E3 06: The Darkness Gameplay Demo Impressions

The team that brought you the surprisingly great Chronicles of Riddick is showing its gritty comic book-themed supernatural shooter behind closed doors at E3. Sure enough, it's looking great.


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LOS ANGELES--One of the games being shown behind closed doors at 2K Games' corner of the Electronic Entertainment Expo is an impressive-looking supernatural shooter called The Darkness, which is in the works over at Sweden-based Starbreeze Studios. Coming to the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3, The Darkness is based on the comic book of the same name, which is all about a mafia hit man who happens to gain some sinister and extremely powerful abilities. The demo being shown at E3, which is running on a 360 dev kit, shows off some of these powers. It also showcases the game's great-looking visuals and character graphics, in addition to some interesting stylistic and creative touches. While the game still has a way's to go, what's on display at E3 is definitely promising.

The action plays out from a first-person perspective (there were no interface elements cluttering up the screen at all), though much like Chronicles of Riddick, the camera pulls out to a third-person view during dialogue sequences, letting you see the remarkable detail in the character models. Starbreeze has improved its motion-capture technology such that even subtle nuanced expressions can be seen on characters' faces. We got a glimpse of this during a dialogue sequence between the game's main character, Jackie Estacado, and a heavy-set, bearded man. The demo begins with Estacado helping to load body bags into a minivan. Now we know what carrying a body bag looks like from a first-person perspective. Apparently they're not morticians, though, because the cops have caught wind of what's happening and Estacado is forced to flee...and to fight.

Unfortunately for the cops, Estacado isn't an ordinary man. He is host to creatures known as the Darkness, which spring forth from his body and from around him like pitch-black, shadowy tentacles. The idea is that Estacado gains power from the darkness, so during much of the demo, the Starbreeze developer driving the game often shot out lights to create a more desirable environment to fight in. (It makes for an interesting connection with Chronicles of Riddick, since the main character of that game also gained advantages when there wasn't any bright light to reveal his location.) In what could be described as a "whoa" moment, Estacado draws two pistols, unchecks the safety, and sprouts these gigantic, sinister-looking serpents from out of his shoulders. Bristling with dark energy, he's well prepared for the fight as the police literally crash right through the building he's holing out in.

Estacado doesn't fight alone. He can summon evil little creatures called darklings, which come equipped with unpleasant weapons, such as hacksaws and jackhammers, and these guys can effectively dispatch those crooked cops while Jackie keeps them busy. During the battle, the music swelled to a crescendo and the sound effects were terrific as bodies and debris flew all over the place, making for a pretty exciting sequence. However, we noticed that the enemy artificial intelligence didn't seem to be putting up that great of a fight. We're not worried, though, since Chronicles of Riddick had excellent AI in it, so we know the folks at Starbreeze will be on the case.

Back to the demo. Exiting the building, Jackie demonstrated another of his disturbing abilities as a huge tentacle sprung forth from his body, picking up a dumpster as if it were a coin on the street. Hurling the dumpster into a police blockade--and into a police combat helicopter--proved to be an effective means of opening up an escape route, but just to be safe, Jackie picked up and threw a police car as well. Nice.

We got to see one last ability when Jackie Estacado formed a black hole on a wall behind a couple of heavily armed guards. The poor bastards got sucked right into the thing, and all the furniture in the room followed quickly after. Talk about cleaning up.

The demo ended with Starbreeze showing off one of the game's other cool little details. Estacado turns on a television hanging in a lobby, and onscreen appear a couple of the game's designers, explaining how televisions in the game will be able to show TV-quality video, full-length movies, and more. It's a fairly impressive effect, but the darklings apparently don't think so, since one of them creeps up and changes the channel to a cartoon show.

The Darkness seems like it's aiming to offer the same sort of variety, creativity, great presentation, gritty edge, and dark humor that made The Chronicles of Riddick such a good game. But it's a completely different game. We're left wanting to see much more. Stay tuned to GameSpot for more information about The Darkness.

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