The Darkness II isn’t your typical love story, Jackie Estacado who has lost the love of his life, Jenny Ramano is on a revenge mission to find out who put a hit on him. The thing about Jackie though is that he’s consumed by an evil force, one so strong that it’s determined to rip the head off anything that gets in its way, all while feeding off these kills to make its power even stronger. Jackie just wants his Jenny back, but the Darkness needs him, what is a boy to do?
Jackie Estacado has been living with the Darkness since he was 21, he’s used it get to the top of his game, he’s the big cheese, although being in charge does come with its own drawbacks. This is where the game begins, with Jackie surrounded by flames in a burning restaurant, being dragged to safety by his right hand man. Luckily for Jackie he does escape, but not without cost as at last the Darkness is unleashed and not only are those standing in his way are going to pay, but so is the person who betrayed him.
Presented in a comic book style, the Darkness II is certainly a powerful game. You almost feel Jackie’s pain as he struggles to control the Darkness within, but at the same time, you get a sense that he is enjoying using it’s power to exact revenge on those who crossed him. This is obvious during the opening scenes of the game as you rip through enemies, throwing obstacles such as bins and car doors at them with your left tentacle before ripping them to pieces with your right. Jackie’s also got the benefit of his own limbs, allowing him to pack heat and take out enemies with either one or two guns. There is something quite disturbing about dual wielding firearms to take down an enemy and then eating their heart with your tentacles to regain strength.
The Darkness is a powerful weapon, giving Jackie the ability to know when his enemies are vulnerable to attack. If an enemy’s heart and blood vessels are glowing you can make your move; grab them and hit them with a melee attack, or you can even throw them to stun their allies. More impressively you can execute anyone you grab and although you will only have one type of execution at the beginning of the game, as you grow in power others will become unlocked, giving you access to Power, Hitman and Demonic executions.
Growing in power is simple. Every time you kill someone you gain essence and the more inventive you are with your tentacles, the better. Spending essence is easy thanks to the Talent system which is split into a tree with four sections, each of which has specific gameplay elements in mind such as new attacks or increased firepower. Whichever ability you choose to spend your essence on, most offer yet another inventive way to take down your enemies in style. It’s unlikely that you will complete the tree on one playthrough, however you do have the choice of importing your tree to a new game, once you have completed at least one run through, making taking on those higher difficulty levels a whole lot easier.
As you would expect, the Darkness does have some weaknesses. Jackie’s power depends on the dark, therefore going into the light will cause a temporary loss of power. To combat this, Jackie must shoot out the lights or avoid them. This can be particularly difficult when its enemies who are wearing the lights, or when the lights are being powered by generators, forcing you to search them down and take them out before you can continue on your rampaging path.
Its definitely worth mentioning that you are not on your own throughout this journey, thanks to the presence of the Darkling. This cockney-based demon can come in quite useful as not only does he attack and kill the enemy, but you can also throw him. Helping the Darkling out gains you experience; he also brings a welcome sense of humour in what is an otherwise violent and blood-soaked game. To add a little twist you also get to control the Darkling at certain points in the game and although these sections are quite simple, it at least adds a little diversity that may otherwise have been missing.
As mentioned earlier, The Darkness II is presented in a comic book style, offering a more Borderlands than Mafia look. It’s certainly a good decision, as this works well for the most part and seems to suit the gameplay on offer. There are a few moment when things look out of place, however in general it’s a fantastic looking game which is hard to fault.
Complimenting the graphics is the fantastic voice work. Be it the tones of Jackie as he struggles to control his demons, or the sounds of the Darkness doing its best to break out. The work done here is to be admired.
Once you are done with the Single Player campaign, it’s time to move on to Vendettas an added extra which is separated from the main campaign. Vendettas are broken down into the stand alone Hit List missions and an online co-op mode for up to four players. Here you can play as one of four characters, Inugami, Shoshanna, JP Dumond or Jimmy Wilson, each of whom have their own weapons and abilities. You can play the Hit Lists offline or online, although some are only available when connected.
The Hit List missions obviously explain themselves, seeing you hunt down certain characters and allowing you to invite friends to do so. The Vendettas campaign on the other hand is a full on mission, seeing you head out to take the bad guys, with each of you possessing the darkness to help you along the way. Unfortunately, we were pretty much playing through on our own since the servers where unpopulated at the time of writing, but it seems to us that this could be a fairly popular mode amongst gamers.
The Darkness II always looked like a promising title and it’s fair to say that it’s lived up to that promise. We are quite pleased to be able to call this the first must have AAA game of 2012. Its strong campaign, fast paced action and wonderful storytelling sees to that.
Rating: ExcellentReview Policy(version tested: PS3)
You can order your copy of The Darkness II on PS3 or Xbox 360 from ShopTo.