by Keaton Arksey
previewed on PC
Say hello to my little eel friends.
The Darkness ended just as things were getting interesting. On his 21st birthday, mafia hitman Jackie Estacado was targeted by mafia boss “Uncle” Paulie, but was saved by the Darkness, a malevolent force that inhabited his family for generations. The Darkness’ power grew over the course of the game, but its true strength wasn’t seen until the very end. After being pushed around for most of the game, Jackie Estacado finally had enough. Taking control away from the player, things went to hell as Jackie, with the full power of the Darkness at his disposal, destroyed anything and everything in his way. Now with a sequel on the way, gamers can finally play with the full power of the Darkness for the first time.
Based on the comic book series of the same name, The Darkness II will not be developed by Starbreeze Studios, the team behind the first game. Instead, Digital Extremes, who worked on Bioshock 2 and Dark Sector, will take on development duties. Taking place two years after the first game, Jackie has become Don of the Franchetti family but is unable to move on from the death of his girlfriend Jenny Ramano, whose death the Darkness forced Jackie to watch. Things do not get any easier when a mysterious group known as The Brotherhood, led by a dangerous man named Victor Valenti, attacks Jackie. The Brotherhood knows about the Darkness, and Victor wants it for less than reputable purposes. Jackie is seriously injured in an early attack, forcing him to unleash the Darkness to figure out just what is going on.
Double the Tentacles, Double the Fun
In the first game, the Darkness was relegated to several different abilities. The Darkness could manifest as eel-like tendrils that could be used to attack enemies or throw objects, summon impish Darklings that attacked enemies, send out tendrils to scout ahead locations and take out enemies, and even create a black hole that sucked up anything near it. These Darkness powers were always separate from the gun combat, meaning Jackie would have to switch from guns to the Darkness mid-combat to make use of his powers. Two years older and wiser, Jackie no longer has to worry about such trivial issues. Thanks to what the developers are calling ‘quad-wielding,’ Jackie can use guns and the Darkness at the same time, creating possibly the most badass way to create havoc possible. While gunplay will use the standard shoulder buttons (depending on whether you’re using two pistols or a two-handed weapon like a shotgun), the Darkness will be controlled using the right and left bumpers. The Darklings also play a more important role in the sequel. Instead of having a variety of Darklings to choose from there will just be one who plays a role in the story. Unsurprisingly, the Darkling will act as a sort of comic-relief in that it can urinate acid on enemies. The Darkness II also looks noticeably more violent than the first game, with Jackie using the Darkness to rip enemies in two and perform other finishing moves, such as the “Anaconda,” which is perhaps best left to the imagination. The environment will also be a factor, as Jackie can throw nearby signs or parking meters to impale enemies. The Darkness isn’t all offense though, as Jackie can also use the Darkness to rip off car doors or other pieces of the environment to create a makeshift shield.
Jackie’s going to need all the shields too, since his enemies won’t be simple mob henchman like the first game. The Brotherhood is not just going to lay down and die like your typical Mafioso, and is more than willing to do whatever it takes to get Victor the Darkness. There are different types of Brotherhood, from ‘Rookies’ who wear a special dark-relic infused helmet that protects them from headshots and make effective use of cover, to ‘Melee’ enemies who act like tanks, taking lots of damage while they charge you head on. Perhaps the most dangerous enemy however, and the one who fits into the theme of light vs. dark the most, are the ‘Support’ units. They only use a giant floodlight that does no damage to you, but makes the Darkness go into hiding. Needless to say, when you have several Melee brutes charging at you that’s the last thing you want to happen.
Darker than Ever
The graphics for The Darkness II have also been changed. Moving away from the more realistic take the first game had, The Darkness II uses a cell-shaded approach not unlike another 2K game, Borderlands, that helps it look more like the comic book it’s based on. Things aren’t all different, as Mike Patton, vocalist for Faith No More, will be returning to voice the Darkness. While there was a multiplayer mode in the original game, no announcement of a return has been made. Given the laggy nature of the original game’s multiplayer, the time might be better spent creating a polished single player experience.
The original Darkness, while flawed in some ways, was still a great single-player experience and had some of the most memorable moments from this generation of games. The Darkness II will build on that by finally letting us have full control of the Darkness, and the thought of dual-wielding pistols while using the Darkness to impale people sounds too good to be true.