The first “Darkness,” released back in 2007, was a gritty game based on a comic book series. “The Darkness II” comes visually closer to that comic book quality.
Each feels like two separate games with little in common, undoubtedly due to being developed by different studios. Much has been parsed from “The Darkness” and with this comes change, some good and some bad.
With its cell-shaded graphics, “The Darkness II” is less realistic and has a more whimsical feel than its predecessor. This is probably for the better, as this second entry is very bloody and gory.
The graphics cause this excess carnage to come off as humorous, adding some much needed lightheartedness to this morbid game. While at times, the cell-shading can look a bit muddled, overall it’s appealing and a welcome change from the first game’s palatte of gray and brown.
Gameplay has been given a facelift in this installment. With the ability to dual-wield weapons and use both Darkness arms at the same time, the player will spend the majority of the game laying waste to the endless troops of enemies.
In addition, the player is able to purchase various “talents” in-game to add to their arsenal. This is the game’s strong suit.
Combat is fun and intuitive with a variety of ways that foes can be dispatched. The player is given near god-like power, and while this can make the game too easy on the lower difficulty settings, it is the most satisfying part of the game.
Unfortunately, this meat grinding fun is hampered by the lack of diversity in the enemies. Wave after wave of identical character models descend upon the player until it becomes boring.
There are also a few gameplay opportunities missed. Being possessed by The Darkness causes Jackie to avoid light throughout the game.
Should the player venture near any luminosity, the screen goes black and white, the speakers emit feedback-like noise and your health will not replenish.
This causes the player to think strategically in certain sections of the game, but it could have been pushed further.
At one point, The Darkness is taken from Jackie and is wielded by a villain. What could have been an opportunity to have the player cleverly use lights against the enemy in the same torturous way they have used it against him, becomes a mere shootout.
The voice acting in the game is top-notch, with certain characters now more fully realized. Protagonist Jackie Estacado is more sympathetic this time around, and The Darkness, voiced again by Mike Patton, is more effective.
Even The Darkling, now an actual character instead of a minion, becomes charming throughout the game. This same care was not given to the majority of Jackie’s mob cohorts, or any of the villains.
Unfortunately, the story is not as fleshed out as its central characters. The brooding plot is emotional, but predictable.
The first “Darkness” had a quirky and compelling storyline. The second entry, about a cult seeking to take The Darkness from Jackie, pales in comparison. It still has a few punches and some memorable moments, but ultimately leaves the player wanting more.
There is a strange disconnect between gameplay and how the plot is delivered. This is a charcter driven plot first and foremost. This is Jackie’s story and the player sees it through his eyes.
And yet most of the story is delivered through cut-scenes that freeze the camera and focus on other characters in first-person perspective. The loss of control has much more of a negative impact here, because up until cut-scenes happen, Jackie, and thus the player, are unstoppable.
This is jarring for two reasons. First, this is Jackie’s story, but he is only fully seen in the loading screens where he soliloquies on subjects that may or may not have to do with the plot.
The player can catch glimpses of Jackie in passing mirrors, but for such a character driven game, there is not much to visually ground the player as Jackie.
Second, when the player is given such power during combat, it breaks immersion to have that power stripped in cut-scenes. There are a few instances during the game, such as when Jackie is trapped in an iron maiden, that such helplessness would have been appropriate.
However, when control is taken away at every story point, the effect of such scenes is lessened. The player doesn’t experience the height of that vulnerability, as such occurrences have become the occasional norm.
Perhaps the biggest downfall of “The Darkness II” is its length. Most players will blaze through the main story mode in about five hours. With new games costing nearly $60, it can be hard to justify paying that amount for such a short game.
Nevertheless, “The Darkness II” is a fun and satisfying experience. It may not be as long as other big budget titles out now, but there’s a lot to be had in that short time. It’s a game worth checking out whether you are a fan of the comics, or new to the series. Give it a play to see if you control The Darkness, or if it controls you.Contact Amanda Lafond.