The Average Gamer

The Darkness II Review (360)

The Darkness 2 is remarkable. On one hand it’s a poetic dance of destruction that slaughters all in its path without a hint of mercy. On the other hand it’s a cel-shaded struggle with reality that attempts to invoke emotion in what is otherwise a repulsive world.

When 2K first released The Darkness back in 2007 they were playing with fire. You see The Darkness held its roots in the world of comics. It and its sister series Witchblade played host to an epic battle between the powerful primal forces of The Darkness and The Angelus. Jackie Estacado, our anti-hero in this story, inherits the twisted powers of The Darkness on his 21st birthday and chaos ensues from there.

Risky stuff, comic book adaptations. Video game and film adaptations have always been a little tricky, at least in terms of gaining approval from the fans. Usually these things are reserved for game tie-ins alongside major film adaptations. Games like X-Men: Destiny and Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters hardly give comic-based games a good reputation.

As far as story is concerned, The Darkness and The Darkness II both stick to their comic roots. Jackie is still a mob hitman and all proverbial hell breaks loose after his inheritance. The first game saw the kidnap and murder of his childhood sweetheart and took us on a rage-filled fight for vengeance against the mob. The Darkness II? That would be spoiling it. The new game Darkness II has a new studio manning it and Digital Extremes have revolutionised what it means to wield The Darkness.

The Darkness itself is simple in theory; while in the shadows you can use your twisty snake-tendril-things to pick up items, attack enemies, grab guns etc. In the light you are powerless. Have you ever tried avoiding streetlights and lamp bearing enemies while shooting a gun at someones face and simultaneously picking up their mate to use a as a bowling ball? No? Well you should some point, it’s not easy. Although it sure is fun.

You’ll be quad-wielding with 2 guns, 2 powers – 4 buttons to coordinate. The setup is seamless – your left bumper sends Mr Snakey flinging towards the nearest enemy to grab him. Grabbing isn’t just restricted to enemies; shields, fans, guns and random bits of street can even be picked up to be held aloft above your head. What can you do with these handy bits of scenery? Throw them towards the nearest villainous fool at full speed of course.

While guns are added to your inventory as ammo, all other objects can be used as weapons. Poles act as spears to impale and flat items can rip an enemy clean in half. Blend this with the ability to mutilate any hoisted enemies in order to gain health, ammo or shields and you have a twisted danse macabre.

Holding the right bumper and flicking the right analogue stick sends a bladed tentacle lashing out across the screen in the corresponding direction ripping through anyone unfortunate to stand in its path. With powers this awesome it’s easy to forget you have guns – the left and right triggers control them.

By minimising the number of cutscenes and making the few that do exist fully interactive, The Darkness II focusses on ALL THE ACTION. When you aren’t chatting to a bomb-crazed German lunatic at your Mafia HQ, you are mere seconds away from unleashing literal hell on your enemies.

The frantic, beautiful combat is a far cry from the slow, stumbling encounters of The Darkness. This isn’t the only thing different. The Darkness II has opted for a cel-shaded look that really pays tribute to it’s comic book roots as you venture through the seedy underbelly of the town. Jackie himself has had a redesign; no longer tall and brooding, he now looks like he stepped straight out of Interview with The Vampire and decided to head up the mob.

Digital Extremes have excelled themselves, from the beautiful visuals to the often amusing script with its twisting and engaging story. The amount of love poured into the development is clear. The team obviously enjoyed what they were doing and with such a rich world to play with, why wouldn’t they?

From a combat point of view, The Darkness II is, in technical terms, “messed up”. I’m surprised that a game this violent hasn’t been set upon by the Daily Mail for its disturbing dismemberments but underneath it is a story worth paying attention to. It’s one hell of a ride that should be taken by fans of the comics and series newbies alike.

The Darkness II is out now on Xbox 360 and PS3

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