Play
Please use a flash video capable browser to watch videos.
00:00:00
Sorry, but you can't access this content!
Please enter your date of birth to view this video

By clicking 'enter', you agree to GameSpot's
Terms of Use and Privacy Policy

Review

The Darkness II Review

  • First Released
  • Reviewed: February 7, 2012
  • PS3

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

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 Darkness likes to play with its victims before killing them.

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.

Aunt Sarah would like a moment of your time.

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's 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.

The pop-up messages detract from the atmosphere. Fortunately, you can turn them off.

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.

Corpses aren't just bloody litter: they're also a source of delicious, delicious hearts.

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
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for The Darkness II

About the Author

GameSpot senior editor Kevin VanOrd has a cat named Ollie who refuses to play Rock Band because he always gets stuck pla

Discussion

19 comments
Stardust7
Stardust7

Darkness II is linear ,short and I didnt like its new colorful art style too ....But........ I would have bought the game if jackie's voice was the same as Darkness 1 ...thats the main reason why i didnt buy it..

godofwarbfcodfa
godofwarbfcodfa

its tottaly underrated its short but not too short unlease 20 hours with the co-op and new game plus also it took me 6 hours and i died ones!!!!in the game its because he didnt talk to anyone at the mansion and explored the relics he found

ZoTrAcK
ZoTrAcK

No online pass? I could buy!

game_eater
game_eater

Very short game, but replay-value is there. Finished the game on pc a few times, the online co-op is not that great, but good addition. Rather would have had longer SP though. The darkness 2 is better than Syndicate from the creators of the first darkness. But both games are underrated, syndicate by users and the darkness 2 by critics.

dead888
dead888

The gunplay and the demonic arms are very fun and intuitive and the story is a lot better than I thought it would be, because DE aren't really that good when it comes to stories and such *waves at Dark Sector*, but they really did an awesome job with this one. Also, the game isn't really all that short if you count the vendetta's campaign and the 'new game +' mode.

JoKeR_421
JoKeR_421

@kevin_V & ash not saying they couldnt done more. hell i wanted it to be more. even after i beat it i was like i wish they stretched the story a bit longer. and kevin, thats BULL man, i beat the game in around 8hrs on the hardest difficulty. id say the boss were the ones who slowed me down since i died a few times. so at least a minimum of 6hrs to 7hrs tops. if u say u beat it at that then good for u but the game isnt THAT short. i honestly didnt expect it to be longer then 6 to 8hrs.

JunoWalker
JunoWalker

I love the first game so much it, it's my favorite FPS game to date. I've beaten it 5 times so far. This game however, I'm sad to say was over all not nearly as amazing. I did like things about it: the skill tree (the darkness armor is my favorite), the darkling with a personality, the selection of guns/ the darkness arms, the story, the mansion, and Johnny. I didn't like the linear feel of the campaign, the graphics were not as good on detail as the first, the multiplayer was again tacked on (just spend that part of the budget on better campaign/ DLC) most of the voice acting was the same, except for Jackie's, and his was the most used voice in the first game!! They did keep the same voice for the darkness, but they needed to keep Jackie's voice the same and they didn't!! The way the skill tree is setup, it's possible to play through the game and not use or miss powers, plus, imo some powers are useless while others are too expensive. Also the health system was horrible when compared to the first game. It's not a bad game, I really do like it, but it is in no way near as good as the first game. Let's hope that if there is a Darkness III, it takes the open world of the first and makes it bigger, keeps the awesome graphic detail from the first, adds the guns from the second game, the skill tree with revamped skills, a customizable darkling and if there is a multiplayer option, it is a full co-op campaign with either 2 Jackies or 1 Jackie and the other person is the darkling.

VintAge68
VintAge68

Imho one cannot apply RPG criteria here: a game doesn't have to provide a 100-hour campaign in order to be valuable...

IWAOlympus
IWAOlympus

Some people just might play games at different paces. Most people say that a play through of Catherine takes about 10 or so hours, but personally, I just finished Day 6 and am on 10 1/2 hours, plus each stage has taken me longer and longer. I've yet to play The Darkness II, but based on your review, I'll probably wait for a couple price drops.

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

@JoKeR_421 -- Saying this is a 10-hour campaign is just--it's just not true. How could you possibly stretch it out that long? Were you letting the game run while you made dinner, and add that to your time? :) I finished my first play through in 4 hours and 45 minutes, on the third of four difficulty settings. I struggle to see how it would take even the slowest player ever 10 hours to play the campaign.

LilRoss2k3
LilRoss2k3

just played the demo and before i even read this i though.."this plays a lot like call of duty". but to me, that is a good thing. the gameplay is fast and yes it is very "shooter-ish". the new art style is nice. i didn't like the voice acting i heard in the demo but it wasn't terrible. i see nothing wrong with picking this one up after a price drop based on its short length.

jordonj
jordonj

Bummer...this looked interesting...

ash162
ash162

@joker421 it's in the review. My whole point was that with such a great concept and seeing the first game they could have done more!

Mega_Skrull
Mega_Skrull

What a pity. I played the demo and studied the skill tree, and I don't think it could entertain me for too long. I also feel they are being very shy or unimaginative about those powers, Jackie has the power of creation, The Darkness has potential for a lot more than a five hour campaign. Maybe even a sandbox with an incredible ammount of rpg elements and diferent abilities. Well, that just how I see it...

Romangelo
Romangelo

lmao at people who bashed FF13-2 and bought this.

JoKeR_421
JoKeR_421

@ ash162 its not a 5 hr campaign man. its 10hrs. thats if u take ur time and not blasting through. im sure its 8 hrs if u just blasting through. but 5 hrs? come on bro, we spend at least 5hrs and we were not even close to the middle of the game lol

ash162
ash162

I m not payin 60$ for a five hour campaign no matter how good it is!

haravtar
haravtar

Its obvious a kid is playing this game, geez.

The Darkness II More Info

Follow
  • First Released
    • Macintosh
    • PC
    • + 2 more
    • PlayStation 3
    • Xbox 360
    The Darkness II is set two years after Jackie Estacado used the Darkness to kill the men responsible for his girlfriend's murder.
    7.7
    Average User RatingOut of 1303 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate The Darkness II
    Developed by:
    Digital Extremes
    Published by:
    2K Games, Mastertronic
    Genres:
    Action, Team-Based, First-Person, 3D, Shooter
    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