The Darkness 2 – A Flawed Genius

I picked up the original Darkness game a good few years ago for about three quid second hand and loved absolutely every minute. Because of this I have been eagerly awaiting the second instalment to be released and, following endless delays, I now have it and I can confirm it’s absolutely everything that I could have hoped for.

Based on the comic books of the same name; you play Jackie Estacado, a mob don with a terrible secret. Jackie is possessed by ‘the darkness’, an evil spirit which manifests itself as two huge serpent demon arms which you use to eat the hearts of your enemies before tearing them to pieces. As you can tell, this is one to save for when granny’s gone home and the kids are in bed.

Unlike the first instalment, where the environments were dark and sinister, this is actually bright and colourful from the outset. I mean obviously it’s dark as its all set at night, but nowhere near as gloomy as its predecessor. The graphics style has been changed so that they now have the same cartoony feel that you’ll find in Borderlands which, despite my initial apprehension, don’t detract from the experience in any way. Gameplay is nice and smooth with sharp and responsive controls; no easy achievement considering you can be controlling two demon arms and two guns at the same time.

Following years of repressing the evil within, Jackie is attacked in a restaurant (mercifully ending a walk through cut scene which seems to go on for ever) by a secret society called ‘The Brotherhood’ and has to turn to the darkness to keep himself alive. So begins a rampage of ripping would be attackers to bits, dream scenes of his murdered girlfriend Jenny and dreadful dialogue (my favourite being, having just unleashed the darkness, Jackie’s friend sees him for the first time and says ‘Jackie you’re alive! and I see you’ve got your thing back’). It’s also nice to see the return of the Darkling (just the one this time); a small goblin-like creature with an awful English accent that helps you by attacking, killing and urinating on the enemies you come up against. They, like you, don’t do well in the light so your rampage is often only stopped to knock out a few street lights.

New additions this time are a refresh of the controls; the darkness is much more of a close quarters weapon now (whereas previously you could send one of the demon arms off to crawl along the ground and sneak up behind enemies, all the action is now very much in your face). What’s also a welcome change is that you can wield your gun and use the darkness at the same time, a trick that wasn’t there before. This becomes a bit more useful as you get into the game a little bit further as your attackers from the Brotherhood are better equipped in terms of weapons and armour; it’s good to hold them down while you’re shooting them. You can also use your darkness arm to throw your Darkling friend at your enemies for an air attack – trust me, this does not ever get boring. Ever.

I do however have a confession. There is an awful lot that I really don’t like about this game. The worst of all are the flash grenades – As the darkness hates light, you are damaged and lose the ability to heal by being in bright light and, as you start to get a bit further into the game, these are thrown at you CONSTANTLY. This means lots of walking round blindly, trying to hide behind a burnt out car while you get your vision back, and just as you do, another one goes off. Then you get shot. It’s a massive frustration which just crosses the line from being a difficult challenge to just being annoying.

Secondly, there is a sudden spike in the difficulty level when you come up against a boss. I mean I know that you expect a boss level to be difficult; that’s what makes them a boss. But again this is pretty much on the line of being challenging and controller smashingly difficult. Without wanting to give too much away, a good example of this is the very first boss level; you’re in a construction site, trying to throw compressed air canisters at the gangster you’re chasing while he swings a wrecking ball at you. And there are dozens of other enemies who run at you and beat you with sticks. And you’re under bright spot lights meaning the darkness doesn’t work so you have to find little darkened corners to hide in so you don’t just drop dead immediately. And when you do hide you get hit with the wrecking ball. I haven’t got so annoyed with a particular level since playing Probotector on my Game Boy as a child.

I also really don’t like the dialogue scenes. As I said earlier, the game starts with a scene where you have to slowly walk through a restaurant for what seems like four or five minutes, and this sets the tone for the rest of the game. Every time you’re back in the mansion between missions you’re trapped for ten minutes or so before you can go and get on with the game. I have an attention span of a two year old, so after five minutes of listening to various people tell me about various other people, I’ve got my head in my hands sobbing. For a game based on a comic book series you would really think they would have had the capability to make it interesting, but instead I find myself losing track of the plot as I just can’t bear to keep listening to the characters talk.

For all its faults (and they really are faults), Darkness 2 is still an enjoyable game. It’s one of those games that when it’s going well, you’ve got a smile on your face. And you really do because it’s fun battling through a FPS which is different to almost anything else that’s out there right now. From what I’ve played so far I’ve enjoyed it more than the first game which was one of my favourites on the 360; I just wish there was more to keep me interested between the action.

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About Drew Pontikis
Drew Pontikis is an avid gamer and writer. A fan of racing sims and first person shooters, Drew is notable for talking almost exclusively using Futurama quotes.He's usually found in front of his Xbox or his laptop, follow him on Twitter as @drew060609 Gamertag: drewski060609