The Darkness II
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The Darkness is back, and it's darker (of course!) and bloodier than ever! It's about Jackie Estacado, a mobster who, on his 21st birthday, wound up hosting the Darkness, a sentient demonic force from the dawn of time. This demonic force has suitably demonic plans for Jackie but, having risen to the top of the mob, he's been keeping it in check for the last couple of years. It's all based on the comic of the same name (created by Marc Silvestri and Garth Ennis), though developer Digital Extremes (like Starbreeze before it) has taken a grittier, less fantasy-oriented direction than the source materiel.
This sequel, at first glance, is a slightly odd beast. While in the first game demonic powers complemented first-person shooter mechanics as auxiliary gameplay mechanics, in The Darkness II your supernatural abilities are pushed right into the foreground from the word go. In the first game, you might remember, the Darkness was something you had to charge up and use judiciously. Here, it's something you're encouraged to use as much as possible, with Digital Extremes even going so far as to offer points for more elaborate kills, a la Bulletstorm.
This makes for a shift in gameplay – where the first game was about thinking your way through situations and managing resources (providing a note of survival horror), the sequel is faster and tends to encourage wholesale slaughter (as the 18+ BBFC rating indicates, this isn't a title for younger gamers).
The primary manifestations of your Darkness powers are the tentacles that accompany you everywhere. Their main uses are slashing at opponents and using them to lift and fling things around the environment. There is, however, some subtlety to it. A key move, for example, is the execution. There is a range of these. They involve hoisting an opponent into the air and killing them in various unpleasant ways. Depending on the unpleasant murder method you choose, you'll receive benefits such as increased health or ammo.
The Darkness's aversion to light makes a welcome return. You can't use your powers while you're being illuminated and your health won't regenerate. Add in the fact that you can't see a thing while a light's being shone in your face and it's a pretty good idea to shoot them out. It makes for an interesting strategic twist and stops the game being a mindless slaughter-fest.
Overall, if you can stomach a bit of gore, The Darkness II offers a smart mash-up of FPS shooter and brawler play with a surprising amount of depth!
Released to Buy:
10 February 2012
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