E3 2011: The Darkness II hands-on
This year’s E3 has been a blast and one of many interesting revelations – the games that I had looked forward to didn’t always impress and games that I didn’t think I’d care about lassoed me in. Darkness II was one of the few games that I was excited about and blew me away.
At the press demonstration, the developers of Digital Extreme wanted to address that the graphics are not cel-shaded. Rather, this is a new style dubbed ‘graphics noir’ for the intended comic book feel. This is further complimented with hand painted textures used on the environments. Preview screenshots and YouTube videos do not do the new approach justice. Simply put, you have to see the game in action for yourself in order to tell the difference – lighting plays a huge part in revealing all the little details.
Taking place two years after the first game, our boy Jackie has become the new Don of the family. In order to move on with a “normal” life, and to better cope with the loss of his love, Jenny, Jackie bottled up The Darkness that continues to dwell within him. Of course, disaster tends to strike when you least expect it. An organization called The Brotherhood aims to take The Darkness for themselves and surprise attacks Jackie. Push comes to shove, Jackie unwittingly unleashes The Darkness and the entity wastes no time in turning the assailants into cold cut combos. Our anti-hero has no choice but to seek out The Brotherhood and terminate it, but it won’t be a cakewalk. Being that they’ve researched The Darkness since ancient times, these bastards actually know how to take on the corrupt powers, evident in their vast arsenal of light based weaponry, and even knowing how to defend against the entity’s attacks.
The game brings aboard the new ability to quad-wield: a combination of any two guns in each hand, and the two heads of The Darkness who grab, throw, execute, and access Darkness powers. This incorporates use of all four shoulder buttons. This time, you can use your powers in public areas and utilize the environment to assist you, such as impaling foes on pipes and ripping off car doors for makeshift shields. When executing your opponents, you can choose which part of their body to grab to invoke various grisly effects. The quad wielding action is very involving and delightful, however, in playing the demo, sometimes I wasn’t able to procure intended actions. For example, grabbing a victim involves tapping a left trigger button, but the same button has to be held down in order to either execute or consume a heart. I would randomly get one of the three effects. But being that all three are advantageous, I didn’t sweat it too much. Overall, the controls and gameplay were solid enough to eliminate any dull, or frustrating moments.
The previous title allowed you to use a multitude of dark imps but this time you’ll only be dealing with one. Your little helper is quite the multi-talented fellow, being able to wield melee and long range weapons, provide hints if you’re lost, and even piss acid on your enemies – the definition of a true BFF. Also new to the mix, is the ability to navigate a ‘Talent Tree’ to learn new abilities. The grid is divided into three sections: Weapons, Mystical, and Demonic. At this time, the developers have no comment about the latter two, but the weapons tree provides abilities such as Gun Channeling, where you can infuse your guns with The Darkness for unlimited ammo. The blasts also pass through solid objects, perfect for taking out enemies hiding behind cover.
To further exude the languishing effects of light on The Darkness, whenever Jackie comes in contact with luminescence, not only will the two heads retract in pain – the suffering is now on a symbiotic level. Your vision becomes greatly distorted and blinding until you step away from the light. Until then, attempts to attack any surrounding foes are in vain.
Aside from everyone suffering from a case of vocal diarrhea, Darkness II sustains its gritty nature with a deeper look into the relationship between Jackie and The Darkness. Being locked away within its host for two years, denied of flesh and tasty still-beating hearts, is more than enough to make any primordial force of chaos go coo coo bananas. When in better spirits, The Darkness constantly delights in reminding Jackie that it is the cause of all his miseries. But whenever Jackie resists, or talks back with a mouthful of F-words, the two heads have no problem applying a little tug biting with their host’s hands when a witty comeback isn’t formulated.
The Darkness II hits store shelves October 4, 2011, for PS3, Xbox 360, and PC. Rick James said it best: “Darkness is spreading.”