Sprouting two demonic tentacles from your back has its share of advantages, especially if like Jackie Estacado you happen to be the boss of a prominent mob family. Unfortunately it also thrusts a whole boatload of inconveniences upon you like the death of the only person you ever care about or a secret thousand year old cult baying for your blood. Then again, there’s nothing like a free meal in this world and Jackie must take the good along with the bad. Not that he really has a choice since these powers were forcibly thrust upon him on his 21st birthday. Family curses can be a real pain in the backside.
But it’s been two years since his inheritance and he’s learnt to keep it in check – somehow. Unfortunately, the emergence of this blood thirsty cult has forced him to tap into his powers he’s tried to suppress for so long.
The first game had its moments but didn’t feel like it fully exploited Top Cow’s twisted universe. This time round, developer Digital Extremes have nailed the gritty and brutal universe pat down. Besides the more obvious stuff like gratuitous violence, constant cursing and a bit of nudity, the game’s plot is very bleak and hammers home the famous adage, “With great power comes great responsibility”. It’s also equal parts a love story where you learn just how far one man would go to save his love from eternal damnation. It’s quite touching actually.
Digital Extremes have greatly expanded Jackie’s repertoire of moves in The Darkness II so instead of just slicing your enemies clean in half or munching on their hearts to boost health, you can pull off all sorts of nasty finishers like removing someone’s spine from the backside (yes that looks as painful as it sounds), rip someone in two or throw objects at enemies impaling or decapitating them in the process. Experience earned from killing enemies can be used to upgrade your existing powers and learn some new ones in the process. I mean sure, slicing someone in two looks awesome but it’s more gratifying when that execution hooks you up with some much needed ammunition or health.
This actually adds a layer to strategy to an otherwise straight forward game. With two tentacles popping out of your back, you may think you’re invincible but you’re really not. Bullets will still manage to carve you up real nice and there’s also the matter of the staying out of the light that can prove rather lethal to the power flowing through your veins. The game does throw a lot of enemies at you and once The Brotherhood enters the equation, they bring all sorts of anti-Darkness weapons to the table. Thankfully you can rip certain objects from the environment like car doors or sign posts and use them as shields if you find yourself at the receiving end of a few thousand bullets.
As enjoyable as the game is, it’s also a very linear experience and I don’t just mean that in level design. I have absolutely no problem being shoehorned through a corridor shooter but I really wish Digital Extremes had given me more freedom when it came to using my powers. Jackie for example can tear metallic doors down like they were made of paper but I can’t use the remains against my enemies. Similarly he can only throw highlighted items like poles or pool sticks at enemies impaling them in the process. I would have liked the option to maybe beat them to death with those objects or use other (dangerous) objects from levels. Also once I’m tapped out of ammunition, it would have been nice if I could use my spent up weapons as projectiles.
One aspect of the game I didn’t care for much was all the stuff that takes place in-between levels. The first game was broken up into various hubs and travelling between these hubs felt very painful, boring and not to mention a complete waste of time since the game was still a linear shooter at heart. While Digital Extremes have done away with these sections, we’re still forced to navigate Jackie’s mansion to speak to random characters or receive instructions from your crew. It’s not really a deal breaker but I definitely think level transition could have been handled better since none of the people you’re supposed to talk to ever pass on side quests.
Hanging out with my new friend
Once you’re done with the rather short but enjoyable single player campaign, you can tackle a bunch of stand-alone missions alone or co-operatively. Unlike the main plot, you’ll step into the boots of one of four assassins but the goal pretty much stays the same. Shoot waves of bad guys, execute them brutally and help Jackie Estacado in the process. Like the campaign, kills in co-op will net players experience points with which they can unlock different perks or more, varied executions. There’s no multiplayer to speak of in this game so that about sums up this game’s online portion.
In my preview, I had praised the game’s cel-shaded look and I still find myself tripping over it – hard. In fact the whole game feels like a very polished project fusing tight gunplay mechanics with vibrant and colourful visuals. Voice acting is pretty solid and even though Estacado has been voiced by someone new, he does a rather good job of conveying Jackie’s confusion, anger and at times love for his deceased love. Mike Patton as always is a treat as The Darkness as he has this sort of demented menacing quality that I doubt anyone else would have been able to bring to the table. In case it isn’t obvious by now, this game is terribly violent and the cel shaded look doesn’t mask that fact. In fact, it actually accentuates the gore thanks to its vivid use of colours.
That so does not look like a safe place
So yes, The Darkness II is a rather short game and it doesn’t have any sort of multiplayer. The single player can be finished in four hours (on Normal) and once you play the co-op missions once, I really don’t see you going back for more. That being said, it’s also a very polished product that packs in a very tight and engaging first person shooter experience. If you’re not the queasy kind and enjoy ripping dudes into multiple pieces, The Darkness II is definitely the game for you.
The Darkness II is now available for the PC (Rs. 999), Xbox360 (Rs. 2799) and PS3 (Rs. 2799).
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Oct 26, 2016
Oct 26, 2016