June 14, 2011 by Paul Curtin
Another great game from 2K Games that was released early on in the life cycle of the Xbox 360 and flew under a lot of gamers’ radars was The Darkness, a unique first-person shooter based on a popular comic book series. Like the original, in The Darkness II you’ll assume the role of Jackie Estacado, an Italian-American hitman for the mafia who on his 21st birthday discovered that he had been possessed by “the Darkness”, a malevolent spirit that has inhabited his family for multiple generations and gives Jackie supernatural powers. It’s been four years since the release of the original, and a lot has also changed in Jackie’s life with him now being the Don of his mafia and fighting against a group called The Brotherhood, who are trying to steal the Darkness from Jackie.
Although the game is not being developed by the same studio as the original, it looks even better than the original with Digital Extremes now behind the project, who have worked on games like BioShock, which The Darkness II shares a very similar art style with. We got an exclusive look at The Darkness II behind closed doors at this year’s E3, and the game looks absolutely beautiful. Tom Galt, Lead Designer at Digital Extremes, showed us the game and described the art style as “graphic noire”. We’ve been hearing the term “noire” used a lot lately to describe unique art styles, but this is no gimmick because the colors really do pop out at you like eye candy in a graphic novel and the game has a cel-shaded look similar to 2K Games’ Borderlands.
The role of color and light play a huge role in The Darkness‘ gameplay with Jackie losing the ability to use his powers when in the light, so you’ll be forced again to avoid well-lit areas and take out lights that enemies might be using against you. We got to see the game in a carnival level that really showed off the contrast between dark unlit areas and bright glowing neon lights. Besides the beautiful update in graphics, there are tons of new features that you might miss when being distracted by the game’s vivid visuals.
One of the biggest improvements showed off in our preview was the newly revamped combat mechanics. Just like in the first game, you’ll control Jackie in first-person mode with the ability to dual-wield weapons and use your tentacles at the same time, but the quad-wielding has been upgraded to give players more control over the tentacles and offer more options in terms of what they can do in battle. In our demo, we were shown how you can use one of your tentacles to grab objects like boxes and doors off cars, and then use those objects to hold in front of you while moving and use as an impromptu cover system.
Like the original, your character can also use his tentacles to eat the hearts of those you kill and gain experience that goes towards Jackie becoming stronger. But now there are four different branches of upgrades, each giving you the option to upgrade an individual area like guns or powers, and each featuring tons of abilities to unlock. In our demo, Tom showed off new abilities like the Spinal Tap where Jackie used his tentacles to rip a man’s spine out through his mouth, the Wish Bone where the tentacles turned a guy upside down and ripped him in half by the legs, and the return of the Black Hole which as you would imagine, creates a black hole that sucks up everything in the area and into dimensional oblivion.
The final feature we were shown is what’s being called “gun channeling” and allows you to channel the Darkness through weapons. In our preview, Tom channeled the Darkness into his assault rifle which gave it a glowing purple look, but more importantly, gave Jackie the ability to both see and shoot enemies through walls. To really humiliate the enemies and add some comic relief, after Jackie had killed an enemy, his little Darkling minion pet ran up and began to pee on the body of the fallen foe. Throughout the gameplay the Darkling did stupid little things like that, all while the eerie voice of the Darkness inside Jackie’s head made more serious comments and psychotic taunts at him, it was a good back and forth pace that fit the craziness of the game.
With improvements to just about everything from the first game, The Darkness II is looking to be a quad-wielding heavy-hitter when it’s released later this year on October 4th. If you still haven’t picked up the first game, I’d strongly suggest doing so over the next four months, because a lot of the story is going to be relating to events that happened in the original, plus it’s a great game that you can probably pick up for five dollars now.