The Average Gamer

Hands-On with The Darkness II

You may have heard that The Darkness II was recently given a BBFC rating of 18, making it a title for adults only. Having played through a demo that featured monstrous tentacles ripping a man’s spine clear out of his body while a hooker gave a blow-job to a john in the next room, I have to admit… I’m surprised.

Of course I’m bloody not. As anyone who’s seen the trailers, previews or the previous game can attest, The Darkness II was always going to be an adult title. A big feature of this game is the executions – you can grab a man by the legs and bisect him through the groin for a lovely move called “The Wishbone”. You’ll spend an awful lot of your time looking for beating hearts to refresh your health. And, of course, you can rip a man’s head from his body, both with and without his spine.

I played through two different builds of the game. One was a specially constructed demo rooted in the game but designed to tell a coherent story and showcase various different features. The other was a trip through the aforementioned brothel, showcasing the combat and environmental tactics that you’ll need to employ.

The biggest change between this and the original Darkness game is the introduction of the Darkling, a scuttling creature who tells you what to do, helps you in battles and occasionally lets you take control of him. Cue vent-crawling exploration puzzles and other knee-high sneakery.

I’ll skip the story bits of these builds to save you all from spoilers. You’re the dude from the first game. You have some horrific demon powers that only work in the dark. Everybody wants to kill you. For those who haven’t played the first game, said demon powers consist of giant snake-like tentacles with pointy, pointy teeth that erupt from… actually I don’t know where they come from. Somewhere out of your back presumably, or maybe your shoulders. Possibly your neck, though given their thickness you would think that would impair your ability look up and down. Good blood supply though.

Okay, let’s presume they come out of your back and curl around so they’re floating on the periphery of your vision whilst not impairing your ability to pick up guns with your human hands. As Jackie Estacado, your job is to kill and/or violently dismember basically everyone you meet.

Sure you have a gun. Sure, you can grab car doors and riot shields with your demon-snakes, to protect you while you shoot the bad men with your puny human weapons. But it’s far more fun to grab the shiny metal poles and fling them across the room, impaling distant enemies through the chest. Grab the weak men by their squashy arms and tear them limb from feeble limb. Plunge your gleaming fangs through their puny rib cages and devour their dripping hearts, still warm and pulsing, fresh red blood arcing through the air to leave glistening trails of…

Wait, what was I saying?

Oh yeah, I’m talking about a game, right. A game and certainly nothing else *shifty eyes*. You’ll run around some dark city streets ripping people apart. Then you’ll run around a carnival after-hours ripping people apart. At some point you’ll run around a subway platform ripping people apart. Eventually you’ll run around a brothel ripping people apart and that’s where it gets interesting.

The brothel is conveniently low on power – something to do with part of it being under construction so there’s a big room filled with throwable metal poles and lights running on generators. For some reason that I can’t really remember, you’re beset from all sides by dudes who want to kill you. The game turns into a nightmare of trying to kill dozens of enemies while smashing generators and avoiding flash grenades that will blind you and cause your tentacle-demon-snakes to retract into wherever it is they go. Me? I died a LOT.

There was more to this demo but I’ll be honest. I got bored after the fourth attempt at this room. It’s a difficult game and, while I like a good story, I don’t really have much interest in shooting out lightbulbs. Those of you who enjoy gory dismemberment and light-based obstacles (i.e. Alan Wake and The Darkness fans) will probably have a great time. There’s some pretty good voice acting and the cut scenes I saw show that they’ve made a good stab at a proper narrative. This is shaping up to be a solid game. It’s just not my sort of thing.

The Darkness II will be out in Feburary 2010 on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360