2K Games – Digital Extremes – Top Cow – PS3/Xbox 360 – Out Now
It’s been only a matter of months since the last truly great comic book game was released (Batman Arkham City), and now, just a few months later, another comes along. The sequel to 2007’s dark horse, The Darkness, has finally been released after a brief delay, and much like the aforementioned Batman game, it was worth the wait.
Picking up 2 years after the original, The Darkness II, based on Top Cow’s long running series, reacquaints us with Jackie Estacado, who is now the head of his crime family. All seems fine, with Jackie having managed to suppress the Darkness, no longer requiring its abilities. We catch up with him just sitting down to dinner with a couple of blondes. In barely the time it takes to blink, all hell breaks loose, with what seems like dozens of heavies, out to get Jackie. Badly injured, he has to be dragged away, but it’s not long before things get worse and he once again has to call upon his serpentine allies. Restoring him to perfect health, the Darkness once again assists Jackie in killing anyone who stands in his way, and he soon finds out that it won’t be quite a simple as shooting first and asking questions later.
There’s a new gang in town known as The Brotherhood, a secret cult which has been round for many years, attempting to obtain the Darkness and to harness its evil power for themselves. In Jackie’s mission to get to the bottom of the attack and seek revenge on his attackers, he goes through a lot, including torture, loss and an alternate universe.
The first major thing you will notice about The Darkness II its visual style, which is now a more comic-like cell-shaded style, however the overall look is still somewhat realistic in terms of character modelling etc. The visuals themselves are rather grand in scale, with some levels boasting some great background scenery. Gameplay and story-wise, The Darkness II is superb. The gunplay is some of the best ever seen in an FPS, made all the better by the accompanying Darkness, slashing, smashing and ripping opponents apart, and chowing down on their hearts once felled, in spectacularly gruesome fashion. Its an extremely violent game, and at times, very blackly comic, particularly when you’ve got the wise-cracking, cockney Darkling in tow, who isn’t averse to relieving himself on the mobsters and thugs that have just been killed. The story is one of the most involving plots seen in a game for some time. The way things unravel and reveal are fantastic, with the occasional emotional punch (which may have more of an impact if you’ve played the first game).
Unfortunately it’s not the longest of games. The main story will take around 7-8 hours depending on what difficulty you’re playing on, but don’t let that put you off. As well as the story mode, there’s a new mode called Vendetta. This is a co-op mode (although it can be played as a single player game) which fills in the gaps of the story, running adjacent to the main plot. So while Jackie is out doing one thing, the characters you take on are carrying out tasks set by Jackie’s sub-ordinates to track down certain mobsters or gather information etc, which will help Jackie in the main game. There are four characters to choose from in Vendetta mode, each of whom have their own special weapon, augmented in Darkness, and although it isn’t quite as brutal or useful as Jackie’s serpent assistants, it can be just as fun. One character for example, has a Darkness augmented samurai sword, which allows you to perform melee executions and increases the characters’ health by stabbing adversaries in the heart. While Vendettas isn’t as involving as the main story, it’s a brilliant addition, made all the better by the inclusion of co-op mode and it adds legs to what otherwise would have been a brief (but brilliant) single player experience.
As well as Vendetta, there’s Hit List. This is a similar mode, but seemingly more arena based. Again, you can go it alone or with an additional player, choosing from one of the same characters from Vendetta, you work your way through waves of goons to get to the mob boss on your hit-list.
The Darkness II takes everything that was great about its predecessor and improves on it ten-fold. With a different team on development duties, this could have gone either way, but luckily, it’s a stunning game from beginning to end. Graphic violence, dark humour, fantastic gameplay and an involving plot (something a lot of FPS’s lack), all make for one of 2012’s must have games. An instant classic.