Do you remember what it was like playing video games when you were a kid? You had all the time in the world, so God help any game under 10-12 hours in length. Talk about a waste of money!
The best ones were those which boasted 40 some odd hours of gameplay and story. Think about your game playing habits now, do you have time to play for that long? Hell no, you’ve got papers to write, significant others to spend time with, and a life to lead. Thank goodness for games like The Darkness II.
You play Jackie Estacado, a mafia don with a dark power he’s tried to deny. But when his family is attacked by a mysterious organization, he’s forced to call on the eponymous Darkness once more.
The story of The Darkness II is emotional and engaging, if somewhat sloppily executed. Jackie is haunted by the memory of Jenny, an old love who’s life he failed to save. The relationship they had, as seen through Jackie’s eyes, is perhaps the most realistic yet seen in a video game. However, halfway through the story her role changes from a representation of Jackie’s emotional guilt over his inability to properly utilize his powers to something a bit more shallow and less interesting.
The Darkness itself is perhaps the most interesting character in the game. This isn’t some spooky monster from the black lagoon; it is oftentimes genuinely terrifying. Voiced by Mike Patton of Faith No More fame, the Darkness screeches hate and vitriol in your ears while you gun down your foes. It giggles at Jackie’s failures and his inability to resist It’s power.
At random times during cutscenes, your controller’s rumble functions will fire off intermittently twitching and squirming as if Jackie has something inside him that’s desperate to get out. It’s little things like this that really work to immerse the player into the game they’re playing.
Despite the Darkness’ general disdain for Jackie, it has no qualms about helping him during combat. Aside from your standard gunplay — which feels very natural and organic — the Darkness’ powers are represented by two, long eel-headed appendages protruding from Jackie’s back. Though you can still shoot-em-up with the best of them, these powers are going to do the majority of the heavy lifting.
You can grab various parts, car doors, crates or explosive canisters and hurl them at groups of enemies. Alternatively, stunned foes can be lifted up with one arm, and executed in a variety of ways by the other to gather extra heath and ammo.
You earn experience from fighting Jackie’s foes, and can use it to buy upgrades for your powers or brand new ones. One lets you see and shoot through walls for a short time, and another gives you the ability to summon swarm of locusts that temporarily stun foes.
It’s a system that encourages improvisation and utilization of one’s surroundings, rather than the brute force approach. The Darkness, as the name would suggest, only works in a place entirely devoid of light. Suddenly finding yourself unable to move forward because an errant desk-lamp hasn’t been smashed is the only thing that causes combat to lose some of its flow.
You can probably complete the game in an afternoon, somewhere in the realm of 5-7 hours. It doesn’t overstay its welcome or become so tedious you find yourself wishing you could stop playing.
The Darkness II is a solid shooter with fun combat mechanics, and a story which stands tall above others of its’ pedigree.