The Darkness – 2007 – Developed by Starbreeze Studios – Published by 2K Games – Xbox 360/PS3 – BBFC 18
The Darkness, based on the comic book of the same name, is an FPS with a difference. Assuming the role of New York gangster Jackie Estacado, the game starts with an assassination attempt on his life by the don, Uncle Paulie. Left for dead, Jackie is consumed by The Darkness, an evil spirit that has possessed the Estacado family for generations. These evil spirits manifest themselves as huge snake like tentacles coming out of Jackie’s back. They feed off darkness as well as the occasional human heart.
With The Darkness now at Jackie’s disposal, he heads out to seek vengeance upon Paulie, as well as the chief of police, who is on the mafia payroll. In anticipation of this, Paulie has Jackie’s girlfriend kidnapped and sets up a trap for him. Without wanting to spoil too much of the story, Jackie ends up dead, which transports him to some netherworld circa World War I. It’s a very tense environment, full of zombie like German soldiers doing their best to stop Jackie. From here we start to find out more about The Darkness and why it has plagued the Estacado family.
Jackie is interrupted in this netherworld by being pulled back into the living. He then pursues Paulie and the police chief once more, climaxing with Jackie being transported to the netherworld once again. This time Jackie confronts The Darkness, only to surprise it in allowing himself to be overtaken by its power, enabling Jackie to control its power in the real world. This however will come at a price. The more people Jackie kills in his quest for vengeance, the more The Darkness will consume him.
What starts off as a seemingly standard FPS, with great visuals for it’s time, turns into a fantastic supernatural horror with a Mafioso twist. At first, the controls did feel a little clunky. Whether or not, this was intentional to make the player feel weighed down having taken on The Darkness, or whether they just needed to be gotten used to, I’m not so sure! As well as standard FPS weapons, e.g. pistols, shotguns, machine guns, you have The Darkness itself. These creatures are extremely violent, enabling you to tear off your enemies face or pick them up and plough them into a wall. As well as being used for melee combat, you can feast on the hearts of your enemies once they have been killed, replenishing The Darkness’ energy. You also get the ability to summon little creatures called Darklings. There are a few of these and each have a different ability, ranging from physical attacks to having a Gatling gun. You also get to dress these up in different costumes for some reason. It adds a bit more fun if you like that sort of thing suppose.
Another neat feature is darkness itself. You can use this as a healing aide. If you are taking some damage from enemies, you can retreat to an alleyway and destroy the lights nearby with the tentacles, and heal up. As well as thriving on darkness, you can use it to your own ends, with a few special abilities you acquire as you progress through the game. These could help in a variety of situations, particularly if overwhelmed by enemies. My particular favourite being the void, as seen in the game-play video, as it opens a black hole, which sucks in nearby enemies and anything else in its way.
At certain points in the game, you can watch television. The first time you do this is when Jackie snuggles up with his girlfriend on the sofa for a bit of quality time. You get the option to watch a few programmes and films. I probably watched a good 15 minutes of To Kill A Mockingbird, before I carried on with the game! The other programmes you can watch are an episode of Flash Gordon, The Man With The Golden Arm, The Street Fighter as well as the animated shorts of Popeye and Gabby. The latter of which I had never heard of before. You will find that there are randomly scattered television sets in locations like the subway stations and shop windows.
There is a multiplayer mode to this game which consists of the standard death match, team death match and capture the flag, but was so laggy at the time I never played it. These days I doubt there’s even chance that you could even get in a game. But this is one of those games where the multiplayer was probably tagged on due to the increase popularity in online gaming, but this is one title that’s all about the single player.
As well as it being brilliant to play, the story is superb with brilliant voice acting and as I mentioned above, the graphics were fantastic for it’s day. There is a slightly free roaming aspect to some of the levels too, however, if you take a wrong turn on your way to the next area or scene, you can end up spending a few minutes turning round and going the other way! This is one of my only complaints in an otherwise superb game. The other is the lack of replay value. Once the game is done with, apart from wanting to replay the fantastic story, or collect the comics scattered about the levels, there isn’t incentive to run through it again. Unless you have a compulsion to get every single achievement if you have the 360 version!
If you have yet to play this game or have not even heard of it, you really are missing out on a treat. This can be found for only a couple of quid these days and really is worth giving it a try. And the great news is that we have a sequel heading our way later in the year. If they can capture even some of the brilliance of this one, I’ll be more than pleased!
I give The Darkness 9 out of 10.