of mafia life in any game, it just so happens that this mob boss has 2 demon tentacles. They construct a story that doesn't get in the way of the gameplay, but enhances it, and Digital Extremes deserve a heap of credit for it. The game is short but not frustratingly so, and besides, the addition of 'New Game +' mode means you can still get your fill of vicious murder should you want it.

The game features online co-op but it's extremely disappointing. You choose to play as 1 of 4 characters, each one having access to 1 Darkness-imbued weapon and 1 minor Darkness power. These Darkness weapons do not feel terribly effective, and, compared to Jackie's mastery over the Darkness, feel like kiddie weapons. The Darkness weapons lack of effectiveness means you'll be forced to rely of guns, Get used to sights like this as best you can. Squishy!which, as I mentioned earlier, are definitely not the best way to experience the game's combat. They try to make the co-op tie into the game's main story but it never feels like you would have missed out on valuable story beats if you didn't touch the co-op. The co-op feels rushed and slapped on at the last minute. I understand that it's difficult to justify multiple people having access to a little bit of Darkness power each, but the game doesn't shine when you have very little power and the enemies are being sent wave-after-wave at you, it highlights just how powerful you are as Jackie (which is kinda cool, I guess), because these enemies weren't too much trouble in the single player but are now ripping you to shreds. When you're used to throwing car doors at enemies faces, a throwing axe that takes 2 hits, is hard to aim and takes a second or 2 to come back to you seems like an insult.

The Darkness 2 is an easy game to recommend. Well made, fun and original, it manages to walk a line between gameplay and story that most games daren't even attempt, let alone be successful at, and is a fulfilling experience that'll make you wanna play the Darkness 3 straight away. As a whole package though it's not quite as well realised as I would have liked. The story may be satisfying but it is short, and the game's sub-par co-op mode means that replayability is a problem. As such, The Darkness 2 is a game that won't stay in your console for very long, but will keep you thoroughly entertained whilst it does.

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The Darkness 2 came out on February 10th for Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC. This review was based on my experiences with the Xbox 360 version.

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