The Darkness Review
The Darkness is a remarkable action game that tells a compelling story from start to finish.
- Amazing voice work and dialogue set the mood right out of the gate
- Stunning graphics, both technically and artistically
- Darkness powers are a lot of fun to use again and again
- Compelling, well-told story
- Can press a button to devour human hearts.
- Most of the conventional weapons are useless
- Enemy reactions and artificial intelligence feel a little too passive at times
- Multiplayer feels a little tacked-on.
The Darkness. You work best when you're in the shadows, it's a grisly and occasionally gruesome tale, and it also happens to be the name of the demon festering inside of you. Yes, for multiple reasons, The Darkness is a perfect name for this first-person shooter from 2K and Starbreeze, the developer responsible for The Chronicles of Riddick. Based on a comic book from Top Cow, The Darkness weaves an interesting and authentic tale of mobsters seeking revenge together with an otherworldly force with an insatiable appetite for human hearts.
The game opens with an amazing set piece that gets things moving right away. You play as Jackie Estacado, a New York-based mob hit man on his 21st birthday, and you've just woken up in the back of a speeding convertible. A money-collection deal has gone wrong, your two buddies are attempting to get away from crooked cops, and you apparently got knocked out somewhere along the way. As you're speeding along to a construction site to take out the foreman, you're tossed a shotgun to help defend the car from incoming fire. The car crashes, you end up on foot, and the story begins to unfold. Your Uncle Paulie, the leader of the crime family, has gone off the deep end, suspects you of foul play, and puts a hit out on you. So it's on you to tear apart his operation by taking out key moneymakers and money movers. As you do this, Paulie starts to hit back, sending thugs not only in your direction, but also in the direction of Jenny, Jackie's girlfriend and the only person that really matters to him. Luckily, you won't have to fight it out all by yourself.
Early in the game, Jackie is possessed by The Darkness, some sort of parasitic creature that speaks to you as a demonic voice in your head and manifests itself as two demonic snakelike appendages that shoot out of your shoulder blades and appear on the sides of the screen. They snap and growl when you whip them out, and over time you'll earn new abilities. For starters, revealing The Darkness gives you a shield against damage, better vision in low-light situations, and a move that lets you plant one of the snakelike creatures onto the ground and take control of it. From there, you can crawl into ventilation ducts, sneak around, and kill enemies with a bite attack. You'll also earn a demon arm attack, which causes a big, sharp appendage to thrust outward and through your enemies. Eventually you'll get guns that use The Darkness' energy as ammo and a black hole attack that lets you open up big vacuums that suck enemies in, killing them quite easily in the process. The catch is that The Darkness has a limited amount of power, and all of these attacks drain it. It's restored automatically when you're standing in shadows, making shooting out light sources wherever you go a pretty big part of the game.
You'll select your darkness powers much like you'll cycle through your conventional weapons, with a touch of the D pad. There aren't very many different types of guns in the game, and what's more, the dual pistols that you start with are also the most effective weapon from start to finish. You'll get a shotgun, assault rifles, and an auto-shotgun that isn't accurate enough to be of much use. The game's auto-targeting seems to make your aim naturally gravitate toward the heads of your foes, and one shot from a pistol is almost always enough to take care of them. Considering the artificial intelligence isn't always swift enough to duck and cover, the game usually isn't too much of a challenge on its medium difficulty setting.
Most of the game takes place in New York, and despite its world being reasonably open-ended, the story itself is strictly linear. You'll always know where to go next, and you'll have a good idea of how to get there. If you end up lost, an objectives menu will point you in the general direction, and a map will show you which sections you'll have to travel through. Along the way, particularly in the game's two active subway stations, you'll run into people in need of a little help. This gives you some side missions to play with, and most of these seem to involve going somewhere and shooting and/or talking to someone. They're usually not very difficult, and there isn't really much of a payoff, either. You'll usually get one of the 100 pieces of bonus content, which gives you a few issues of the comic books, as well as plenty of concept art. Unless you're a sucker for concept art or an Xbox 360 achievements fiend, most of the extra stuff can be safely skipped, though the world looks so nice that you might find yourself wanting to complete as much as possible just to spend more time with the game. The main storyline definitely has some length to it, though, so even if you ignore all of the extra little elements, you'll still feel like you got your money's worth out of the game. Thanks to a handful of especially mind-blowing sequences and well-crafted plot twists, you'll feel like you've covered a ton of ground by the time you reach the game's final confrontation.