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Twice as slice: The Darkness II gives 2012 a bloody start

Monday, 13th February 2012 10:47 GMT By Johnny Cullen

2K has braved a release for a sequel to one of the most underrated gems of this generation. As Johnny Cullen discovered, The Darkness II is more than worthy of the risk.

The story (albeit, a short one), a ton of gameplay improvements, the inclusion of a New Game+ mode and Vendettas co-op make The Darkness II the first game released this year that I actually like.

Truthfully speaking? I didn’t go too far into the original Darkness. I kept telling myself I should play it before its sequel arrived, but I never allowed myself to get dragged into Jackie Estacado’s first waltz with games. I’m kicking myself for not doing so: the sequel is all kinds of awesome.

For those that didn’t complete the Starbreeze original, there’s a handy video at the start of the Digital Extremes sequel that brings you up to speed on the story. From then, it’s action all the way. Jackie is up against a force known as the Brotherhood, as well as his own personal demons – literally. Since the events of the first game, he’s kept The Darkness bottled up, until a hit on him at a restaurant allows a comeback for his otherworldly malevolence.

It’s non-stop violence as you head through parts of New York attempting to identity your would-be assassin. For the first quarter of the game, you’ll come back to your apartment and talk to various key characters who set you up for story missions. In addition, you can talk to any number of NPCs whenever you like.

Starbreeze’s original take on The Darkness was a serious, realistic-looking shooter. Digital Extremes has gone back to comic roots, given the sequel a cel-shaded look that has a lot of similarities to Ubisoft comic shooter XIII. It brings out a unique side to the world of The Darkness missing from the first game. Credit should go out to the DE team for art design; it’s certainly impactful.

Quad damage

The core play concept has remained largely the same, but the introduction of an XP system brings with it a a skill tree. Jackie can buy skills within a specific group to increase the strength of his Darkness powers, such as, for example, new executions. Jackie has demonic tentacles over his shoulders, allowing him to “quad wield”. As well as using guns, he can kill enemies with gruesome slashes, lopping people in half, removing limbs and all the rest of it. You also get to control your British-voiced Darkling pet in certain parts, which breaks the pace. I would have enjoyed a few more of these.

The Vendettas co-op mode.

When the game wraps – the ending leaves it wide open for a third stab – a New Game+ option opens, allowing you to run through again with all the skills you collected the first time.

DE has chucked out the competitive multiplayer from the first game and put in four-player co-op, playable either online or offline by yourself. Vendettas mode lets you pick one of four characters separate from the main story and go on missions – again, outside the main plot – with their own Darkness powers linked to unique weaponry. I haven’t gone too far with Vendettas, but first impressions are decent.

I saw The Darkness II twice before launch, and while I was impressed with what I’d seen, I still underestimated it. Digital Extremes has managed to add its own stamp while staying true to the Starbreeze original. The story (albeit, a short one), a ton of gameplay improvements, the inclusion of a New Game+ mode and Vendettas co-op make The Darkness II the first game released this year that I actually like.

Should probably finish the first one now.

The Darkness II is out now for PC, PS3 and 360.

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11 Comments

  1. DSB

    I’m surprised by how good it is too. I thought Digital Extremes were a bunch of hacks.

    It’s definitely the “biggest” 8/10 shooter I can remember playing. It never really reaches perfection, but it’s just good, unadulterated fun.

    And it’s a really great throwback to FPS’s from the 90′s in the way that it doesn’t try to cover anything up. It’s violent, the good guys are terrible human beings, there’s a pretty raunchy brothel, and there are no excuses made for any of it.

    A videogame with balls in 2012. Special.

    #1 3 years ago
  2. Patrick Garratt

    Going to get it on PC, I think. Might wait a bit.

    #2 3 years ago
  3. xino

    if you haven’t got this game:
    STOP PLAYING FPS!!!

    #3 3 years ago
  4. Phoenixblight

    @1

    THis game was actually less in gore than the original.

    I have played it and eaten it and all I can say is the game doesn’t improve upon anything of the original. It was very disappoint especially with the little darkling due was so annoying as much as Jar Jar in Star Wars series. I am definitely glad I rented this game instead of buying. That saved me 60$.

    #4 3 years ago
  5. Patrick Garratt

    Heh. The PC Limited Edition just turned up in the post.

    #5 3 years ago
  6. DSB

    @4 A week ago I played through the original, and I can’t recognize any of what you’re saying.

    The first one was terrible in so many ways. It was mostly big empty corridors full of annoying lightsources, the terrible WW1 level (if you can even call it that).

    It seemed to me like a game that was just struggling in every sense of the word, full of gimmicks that were neither fun nor clever.

    The Darkness 2 takes it back to basics. You aren’t expected to use your tentacles for anything except raw carnage, and the same goes for the guns. It’s just far better designed from top to bottom.

    It doesn’t do anything special, and there’s lots of things that would’ve benefitted from a greater investment (I’d love to have seen more interaction in the quiet areas) but it has some nice writing.

    Personally loved the darkling. A gremlin wearing a cat skin for a hat? Sold. In the first game they were just a poorly implemented gimmick, like most of the mechanics.

    I would’ve liked to have Kirk Acevedo still doing the voice though.

    #6 3 years ago
  7. Len

    Have to agree with you DSB. I thought the original was awful.

    #7 3 years ago
  8. YoungZer0

    @6, 7: I still think the original Darkness had a fantastic atmosphere the second one can’t even touch. Pity they threw away the pseudo-freeroam-gameplay. The world felt more alive with it.

    Still dislike the style. Don’t think they didn’t manage to pull off a proper cell shading look. Really, it’s textures with pencils strokes added to them and it’s a big reason why it doesn’t share the haunting atmosphere of the first one.

    #8 3 years ago
  9. DSB

    @8 But doesn’t the fact that you have to put “pseudo” in front of it pretty much say it all?

    There was really no justification for making those areas to begin with. There were no details, there was nothing to explore except for a few cheap collectibles, and it only served to confuse the player. Plus, you were on a leash anyway. It was an illusion of freedom that the game never tried to justify.

    Don’t even get me started on the WW1 part. It really felt like they just didn’t care to even try and make it worthwhile, so they just made a flat map with a lot of fog, and a few bunkers. Why even bother to set it during WW1? It’s a foggy, anonymous desert.

    I agree with you on some of the art in 2. It’s not a revelation of any sort, and neither is the game. But it feels ambitious as hell to me, and I think it does a great job of owning its limitations.

    #9 3 years ago
  10. YoungZer0

    @9: Like i said, the world felt more alive that way. I agree that many parts of the game were a mess, but that’s something that Darkness II could’ve done better, instead of just abandoning it. And while i love Brian Bloom, Kirk Acevedo created a unique character voice for Jackie. Another thing they simply abandoned.

    #10 3 years ago
  11. DSB

    I’m saying for me it did the opposite. The fact that you had a little square box that was somehow supposed to represent New York streets made it even less believable.

    If it was a city, I’d expect people to be walking around doing something, and there was really very very little of that. Not as much as a cat or a homeless guy in the alley. Even in the subway station people were just standing around or taking a little step to either side.

    To me that’s really not better than putting things on rails and actually making something happen. I got a far better feel from some of the scripted sections in The Darkness 2, like the fat lady complaining about the cooking, or people standing around actually having conversations in the mansion.

    Again it’s not groundbreaking, but if you want to do an open world, then there has to be a reason for it, and in my opinion all The Darkness did was provide a caution against that.

    #11 3 years ago

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