The original Darkness game seemingly came out of nowhere and impressed a lot of people, myself included. It was a new take on the FPS genre that told a dark story without sacrificing gore in favor of competent gameplay. Some five years later, we have a brand new developer at the helm and a new art style; needless to say, I was nervous the game wouldn’t live up to my expectations. Thankfully, I was wrong. The Darkness II is a fantastic sequel that stays true to the franchise and ups the enjoyment factor tenfold. If you loved the original game, you owe it to yourself to once again dive into the Darkness.
In the sequel, you’ll don the shoes of mob boss Jackie Estacado for another outing. Jackie has managed to silence the Darkness for years and continue on with his life after being forced to watch the murder of his one true love, Jenny. The plot involves a new threat that wants to steal the Darkness from Jackie, and it will do anything to make that happen. One of the best things about the original game was the personality of its storytelling. You actually felt for the characters thanks to wonderfully designed sequences like sitting on the couch, watching TV with Jenny.
The second game continues this trend. You interact with people like Aunt Sarah, and there are several instances of Jackie and Jenny that are truly heartfelt. The intermission sequences, where Jackie is narrating, return, and there is a neat little twist introduced early on that has you guessing until the end. All of it is executed really well and keeps you interested in the story. The voice acting is, once again, top-notch even without the original voice actor handling Jackie. I really cannot express how much I really enjoyed the narrative The Darkness II delivered.
Even more than the story, though, the combat has received a massive upgrade since the original. Every encounter in the game is fun and extremely gory. Much like the first game, you have your standard shooting mechanics, but you also have two other arms that belong to the Darkness. You have a Swiss army knife of combat techniques at your disposal that make each encounter both satisfying, and visceral. You can wield one weapon for traditional combat, or dual wield certain guns for more spray and pray methods. In addition, each bumper button controls each Darkness hand respectively. You can grab items with the left arm (including people) and swipe enemies with the right. You can also control direction (vertical or horizontal) with the right analog stick.
While it may sound complicated, it actually makes perfect sense once you start playing. Once you master it, though, the game becomes a playground of brutality that never gets old. The environments are littered with items that you can toss at enemies, killing them in unique ways. You can also stun enemies or grab them from behind and perform execution kills. These are absolutely brutal, displaying the ripping out of spines from unnamed areas and splitting enemies directly down the middle. The game never shies away from being gruesome.
The best part is the game rewards your innovation by awarding more experience for distinctive kills. This experience is used to unlock a ton of upgrades for everything you can imagine. It opens up new executions that award ammo, health and shields as well as more ammo carrying capacity down to the black hole projectile that, if you played the first game, you already know that you just must have. There is so much to unlock that it will easily take two, possibly three, playthroughs of the game before you can snag it all. New Game + allows you to continue your game with all the upgrades, so playing it again can definitely be beneficial. Making it something that makes sense to play through more than once was a wise decision considering the short campaign. There are two endings available, and trust me, one is much more satisfying than the other.
In addition to the single player, the developers have opted to remove the tacked-on competitive mode found in the first game in favor of a much more fitting co-op mode. This online mode can be played with up to three of your friends, or alone, and has you taking on the role of four unique characters that work for Jackie. These missions have you hunting down characters that Jackie’s normal thugs simply can’t handle. I love the progression system and cooperative atmosphere, and leveling up each one could definitely take a chunk of time. Sure, this mode isn’t going to create months of replay value, but it feels more like an extension of the core campaign and adds plenty. Throw in the online portion with friends, and it definitely adds more than the previous game’s throw-away deathmatch modes.
Visually, the game has taken a completely new turn for the series. While Starbreeze went with a darker, more realistic look, Digital Extremes has gone with a more colorful, cel-shaded motif. I actually really like the new look, as it feels more like the comic book as opposed to trying to be more realistic. There are some frame hits from time to time and some annoying graphical glitches, but the unique environments and character designs make up for it. As I mentioned, I am really happy with the voice acting, and the music is equally impressive. Overall The Darkness II’s presentation is definitely of a higher caliber.
As a sequel, I really enjoyed The Darkness II. The combat is intoxicating, and the level of gore is definitely satisfying. I also really got into the characters and the story as I went along. The co-op fleshes out the short campaign, and the sheer brutality of the game just sells it for me on so many levels. This is a visceral game that hosts a strong narrative and solid gameplay to back it up. Fans of the original should definitely check it out, and those new to the series will undoubtedly find plenty to love with Digital Extremes’ latest. The Darkness II is a perfect example of how to continue a franchise on the right track.
Review copy of the game provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox 360.