Review by SolidFantasy

"Today's menu: Hearts... lots and lots of bloody delicious tasty hearts"

WARNING - This game is impossible to review without spoilers for The Darkness 1

I remember playing The Darkness back in 2007 as the very first game I had ever played on my PS3. I should mention right off the bat that I liked it and thought that this one particular scene was one of the most emotional events I had ever seen in any medium let alone a game. Of course I'm talking about being forced to watch your girlfriend Jenny's brains being blown out right in front of you. It literally was probably the most shocking death since a certain character in Final Fantasy 7. That one scene lives on in my mind today. The actual gameplay of the game was fun but it was a near launch title so there were some faults. I remember when I beat The Darkness thinking it was fun but unsure if I wanted a sequel because everything felt wrapped up. First off The Darkness 2 was handed to a different studio called Evolution and I got worried. Then the games original October 4th 2011 release date was scrapped and I was almost positive this game would be a mess. In late January the demo was released and I was blown away. The Darkness franchise is already a brilliant reimaging of the Top Cow Comics that mixed the mafia lifestyle with a supernatural twist of Darkness powers that our hero never asked for. Evolution has redone the art style to a somewhat cel-shaded look, has a brilliant story, and has turned the FPS genre completely upside down. The Darkness 2 is up there with games like Batman: Arkham City that don't just take a license and make a garbage game that will sell, they've created a masterpiece that is intense and thrilling from start to finish.

Story: The Darkness 2 is a direct sequel and takes place roughly a couple of years after the original. Jackie Estocado actually has his Darkness powers under control and has not used them in quite some time. That is until someone puts a hit out on him and almost kills him. Nah, who am I kidding

THE HOST CAN NOT DIE!

Jackie is forced to once again embrace the Darkness and find out what's going on. In the midst of everything he keeps seeing ghosts of his dead girlfriend Jenny and in various brilliant sequences of the game will almost enter an alternate reality and be with her. Soon you learn that a cult faction known as The Brotherhood had the hit put on you in attempt to draw out The Darkness. A freaky man with a scarred face named Victor wants the Darkness for himself and has a device that can transfer it from host to host. That's really all I want to say because the story is incredible with twist endings, emotional scenes, and is a genuinely twisted love story too. The characters are all believable and fantastic too, even your Mafioso companions. There are sequences where you even get to wander around your mansion and talk to people. During loading screens Jackie will even give monologues about his childhood, the Darkness, and various other topics. The most outstanding aspect though is just generally how strong the narrative is and seeing these flashback scenes with Jenny. Also nothing is what it seems either, there is a story element throughout the whole game that I'm not spoiling but its primary goal is to screw your mind and it works. The last thing I want to mention is your Darkling sidekick of British descent. He's crass, crude, and foul-mouthed but one of the best characters in the game. Some of his lines are freaking hilarious and are perfectly placed in the game. From start to finish you will be on the edge of your seat. There are 2 endings but it's obvious which one is canon; the ending that blows your freaking mind. Overall I have absolutely no complaints here as The Darkness 2 provides an incredible story with themes of coping with lost loved ones and powers that are more of a curse if anything. It's one of the most emotional stories you can experience anywhere.

Gameplay: There are a sea of FPS games out there and let's face it, most of them just want to cash in on the success of Call of Duty. Now in my ideal fantasy land, this game becomes the gold standard of FPS games and is praised by everyone. Now, the game is getting good reviews but it isn't getting reviews as high as it should. If any game deserves 9's and 10's across the medias bull**** 7-10 scale it's this one. Evolution games has turned the genre upside down and crafted a masterpiece. Obviously you have your basic handguns, shotguns, and rifles that you can even dual wield but the game-changer is obviously the Darkness. I should probably mention first that the Darkness will only come out in the dark meaning if there are any street lights on, or enemies shining light on you it's probably best to handle that situation first. It may sound annoying reading this but the action in this game is so fast and frantic killing the lights becomes second nature and is nowhere near a hassle but part of what makes the game so unique. Moving on, when it's mostly dark the Darkness (2 demon-like tentacles that come out of Jackie's spine) comes out to play. You have some melee attacks by pressing R1 and you can even control the direction of the swipe with the right analog stick. Right off the bat I can start naming simple and awesome moves such as swiping someone up into the air and shooting them in mid-air. You can also just slice them in half too. By the way, this game is one of the most violent and graphic games in existence. Health is regenerated by feeding the Darkness hearts. You can stun people with melee attacks, grab them, and do one of 4 types of executions. Each execution type has multiple moves and each type awards you something different whether it's health, ammo, reduced cooldown times on other powers, or temporary Darkness armor taken straight from the Comics. The actual executions are absolutely brutal and range from slicing people in half down the middle, popping their head straight off, and more. So let's say you'd prefer some ranged combat; you can pick up poles or other javelin shaped weapons and throw them impaling people. You can use car doors as covers or to toss and slice people in half with. Need more ammo but don't want to leave cover? Snatch it with the Darkness. There's already extreme variety but I haven't even begun to discuss other abilities. Most of your techniques aside from basic executions, throwing objects, and melee must be purchased with Essence. You obtain Essence by being as violent and brutal as you can. Executions are worth 30 Essence a pop for example and there are 29 Relics hidden throughout the game with each Relic being worth 300 points. Anyway, there are tons of abilities to purchase and unlike most games the abilities here are actually awesome and useful. Swarm sends insects out to disorient enemies, Gun Channeling grants you infinite ammo temporarily, you can throw out vortexes that suck people in, and all of these abilities can be further upgraded. Don't forget about your Darkling sidekick either who will also disorient enemies for you or flat-out rip their throats out. It all just goes to show how complex the game is.

There is no shorthanded enemy variety either as The Brotherhood has their own forces with some unique abilities. Most of the bosses have teleportation abilities and the fights in general while not groundbreaking are still well done. Aside from your generic Jimmy 2 times and Tony's once again there is The Brotherhood, Most of them have armor with some of the tougher variants having very durable armor. Some enemies have a purple chained whip resembling Ghost Rider and can take away your guns while other enemies may shine a light on you or throw flashbang grenades at you. I have very few complaints about combat in the game. Sometimes there are areas where lights can't be destroyed or areas where it takes a minute to actually find out where the light is coming. In most of these cases it's a light you can't destroy and the very idea of having light sources you can't destroy goes against the nature of the gameplay. It's a very rare scenario though so it's nothing major. Also some shootouts feel like they suffer from Uncharted syndrome where you're constantly killing waves of enemies and after a while you just say to yourself "haven't I killed enough”. However, practically immediately every time you begin to feel that way the level design shakes things up whether it's an interesting scene, a boss battle, the level ending, or just one of the many ingenious gameplay designs. It's impossible to describe but there are some brilliant gameplay sequences in the game and some are just parts that you will not forget. The Carnival level has a sequence that is probably one of the most brilliant ideas for gameplay ever and it truly just mesmerized me. The entire game is perfectly paced full of action, emotion, and genus story-telling.

Vendettas: Every game these days seems to require some sort of online functionality and this game is no exception. It's also not a worthless steaming pile of dung this time around. Instead of opting for deathmatches and other competitive nonsense that just won't fit or come across as broken, The Darkness 2 implements a Co-op Campaign with other various missions. Also, the campaign and some other Hit List missions can be played alone but honestly it's very hard and doesn't feel optimized properly. Moving on there are 4 characters to play as and while they're all racial stereotypes even these characters come across as likeable. There is a Scottish guy who is just full of crass and rude dialogue, a black guy that knows Voodoo, A tough woman, and another guy with a sword. Anyway they all work for Jackie Estocado and each one has their own unique ability ripped straight from the main campaign. The co-op campaign follows a side story that occurs throughout the main game and also involves The Brotherhood. It's nowhere near as interesting as the campaign and is mostly just you and your friends killing waves of enemies but there are some pretty cool bosses too. The campaign lasts about 2 hours long but there are more optional missions too. I'd mostly say it was a fun experience and that I hope more games follow the co-op route if their games absolutely must have online.

Graphics/Sound: Anyone that played the original Darkness will notice that the game now has somewhat of a cel-shaded look to it because after all the Darkness is based on a popular Comic Book series. I personally loved it and thought it added to the presentation, visual flare, and for the most part was more proof that The Darkness 2 is an incredibly unique FPS game. The voice acting is absolutely amazing with Mike Patton returning to voice the Darkness. All of the voice acting is exceptional and a huge reason why the narrative is as strong as it is. Speaking of the music which is also good, I did not expect the game to have quite the licensed soundtrack it does. Songs like Wild Thing, Black Betty, and more play at various points of the game where it is appropriate. The overall presentation is just fantastic and it's clear the developers put a lot of care into it. I'm also going to plug Mike Patton again and say he deserves awards as his demonic and unsettling Darkness voice is phenomenal again.

Replayability: The Darkness 2 is around 6 hours long with an additional 4 hours of co-op (or solo) side content. The New Game + mode definitely should not be ignored though as you won't get every ability during your first playthrough and you will want to try them out. There are 4 difficulties too and the hardest mode is required for a trophy. I'd say you'll get anywhere from 10-16 hours out of the game.

Pros

Amazing story
Extremely refreshing and innovative FPS gameplay
Great characters
Very emotional
Awesome powers
Beautiful art-style
Bloody and ridiculously graphic
Some brilliant gameplay sequences
Mindblowing ending
Great soundtrack
Co-op missions are fun
New Game +
Outstanding voice acting
Mike Patton voices the Darkness
Nice enemy variety
Once again – Mike Patton

Cons

Some light sources can't be destroyed
A few shootouts last too long
Difficulty in Co-op missions aren't properly optimized for those playing solo for whatever reason

Verdict: Just like the original in 2007, it's a game with an extremely emotional and gripping story. This time around the gameplay is outstanding and incredibly refreshing for a genre that is getting oversaturated with subpar games. The new art direction, soundtrack, and everything else is just icing on the cake. The Darkness 2 is a very early Game of the Year candidate - 9.0/10


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 02/10/12, Updated 02/17/12

Game Release: The Darkness II (Limited Edition) (US, 02/07/12)


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