Dark versus light is a common theme in many stories, especially stories that lie within the fantasy or supernatural genre; Super heroes are constantly thrust into the fight of good versus evil and, let’s face it, it is so easy to root for the good guy, but what happens when the super-human protagonist is not so good? In The Darkness II, players take control of Jackie Estacado who, for those who didn’t play the first game, has recently become the Don, the Big Cheese, the Head Honcho, what-have-you, of the Franchetti crime family. Obviously, Jackie is not the typical super hero and this is not a typical super hero game.
Jackie’s supernatural abilities spring from the entity he wields, simply known as “the Darkness.” Now, the term “wields” is used loosely as the Darkness cannot really be controlled, as it has a mind of its own and is more unleashed than it is brought forth for Jackie to use as he will. Without giving much of the story away, Jackie is reluctant to use his dark powers, but he finds himself in a predicament where he must unleash the beast, as it were, to keep himself alive and kill those trying to kill him. Honestly, the story is fairly mediocre, even more so for someone who did not play the first game and there really isn’t much to it as the game’s main campaign is so short it can be finished in less than 5 hours, but that does not stop the Darkness II from being a fun, albeit short, ride. The best part of the game is in the title, as playing around with “the Darkness” abilities is extremely entertaining.
This game can be classified as a first-person shooter and there are plenty of guns to use, but where it really shines is the different abilities Jackie gains from the ever-present Darkness. The most notable weapons in the Darkness arsenal are the two evil snake-eel things (that oddly, and sadly, remind me of the two giant eels from The Little Mermaid) that follow Jackie around, perched over his shoulders, wherever he goes; these guys are used for everything! Throw metal pipes like javelins to impale bad guys? Check. Swipe and slash at same bad guys to knock them up, down, and all around? Check. Hold grocery bags when Jackie needs to go food shopping? More than likely. Seriously, these two little guys can be used in a multitude of ways be it throwing stuff, hitting stuff, opening stuff, or just ripping a guy in half.
Other abilities include summoning swarms of insects to attack a room full of baddies, providing perks to your weapons when in the dark, be it your guns or just things you are throwing at your enemies, and even bringing forth black holes that will suck in the bad guys just to spit them out and itty, bitty pieces for good measure. Then, there is the darkling, part of Jackie’s sub-consciousness created by the Darkness in the form of a nasty, little demon-monkey with an English accent. The Darkling helps Jackie along his quest and can be used in a multitude of ways throughout the campaign all while providing funny commentary and hilarious animations the whole way.
The one thing that hinders all these fantastic abilities is light, so keeping to the dark is always a sound strategy. Overall, the gameplay is fantastic with the least impressive part probably being the “shooter” part of this FPS; the gun selection is unimpressive though that is not to say it is completely disappointing. There is nothing wrong with the gun-play, just that, compared to the rest of the weapons at your disposal, they are kind of boring.
After the main story is finished there are a couple options for those looking to get the most out of this game, but they are limited. The Story mode does have some replayability value, as there are a couple side objectives, a new game plus mode, and there are actually one or two different “choice” scenes that affect the story (they are so limited though and seemingly pointless that it is not really worth caring about unless you really enjoy the story), but as the campaign is so short, there isn’t much to it. The other option is delve into the Vendettas mode where players get to choose between 4 distinct characters and tackle a concurrent story that can be played solo or with up to 3 friends. All 4 characters are unique in terms of abilities and appearance and can upgrade their abilities throughout the Vendettas campaign. This is a fun mode that provides more Darkness-power joy, but suffers from the same affliction as the main story in that it is very short and sparse on good story-telling. Playing with a team of buddies makes life easier and more enjoyable, but this mode is still entertaining if you are on your own.
Playing the game on the OnLive system, I found it visually and auditorily pleasing. The game is gory, so for those who relish in seeing limbs torn off, heads popped off, and blood spraying everywhere, this will be an enjoyable experience. The art direction has a very graphic novel feel to it which is hit and miss for some people, but it is subtle. The voice acting is good though it is really brought down by the animations at times. This drags the dialogue scenes down most of the time, but if you close your eyes and listen to these scenes it has definite moments where it sounds like top quality work. The controls are nice and really shine when performing a multiple action killing spree like shooting at one guy, unleashing a swarm of insects on the lot of them, and grabbing a guy who fell down to tear him to pieces using the Darkness finishing moves.
Shutting off the lights on this review, The Darkness II is simply short and sweet. By no means is this a title worth spending full retail, new release prices upon, but it is a fun game, easily worth a rental that is deserving of some praise through its use of good gameplay mechanics and entertaining characters.
***NOTE: This review was first published during the OnLive 1.0 era.