Intense, gory combat at its best!
Trading in the realistic approach for a comic inspired presentation, The Darkness II arrives on the PS3, Xbox 360 and PC to bring the demonic Jackie back to our screens. While the original had some shortcomings, the potential for a great game was certainly there. 2K Games have brought it back from the pits of hell, the question is, was it worth it?
What The Darkness II Got Right
Intense combat - The Darkness II features some of the most intense, and enjoyable combat sequences players are likely to find this generation. Filling the role of Jackie, a mobster who possesses the power of The Darkness, players will be able to dual-wield a variety of weapons, while causing devastating attacks using Jackie's demonic arms. After the opening sequence, the player is thrust into the action, and before long they will be ripping their enemies to shreds, eating their hearts to replenish their health. If you don't mind a spot of the old ultra violence, you're going to find a lot to like about the combat on offer in The Darkness II.
While the demonic powers are certainly devastating, the gunplay is balanced thanks to the light and dark gameplay. If Jackie is standing in a well lit area, the Darkness won't be able to attack. This means the player must make quick judgement calls on their course of action - they could take out one of their enemies with a well placed shotgun blast, shooting out the lights and unleashing hell for instance. Each room will have a different approach, and pulling off a perfect gunfight is definitely satisfying.
Fun co-op action - Rather than an arbitrary competitive multiplayer component like its predecessor, The Darkness II features a series of narrative driven missions for up to four players. Taking the roll of a Darkness-powered assassin, co-op groups will be given tasks that tie into the single-player campaign. While it may not offer the addictive experience like other online shooters, these missions keep the game alive for a few hours between friends.
Jackie Estacado demonstrates some creative ways to finish off his foes in The Darkness II.
Comic presentation - The Darkness II is based upon the comic book series of the same name, and the artwork this time around is a better representation of the source material. A mix of cell shaded sequences with traditional 3D models create a unique and visually appealing presentation that sets The Darkness II apart from other shooters.
Real moments of story prowess - There are certain moments in this origin story that really stand out as something special. Jackie is an interesting character; while he is quite an evil guy, there are moments where he exhibits real emotions that are striking, particularly when he is dealing with the loss of someone close to him. I don't want to ruin what is eventually a decent story, but just know it offers something a little different.
What The Darkness II Got Wrong
Too easy to unlock your powers - Players can upgrade their Darkness power and abilities by using XP gained from stylish kills. There are a number of powers and upgrades available, however they are far too easy to unlock. After a few hours you will have most of the major powers unlocked, and there is no real incentive to unlock all of them. There's no real challenge, and it is a shame considering how much fun the demonic arms can be.
Where's the polish? - The Darkness II may look rather interesting, but it is lacking some major polish when it comes to character models and general refinement. A room full of enemies will quickly prove that there are very few character models on hand, which really breaks the immersion throughout the bloody campaign. Bodies will fall through walls and floors, and there are a number of bugs at launch that can break certain missions, requiring you to go back and replay entire sections.
Story can be lazy at times - Despite the fact that the story can show some real promising moments, the beginning feels lazy and drags on far too long. It also borrows heavily from the original game, copying many plot lines that really make the story fall flat. It comes into its own towards the end, but the beginning makes it a little hard to swallow.
Short campaign - If you're expecting a 8-10 hour campaign here, you'll be sadly disappointed. An experienced gamer will be able to smash through the story in under seven hours. The multiplayer aspect will keep the game a live for a number of hours afterwards, but the game finally gets into its groove just before it ends.
The Final Verdict
The Darkness II features some of the best combat we've seen in years, but the lack of polish and the sluggish story sees it fall short. Speaking of short, the single-player campaign can be completed on a Sunday afternoon, which makes a full retail asking price seem a little too much. If you were a fan of the original title, The Darkness II certainly won't disappoint. If you're looking for a deep and engaging shooter however, you might want to wait until the price goes down.
By Stephen Heller
Review based on PS3 version