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Demonstrably Good: The Darkness II’s killer demo

Saturday, 21 January 2012 12:51 GMT By Brenna Hillier

Last night, a significant slice of Sydney’s gaming public turned up to play The Darkness II – not the game, but the demo – because it’s that good. Brenna Hillier chats with the sequel’s producer.

The Darkness II

Developed by Digital Extremes as a sequel to Starbreeze’s 2007 original.

Concerns the adventures of one Jackie Estacado, whose symbiotic relationship with an ancient and malevolent entity known as the Darkness gives him super-human powers.

Features a unique “quad wield” control scheme with one button for each of Jackie’s hands and demonic arms.

Based on one of Top Cow’s most successful properties; part of the same universe as the Witchblade. A live action film is in development.

Sydney’s Insert Coins event – regularly drawing capacity crowds to the Oxford Art factory just months from launch – played host to 2K’s official Australian premiere of The Darkness II last night.

I was there, an hour early, to conduct an interview, and by the time we wrapped up, it didn’t seem worthwhile leaving. With 15 minutes to kill till the doors officially opened, I secured a stool, a drink and a demo station, and settled down to give it a go.

It’s a sizeable demo, of at least 15 minutes, and as this was my second playthrough, I took my time exploring, trying out different approaches – dying quite frequently, as shooters are not my forté.

When the title screen flashed in front of me once more, I put the controller down, more than satisfied, and turned around – to be confronted by the accusing glares of several impatiently waiting gamers, clearly disgusted with my performance.

Although doors had only been open for half an hour at most, and 2K had packed in at least a dozen consoles, every single one was already marked by a queue of minimum three eager players. There were close to 50 people waiting, and as the night drew on, that number grew rapidly to over 100, at all times.

Some people waited for over an hour to play The Darkness II demo in a stuffy, noisy bar – an experience which is freely available to Xbox Live Gold subscribers in the comfort of their own homes. Something special was clearly happening here.

It helps that Digital Extremes has done such a superb job, art and craft, into constructing what provides an excellent taster of an unusual game. The developer has put serious time and effort into this one.

“We had a prototype of this demo that we took to PAX East in March last year,” producer Seth Olshfski told us. “So it’s almost a year old. That demo was fine,” he added, giving a rueful laugh, “but it needed a little polishing. So we’ve kept fussing with it since then.”

One of the reasons why the demo has taken so long is that, while highly representative of the finished game’s aesthetic and gameplay, it’s a very different presentation to that of the finished product. Digital Extremes thought long and hard on how best to introduce The Darkness II to players – the pace we expect when we site down to the first level at the beginning of a ten hour campaign is not the pace we require from a fifteen minute taster.

“We’re showing you how we tell the story; we’re showing you quad wield; we’re showing you the graphic noir visual style – without giving away anything that makes you go ‘oh, now you’re ruined it.”

“We took maybe the first four or five levels, and cut little chunks out of them, and re-jumbled them together,” Olshfski continued.

“And then used the crucifixion interrogation scene as a narrative construct to tie them together.

“We had a couple of goals. One was to show people how awesome the gameplay was, and lead them through the tutorial which was logical.

“Another was to show them how we told the story. By walking you through a restaurant, not by showing you a cutscene. By having the controller vibrate, and you’re like, I wonder why the controller is vibrating? Oh! It’s because I’m having a nail driven through my hand.

“But also not give away the story of the game. We couldn’t just play the first level, because that gives away the story of the game. You have to say, in the first level of the game, well, this is what the point of the game is. We didn’t want to do that.

“So, we’re showing you how we tell the story; we’re showing you quad wield; we’re showing you the graphic noir visual style – without giving away anything that makes you go ‘oh, now you’re ruined it.’”

Players firing up The Darkness II on release day expecting to feel that vibrating controller will be disappointed.

“That’s maybe five to seven levels in, the interrogation scene,” Olshfski explained.

“That’s way into the game.”

Stitching the demo together may have been a laborious process, but 2K and Digital Extremes are unlikely to begrudge the effort. The Darkness II isn’t just another shooter, and that’s something that’s very hard to convey from a trailer or a screenshot.

“I think you really need to play it to get it,” Olshfski said, a sentiment I fully agree with.

While 2K doesn’t have any statistics as to how quickly the demo is being downloaded, the buzz is extraordinary, and Olshfski is delighted by the reaction to the team’s hard work.

“It started being downloaded while I was on a plane coming here. I can’t wait to go back and be like ‘guys, how’d we do?’” he said gleefully.

“People are emailing me with all the press stuff. I have friends who are like, ‘Did you see that Cliffy B tweeted that your demo was amazing?’ And I’m like, did he! Well then!”

The Darkness II launches in early February on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. A demo is now available to Xbox Live Gold subscribers, and will trickle down to Silver level, plus Steam and PlayStation Network users, next week. Can’t wait? Check out Pat’s play through. Watch for our full interview with Seth Olshfski next month.

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15 Comments

  1. Moonwalker1982

    Day one purchase for me. Played and finished the demo twice now, absolutely loving it.

    #1 3 years ago
  2. Ireland Michael

    I guess I must have been the only person I know who wasn’t even remotely impressed by the demo for the game.

    #2 3 years ago
  3. viralshag

    @1, I’m with yo on that one, mostly. Not sure if it will definitely be a “day 1″ but I thought the demo was great. Really looking forward to picking it up.

    #3 3 years ago
  4. Ireland Michael

    @3 I thought the whole thing was terrible.

    #4 3 years ago
  5. OrbitMonkey

    ^ Sourpuss ;-)

    #5 3 years ago
  6. Moonwalker1982

    Man, the beginning of the game is just so damn awesome, the restaurant scene. And that part would have really wowed or shocked me, if i hadn’t seen it in the Gamespot video already.

    #6 3 years ago
  7. Len

    Really didn’t get on with the original after the brilliance of Riddick but this is of course another dev but obviously still the same subject matter which I just didn’t enjoy.

    Will try the demo though to see if it can change my mind…

    #7 3 years ago
  8. viralshag

    @4, What didn’t you like about it?

    #8 3 years ago
  9. Phoenixblight

    I will be renting this game. Its just not a game I can foresee playing more than once just like the original I will probably buy it when its 15$. I enjoyed the demo and really reminded me of the original.

    #9 3 years ago
  10. KAP

    Is there a demo of this on PSN or something?!

    #10 3 years ago
  11. Phoenixblight

    @10

    No its exclusive to the Xbox 360.

    #11 3 years ago
  12. McKlop

    @10

    The demo will be avalible on PSN a week after its release on Xbox – not sure what the date is exactly, sometime in the middle of the upcoming week.

    #12 3 years ago
  13. monkeygourmet

    @2

    I’ve said this again and again Michael, you generally need to give a sentence or two to explain why you like or dislike something… Especially if you dislike as it helps people to gain knowledge based on constructive criticism.

    I understand the game developers aren’t really going to be trawling these forums for your expert advice but it helps other users adhere to your ideas and personality.

    If you don’t care about other people on here, why bother to comment in the first place. I haven’t tried the demo yet but I’ve heard most people speak highly of it.

    That’s why it’s quite important you elaborate on your position as your going against the “grain” once again without any substance behind your stance.

    Just a quick sentence or two to expand on your opinion would prove more interesting in future, or do you really like playing the aloof card that much? :)

    #13 3 years ago
  14. DSB

    I felt pretty ambivalent watching it. I haven’t played it so it’s all premature at this point, but the guns really didn’t seem to pack a punch, and the AI didn’t look like they were a lot of fun to shoot at/eat.

    A game like that, mixing “melee” and shooting really needs to have some enemies that justify the mechanic.

    I liked the restaurant scene, and the way it was set up was outstanding to the point of Bioshocky, but the whole “getting dragged and shooting at enemies that pop up” is really old, and they didn’t do a whole lot to make it interesting. In Pats video he’s getting shot to bits, and the whole feel of a scene like that should involve a significant fear of being shot, and having to shoot enemies first in my opinion, since you’re already badly wounded.

    Just 5 cents based on watching Pat play. I’m still hoping it’ll have more great scripting and that the gameplay is more stimulating than it looks.

    #14 3 years ago
  15. absolutezero

    Theres a real feeling of randomness to using all of the Darkness powers, pick something up and chucking, who knows if the tentacle will bounce off something and drop what its holding or float through it and fling it.

    The guns feel slightly similar its all a bit hit or miss constantly. Take the opening for instance, in something like Bioshock your eyes are lead to where the enemies are going to entering from so you have some sort of heads up before they start shooting. Theres nothing like that in the demo the first notice that another wave have trundled in is being shot then trying to figure where they are.

    Theres points where they have spawned and are firing at you before the camera have even moved to where you can fire back.

    #15 3 years ago

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    Halo: Spartan Strike is now available on Windows 8, Steam, iOS devices and Windows 8 phones. The mobile top-down shooter will run you $5.99. Halo: Spartan Strike tells a new story in the Halo universe set during the events of Halo 2 on New Mombasa in 2552. Those playing on Windows 8 devices can compete […]

  • Final Fantasy 15 video shows highlights from the Episdoe Duscae demo

    Square Enix has released a Final Fantasy 15 video which shows highlights from the Episode Duscae demo included with launch editions of Final Fantasy Type-0 HD. FFT0 has shipped over one million copies worldwide, and a player feedback survey is available for the Duscae demo until May 19. Final Fantasy Type-0 HD is available on PlayStation […]

  • Bloodborne has sold over 155,000 digital units since release – SuperData

    PlayStation 4 exclusive Bloodborne has sold over 155,000 digital units since it was released on March 24, according to SuperData’s latest report. The figure produced by SuperData is worldwide and comes on the heels of the one million units sold announcement earlier this week. “After the release of the beautiful but terribly short game The […]

  • Nintendo US eShop update: Mega May returns, Super Smash Bros. update, Mii Fighter costumes

    Nintendo has updated the North American end of the eShop with a Super Smash Bros. update and the StreetPass Mii Plaza games Battleground Z and Ultimate Angler. The update is rather detailed, and a bit larger than normal, and you may wish to pay special attention to the activities listed. Here’s the full update: StreetPass […]

  • Here’s your first look at Sony boss Shuhei Yoshida in Super Time Force Ultra

    Sony Worldwide boss Shuhei Yoshida is a playable character in Super Time Force Ultra, and today, Capy Games has provided a couple images of the man himself in the game. Yoshida was announced as a playable character in the game during Sony’s PlayStation Experience event back in December 2014. The PS4 and Vita version will […]

  • The wait is almost over – The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has gone gold

    CD Projekt RED has announced the news we’ve all been waiting to hear: The Witcher 3 has gone gold. This means Geralt’s latest, and possibly last, adventure has been sent to the factory to be pressed into lovely gaming discs. “We worked so damn hard over the past three years to bring you this game,” […]

  • Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is a “couple weeks out from beta,” new trailer

    Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is just a “couple of weeks out from beta,” according to development studio The Chinese Room, and a release date will be announced “shortly.” To give you an idea of how development has been coming along since it was announced at gamescom 2013, the team has released a new trailer […]

  • GTA 5 on PC looks incredible, but I can’t recommend it to console players

    As much as Matt Martin loves GTA 5, he can’t recommend upgrading from console to PC just for a slick editing suite and even prettier graphics. “This is the third time in as many years that I’ve bought GTA 5.” I have a Grand Theft Auto 5 obsession, as I’m sure you know if you’ve […]

  • The Forest engine updated to Unity 5, major graphical and gameplay improvements made

    The Forest’s latest patch added substantial improvements to the game. The Forest version 0.16 is now live on Steam with plenty of new additions. The game has been ported over to Unity engine version 5. The plant and skin shaders have been replaced or rewritten. Many other visual tweaks have been made, such as model […]

  • Star Wars: Battlefront banner leaks from Star Wars Convention

    EA has been setting up the Battlefront booth at Star Wars Celebration, and one leaked picture shows what could be the game’s main art. Someone on Reddit posted a picture of the game banner at EA’s booth. Here it is: Lots of things happening here. There’s a Star Destroyer in the distance, TIE Fighters and […]

  • Get GTA 5 working with Oculus Rift using this tool

    There’s a way you can play GTA 5 in VR if you own an Oculus Rift Dev Kit and have a bit of cash to spare. VorpX, the go-to program for adding VR support to games has received an update recently to support GTA 5. This is far from perfect, as it only translates the […]

  • FIFA Ultimate Team: week of April 15 team revealed

    This week’s Team of the Week is now available for anyone to challenge in FIFA Ultimate Team. The team members get selected each week based on their performance during the weekend matches. You can fire up FIFA Ultimate Team on any platform and challenge this squad. You’ll also find some Team of the Week items […]

  • Deus Ex: Mankind Divided will let you stealth all encounters, including bosses

    Deus Ex: Mankind Divided will bring back one of the original game’s major features. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is considered by many to be a great game and worthy of bearing the franchise name. One of its grating issues though was its boss fights. You only had one way to fight them: be confrontational. The […]

  • Project Cars PC specs and supported wheels announced

    The release date of Project Cars is inching ever closer and more details have been revealed to answer all your burning questions. Project Cars developer Slightly Mad Studios has revealed the full list of supported steering wheels on all platforms, as well as the minimum and recommended PC specs. Minimum specs CPU – 2.66 GHz […]

  • GTA 5 gets custom FOV mod on PC

    Those not satisfied with GTA 5′s built-in field of view slider can use a new mod to push the number even further. The PC versions of GTA 5 – just like its PS4 and Xbox One counterparts – lets you switch between third and first-person view in shooting and driving. The game has an FOV […]

  • Win! GTA 5 on PC!

    Want to win a Steam key for Grand Theft Auto 5 on PC? Just enter here. GTA 5 released on PC this week and is going down a storm. We like it a lot, which is why we’re giving away a Steam code for Rockstar’s latest. All you need to do is enter your email […]

  • GTA 5 topples Skyrim’s record for highest concurrent players on Steam

    Not factoring in Valve games, GTA 5 is the new king of concurrent player numbers on Steam. GTA 5 is very popular on PC, even more popular than games like Skyrim in its heyday. The number of concurrent players for GTA 5 has peaked today at 301,246. This makes it the only non-Valve game to […]

  • Mortal Kombat X: what does a modern fighting game look like?

    Mortal Kombat continues to evolve as NetherRealm adds RPG systems and daily challenges to a solid fighting game, says Sherif Saed. “Mortal Kombat X takes many cues from games like Destiny, Call of Duty, and GTA Online with hourly, daily and weekly events.” For as many of its familiar facets, Mortal Kombat X has enough […]

  • J-Stars Victory VS+ coming west in June – new trailer

    J-Stars Victory VS+ will make the jump (see what I did there) to the west after all. J-Stars Victory VS+ is the western title for the fighting game which stars characters from a variety of Shonen Jump-published manga. Bandai Namco has announced the fighter will release in Europe on June 26 and in the Americas […]

  • Codemasters F1 license good through 2016

    Codemasters has at least one more F1 game in it. F1 2015 isn’t out yet, so Codemasters is naturally not talking about what it might get up to in the future. We do know what it can get up to, though; Codemasters’ Steven Embling told Videogamer has the option to continue the series. “We have […]

  • Project Cars has pretty deep graphics options on consoles

    Project Cars offers players a wide variety of ways to customise their graphic settings on PS4 and Xbox One. Project Cars is a graphics showcase and all early indications suggest it’s going to be one of the best-looking games out there. Slightly Mad’s commitment to graphics seems to go deeper than making things pretty, though: […]

  • Super Smash Bros. patch nerfs Diddy Kong – report

    Super Smash Bros. 3DS and Wii U is great but Diddy Kong is a beast and must be stopped. The latest Super Smash Bros. 3Ds and Wii U patch seems to have nerfed Diddy Kong, a character so over-powered that serious tournament players generate controversy by choosing to use him. Nintendo doesn’t publish patch notes, […]

  • Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel developer shuttered

    Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel developer 2K Australia has been closed down. Kotaku broke the news, and also had word from an anonymous source, who said that all staff have been let go. 2K responded to our request for comment with the following statement: We can confirm we have taken steps to begin the studio closure process […]

  • Samorost 3 trailer shows Amanita still in fine form

    Samorost 3 looks as delicately beautiful as its siblings. Samarost 3 developer Amanita Design has a reputation for gorgeous, slightly surreal world building. This new trailer for its latest adventure looks just as if not more lovely than the previous Samarost games and Botanicula. Samarost 3 is coming to Mac and PC later this year, […]

  • Amnesia dev’s new project SOMA now in beta

    SOMA is nearly here and I am torn between excitement and horrified dread. SOMA is the latest horror project from Frictional, the team behind Amnesia: The Dark Descent. We’re pretty excited to see what Frictional comes up with next, and we won’t have too long to wait, apparently; the developer has announced that SOMA is […]

  • Steam Guard mobile authenticator now in beta testing

    Steam is now testing its latest security measure. Steam helps you protect your account by offering two-factor authentication, a solution so beautifully elegant and effective that it’s astounding every gaming network doesn’t do the same (looking at you, Sony). Valve’s version is called Steam Guard, and it works via email. This isn’t always super convenient, […]

  • Godzilla battles Mothra in new trailer

    Godzilla lets you stomp around cities and battle classic kaiju. I’m in. Godzilla is coming to PlayStation 3 and PS4 in early July, but we haven’t seen a great deal of it since its December reveal. The new trailer below gives you an idea of just what Natsume has done with one of the biggest […]

  • Tales of Zestiria to launch this year – new trailer

    Tales of Zestiria continues Bandai Namco’s delightful new habit of bringing the popular JRPG series to the west before the shine wears off. Tales of Zestiria is coming west in northern autumn, the publisher has announced. That’s not a bad turnaround, given it first hit Japan in January, and localisation of text-heavy titles is expensive […]

  • Project Cars release date locked down, new trailer released

    Project Cars finally has a release date. Project Cars will release on May 8, Bandai Namco UK has announced. We haven’t yet had an update from Namco Bandai’s other regional offices, but its probably safe to bet the racer will release around the same time in the Americas, Europe and ANZ region. We can now […]

  • Attack on Titan: Humanity in Chains trailer shows combat, online multiplayer

    Attack on Titan: Humanity in Chains has plenty to offer fans of the anime. Previously known as Attack on Titan: The Last Wings of Mankind, the Spike Chunsoft action game is coming west thanks to Atlus. Gematsu reports it’s due in both Europe and North America in May, via the 3DS eShop. The trailer below […]

  • Bloodborne stamina recovery rate affected by equip weight

    Bloodborne players have unearthed an important gameplay detail not mentioned in the game’s menus or manual. In Bloodborne, players need to manage their stamina carefully for best results. A far more aggressively-tuned affair than past Souls games, Bloodborne does away with equip weight limits, and items have no listed weight details. As far as players […]

  • Street Fighter’s Ryu, Fire Emblem’s Roy spotted in Super Smash Bros. patch – rumour

    Street Fighter’s Ryu is rumoured for future Super Smash bros DLC following datamining of the latest patch. Super Smash Bros. 3DS and Wii U were updated recently, and hacker shinyquagsire23 claims to have found some interesting files while poking around in the 3DS patch data. As detailed on Reddit, the audio files included a new […]

  • Suikoden 3 PEGI rating suggests PS2 Classic re-release

    Suikoden. Suikoden 2. And now: Suikoden 3. Suikoden 3 has been rated by PEGI for PlayStation 3, presumably ahead of an upcoming re-release. Gematsu turned up the rating, and although we have no further information at this time, it’s not much a leap to assume the RPG will turn up as a PS2 Classic on […]