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Review

The Darkness II Review

  • Game release: February 6, 2012
  • Reviewed: February 7, 2012
  • X360

The Darkness II is not the revelation its predecessor was, but ripping up occultists with your demon arms is a blast anyway.

by

The Darkness II is a shooter.

OK, so that seems a pretty odd statement to make: Of course The Darkness II is a shooter! But in this sequel's case, it's an important point to consider. The Darkness (the original game) had the feel of an adventure. Sure, you shot guns, but the action, the story, and the peripheral details merged to make a single, creative whole that didn't really resemble other first-person shooters. The Darkness II is a lot of fun, but it doesn't have that spark of uniqueness. Levels are remarkably linear, and the game is remarkably short. Skilled marksmen should finish the campaign in less than five hours.

So The Darkness II isn't special, but it has one particular element that keeps it exciting: the two creepy demonic arms that sprout from your body, each with its own gnashing mouth, and each with an insatiable appetite for human hearts. The right arm is for smashing; you can whip it around with abandon, using the right stick to slash vertically or horizontally, bashing enemies, street lamps, and electrical wires. The left arm is for grabbing; you can grab car doors to use as shields and fling them at mobsters like murderous Frisbees. You can throw metal poles at your foes and impale them as if preparing a human-sized shish kebob. You can also reel in a staggered enemy, grab each leg, and tear him in half like a wishbone. A wishbone that screams.

If that sounds gross, well, it is, in a wonderful way. Take the anaconda move. With this particular left-arm maneuver, you roll your foe up like a pig in a blanket and thrust the demonic head through his chest. The demon then growls in satisfaction before unrolling and allowing the limp body to drop to the ground. As you move toward The Darkness II's conclusion, you see this move and other similarly disgusting ones rather often, and they remain shocking for a little while. The sound effects are fantastically squishy; you can practically hear the cartilage tear and the vital organs rupture. To replenish health, you hold a button and your arms feed on nearby human hearts, snatching them up with a thwack and noisily chomping on them.

The human body contains an extraordinary amount of blood.

The game's upgrade system might have you unlocking new animations, but even then, the gross-out factor can wear thin. This is in part because you can string together the same basic moves in succession, over and over, without feeling challenged. You're invulnerable during these kills, which is just as well because it would be pretty frustrating to get shot to death while waiting for your demon arms to finish some horrific dismemberment. In time, The Darkness II tries to amp up the challenge, throwing enemies at you with tough shields and introducing combatants that shine spotlights on you. All that light causes your demon arms to regress while filling your screen with so much blinding whiteness that you can barely see what's going on. But generally speaking, you can charge forward, shooting, flinging, and grabbing without worrying often about dying. As long as you shoot out any errant light sources, you won't feel much pressure on anything but the hardest difficulty.

The Darkness II does its best to provide variety. Depending on how you upgrade as you progress, you might unleash a swarm of insects at your enemies, which makes them vulnerable to a nauseating fatality. Or you might summon a mini black hole, which sucks nearby enemies into its swirling vortex. There's also your darkling, a miniature gremlin that calls you "monkey" and skitters around, leaping on bad guys and urinating on helpless corpses. Well, with the right upgrade, you can pick up your darkling and throw it on anyone that gives you trouble. Combining these moves with standard pistols and rifles can be absolutely riotous, with arms flying everywhere and enemies screaming in agony as you tear them in half.

You'd cry too if you were faced with such a vicious demise.

Nevertheless, the demon arm mechanic is expected to bear most of the burden, and central aspects of the game's action are mundane. The shooting is better than that of the first game, but then again, the original was paced and built very differently. The Darkness II typically funnels you down paths like any random shooter. Levels occasionally open up a bit, but this sequel is as linear as games come, sending out unintelligent enemies in predictable patterns so that you might exploit the forgiving snap-to aiming to mow them down. (You can thankfully turn this off.) Heck, even the levels themselves are right out of the book of shooter and horror game cliches: a subway, a warehouse, a creepy carnival, and the like. If The Darkness was an ambient action adventure, then The Darkness II is an arcade shooter. If you have any doubt about that, consider this: When you kill enemies, a pop-up appears, announcing the name of the move, along with the amount of dark essence (that is, experience) you earned. It is done sort of like Bulletstorm's skill shot system.

You should turn off those notifications at the first opportunity if you want to get the most out of The Darkness II. (Be sure to also turn off the annoying tutorial reminders that frequently appear, reminding you how to play the game even when you've almost finished it.) That's because there's an effective story here worth paying attention to, but the pop-ups only serve to take you out of the experience and remind you that you're just playing a game. Once again, you play as Jackie Estacado, who is now the leader of the Franchetti crime family. The story gets off to an explosive start, with an intense on-rails restaurant shoot-out that ultimately leads to the eye-opening emergence of The Darkness; that is, the hellish presence that grants Jackie his incredible powers.

The differences between The Darkness II and its predecessor extend to the visual design. Whereas the first game's visuals were grim and ominous, the sequel is heavily cel-shaded. There's a vibrant grittiness to the art design. For instance, in an early subway level, cracks crisscross the tiled walls and graffiti is scrawled on the subway cars. These grimy touches contrast with the purple glow of your demonic arms, the vivid orange pants of your enemies, and the crimson puddles of blood these goons gush as you have your way with them. The intense visuals are a nice complement to a game that traffics in intense and sudden shocks, not in pervasive dread.

The story matches the tone of the visuals and the gameplay, putting Jackie in some horrific situations that might have you squirming in your seat. Yet, as squeamish as some of these moments are, they don't feel like cheap ploys meant to make your stomach churn. The story earns the right to shock you because The Darkness II takes time to breathe and develop its characters. A scene in a gloomy cemetery allows you the chance to grieve, which makes the surprising sight that kicks off the ensuing shoot-out all the more harrowing. Between missions, you chat with family members, both the mafia kind of family, as well as the kind related to you. As in the first game, Jackie delivers thoughtful monologues while levels load. Even your little darkling gets to take center stage in an oddly emotional moment near the end of the game. The game's excellent ensemble cast sells each and every line and situation. You believe Jackie's desperation as he navigates the sterile white hallways of a mental institution. You believe in Johnny's hypercaffeinated, unhinged levels of anxiety. When The Darkness whines, groans, and pleads to Jackie, it's like hearing the voice of chaos itself, just barely constrained by its human host.

And then there's Jenny, the girlfriend Jackie watched get murdered in the first game. Yet here she is, her ghostly image constantly urging him forward. On the occasions Jackie catches up to her, they share brief but tender moments that effectively illustrate his dedication. But is she real? And if not, how is it that Jackie sees her and interacts with her? Some of The Darkness II's best moments come when it plays with your expectations and has you wondering: What is real and what is imagined? And ultimately, does it really matter? The story gathers up all the assumptions you made from the beginning and turns them inside out.

Johnny's ceaseless anxiety makes you wish you had a Xanax to feed him.

The biggest shock you might get from The Darkness II is its incredibly short length. Fortunately, the experience doesn't have to be over once you've finished the story. You can always go back and play a new-game-plus, carrying over all the upgrades you purchased and further progressing through the surprisingly extensive skill tree. But the remaining value comes mainly from Vendetta mode, where you can tackle missions alone or with up to three others online. (However, the Vendetta campaign doesn't greatly lengthen the experience: you can finish it in about 90 minutes.) Here, you control one of four different characters with different traits and skill trees of their own. You don't eat hearts to regain health in this mode: you destroy them.

The Vendetta campaign's story runs in parallel with the single-player mystery, but the focus isn't on narrative: it's on gunplay. You don't get a pair of demonic tentacles lolling to your sides, but you might have a powerful supernatural weapon that you charge up and then fire at your foes. Or you might have a sword for slicing, dicing, and plunging into the chests of the fallen dead. Or you might even have an arcane staff that raises mobsters into the air and twists them in half--another horrific bit of brutality that might shock you the first few times, even if you just spent hours tearing men apart with demon arms.

When you host The Darkness, it's best to avoid the light.

In spite of these twists (as it were), the Vendetta missions aren't as satisfying as Jackie's adventure into the unknown. Whereas the single-player campaign plays with pace and player expectations, Vendetta mode is about shooting stuff with friends. This isn't a bad concept for a cooperative mode, of course, but you need to crank up the difficulty level to the highest setting if you wish to be remotely challenged by The Darkness II's blockheaded AI, even in the few boss fights. At least the final boss fight pits you against a ghastly foe--an over-the-top monstrosity in a game with an over-the-top attitude. It's an improvement over the mundane rivals that teleport around in the story campaign's boss encounters.

Faults notwithstanding, The Darkness II's menacing story and macabre action are accentuated by memorable moments worth experiencing. Unlike the original game, the sequel doesn't brood: it shrieks and snarls, the shrill voice of The Darkness echoing in your head as you flail your demonic appendages about as a man literally possessed. When you break the game down, however, you notice that The Darkness II isn't a lot different from other shooters. Levels are linear and predictable, focused on ushering you from one straightforward encounter to another so that you can go crazy with those deranged arms of yours. If you are a fan of the original game, bear this in mind: The Darkness II is a fun, very short FPS without the authentic atmosphere and subtle touches that made its predecessor so intriguing. Still, if you've got a lust for virtual blood, The Darkness II leaks enough of it to satiate you.

The Good
Demonic arms + solid gunplay = fun times
Unusual, creepy story that's more than just cheap shocks
Skill tree gives the action some diversity
Excellent voice acting and sound effects
The Bad
Incredibly short campaign
Linear levels and second-rate AI make for predictable encounters
Run-of-the-mill co-op missions lack challenge
7
Good
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Discussion

45 comments
ChiefFreeman
ChiefFreeman

I hust bought this game from XBOX Live, on sale for $7.49. It's pretty amazing , even though it is very linear and short. The graphics are absolutely incredible. I had to do a double take to make sure this was really running only 360. The brutality and gore are over the top, but I love it. This us definitely a game that will become a cult classic down the road. Digital Extremes did a fantastic job on Darkness II. Highly recommended.

DETfaninATL
DETfaninATL

I can't believe how long this game went under my radar. I'm a huge comic book fan and have many issues of this series, but just never played this game. I'm glad a buddy of mine raved so much to me about it and implored me to get it. What an unbelievably fun and addicting game! Too bad i's so short though. Hopefully if a sequel gets made, it'll be a LOT longer!

The-pro-gamer17
The-pro-gamer17

Awesome game!!!!And a little brutal...............OK a lot BRUTAL.The best part is tearing people open...LOL!

pakhair
pakhair

It's one of the best (if not the best) game I've played this year (Considering titles from Jan till it's releasing date). Although it's way too short and might not be for everyone, what are you getting is an art, top notch quality but it's short and brutal, try the demo before grabbing it. I highly recommend it, it's a refreshing game in FPS genre, which is a rare treat

TheReaper180
TheReaper180

@jimmytaker Gamespot is horrible about rating their games. The average user ratings are usually more closely related how I feel about a game.

eyerok
eyerok

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

sonofsports
sonofsports

While I do agree that it was a little too short for my taste, I still highly recommend at least renting it. It's a great and demented game :D

wumpscutnut
wumpscutnut

Gamespot could have given this game a 5 and I would have bought it.. I love the comics, I loved the first game and the demo for this game was a hell of a lot of fun. Don't let gamespots scores affect you... go out, learn a little about the darkness, the lore world and stuff, play the first game and the demo and see if its something you think you would like..

guitardude1243
guitardude1243

Definitely going to play it at some point, but I'll give it a year or so.

jimmytaker
jimmytaker

I thnki that 7.0 is the new 8.0 ... at least for me.

Rickystickyman
Rickystickyman

I feel like Gamespot is extra grumpy lately or maybe Skyrim has messed up their standards, but all of the really good games lately have been getting 7s from Gamespot. I know a 7 isn't bad, but honestly I think they are being a little extreme.

eddieham13
eddieham13

I prefer the first game to be honest, but this is still awesome.

rangeraa
rangeraa

loved the first game and loved the demo...will be buying this.

TTDog
TTDog

Still buying it... had a great time with the demo, and I was never really taken with the first one anyway. For me the fact it doesn't play like the original is a good thing.

junglist101
junglist101

That's really too bad. The first game was quite enjoyable. I particularly loved the open city parts where you had to use the street signs to find where you were supposed to go. Oh well, I'll wait until this hits the bargain bin.

parrot_of_adun
parrot_of_adun

Just what I expected. Digital Extremes isn't bad, but they're no Starbreeze.

fael
fael

5 hours gameplay....? How disappointing. How can they expect people to pay top dollar for such a short experience?

q-w-e-r-t-y
q-w-e-r-t-y

@EzcapeTheFate Yes...... because 9 hours is not short at all........

EzcapeTheFate
EzcapeTheFate

You do realize that there is a 4 player co-op campaign in addition to the single player. So its not just 5 a hour story with nothing left to do after you beat the game.

EzcapeTheFate
EzcapeTheFate

You do realize that there is a 4 player co-op campaign in a addition to the single player. So its not just 5 a hour story with nothing left to do after you beat the game.

VintAge68
VintAge68

This reviewer is overrated...

Kcirdor1227
Kcirdor1227

Fartman... why not wait, there are 100s of other games that many have not played that are at in bargin bins...

davedrastic
davedrastic

I played the PSN demo and wasn't impressed. It was fun, and quite exciting, but we've already done the Demonic arms thing in the first Darkness, so that's not new, and the demo was very linear. I actually do like linear games generally but it seemed particularly so. I didn't time myself but the demo only lasted a few minutes and struck me as short at the time. I think the linearity makes things fairly simple. Also I didn't like the graphics - the cell shading just doesn't work and makes the game look dated. So another game to pick up when it's $20 in approx 5 months time.

singhellotaku
singhellotaku

Hey another short game for full price, guess why ill be buying this used, instead of new, vindictive developers

VilandasUK
VilandasUK

Damn if it's too short then I can't buy it for the full price, I will have to wait and don't get me wrong I just can't afford so many games this year I already sacrificed so much :cry:

AJC3317
AJC3317

@ xV-DeadGamer-Vx that's because there aren't a lot games that deserve higher than that coming out lately

ShadowofSonic
ShadowofSonic

Not a lot of good games coming out. Just mediocre titles....

rattboy666
rattboy666

Shame.. I actually really liked the non-linearity of the first for it's time. The only thing I really hated was how boring hell got. I can't really enjoy linear corridor shooters anymore, even when they give you the illusion that isn't such as Rage.

xV-DeadGamer-Vx
xV-DeadGamer-Vx

I am not knocking GameSpot's recent reviews in anyway but there sure as hell seems to be a lot of 7's & 7.5's lately.

Rottenwood
Rottenwood

@Fartman7998 Unless this game is a surprise smash hit, it will be available as an Amazon or Best Buy special for $30 or so within a few months. Taking 15 seconds a day to check on-line deals is a great way to get less-than-amazing games on the cheap.

The_Godfather_
The_Godfather_

guess I'll wait until it's cheap. I don't want pay 50 bucks for a too short and a decent action game.

TigusVidiks
TigusVidiks

I didn't like the 1st one all that much. It's a good game, but I didn't see the awsomeness that many people shouted arround. After I played the demo for Darkness 2 I was hoping for a better game. It felt like it would be less repetitive and with a more frantic action. But 5 hours campaign? I will never pay 50$ for a game that short. Maybe when it drops price.

GamerLegend10
GamerLegend10

Shame it is so short, i cannot buy a game which does not offer a lot of content, its just too expensive. I really liked the demo though, so maybe i will buy it when its reduced in price or buy a used copy.

Fartman7998
Fartman7998

I hate when people say they'll pick it up in the bargain bin. There is no bargain bin anymore people. This game will hit the $20 mark in a year or so...plus, are you really gonna WAIT? Like seriously..."OMG, it's been exactly ______ days, and I've marked every day on my calendar! Let's go to ______!" I'm done trolling. Disappointing though....then again, Gamespot is disappointed with nearly everything :P

ALLoY1717
ALLoY1717

"The Darkness II is a shooter."

ALLoY1717
ALLoY1717

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

wwlettsome
wwlettsome

Disappointing. Loved the first one, sounds likes like this one got lost in translation. Probably will pick it up when it hits the bargain bin.

Iridescent406
Iridescent406

Sounds like a pretty good rental. I've been looking forward to this game for a while, and it sounds like people are giving me a lot of reasons to play.

maderrin
maderrin

So, waiting for the price cut I guess.

Witchsight
Witchsight

It sounds like this is more in line with what the first would have been, if it didnt have such an exceptional narrative. Its a hard act to follow!

McStrongfast
McStrongfast

"The Darkness II is a fun, very short FPS without the authentic atmosphere and subtle touches that made its predecessor so intriguing." That's what I was worried about. Watching, reading and hearing about it, Digital Extremes made a commendable effort and successfully addressed a part of The Darkness that wasn't great, but they only got halfway there on the parts that you cared about.

The Darkness II More Info

First Release on Feb 06, 2012
  • PC
  • Xbox 360
  • + 2 more
  • PlayStation 3
  • Macintosh
The Darkness II is set two years after Jackie Estacado used the Darkness to kill the men responsible for his girlfriend's murder.
7.8
Average User RatingOut of 1292 User Ratings
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Developed by:
Digital Extremes
Published by:
2K Games, Mastertronic
Genres:
3D, Action, First-Person, Shooter, Team-Based
Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
Mature
All Platforms
Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content