The Darkness II
The Darkness II is a like a blend of Hannibal Lector, Chow Yun Fat and Cthulu, measuring the blood spilled by the tanker-load while somehow still holding onto a degree of wit. There’s a new company this time and a new look to go with it, but underneath the hood there’s that bright light in its narrative. Even when the combat turns repetitive and the only challenge it can really throw at you is complete blindness, there’s good enough reason alone in pushing onward just to discover the fate of Jackie Esticado.
It’s a visually competent, rather than stunning, affair. Cel-shaded graphics give the world an appearance as if you’ve stepped within the comics. It’s big and colorful but it’s not quite as interesting as the original. The first time around opted on realistic visuals and the impression it gave was of a grim, hopeless world. The cel-shaded style exists more to hide the imperfections in the details, and possibly make some of the gorier executions less disgusting to watch.
The story picks up two years after the end of part one with a brief recap summarizing the original, though it never quite mentions how Jackie escaped from his cliffhanger ending. The Darkness went dormant after the final bloodbath, and it’s left at that. It isn’t long before an attempt is made on Jackie’s life, a move that forces the Darkness to resurface once again.
The opening to The Darkness II is a stand-out affair. It’s presented in the form of a rail-shooting sequence in which Jackie, now crippled by a van that came crashing through a wall of the restaurant, is being dragged to safety by a fellow mobster. It makes for an excellent way to introduce the over-the-top action you’ll be expecting for the rest of the game. Unfortunately, this sequence also makes for a showcase on the game’s poor level design.
While a few of the areas you encounter attempt to open up or sprawl out into multiple pathways, the majority of the time you’ll find yourself running down narrow hallways and streets. It’s linear progression through an array of chest high walls and barriers. They’re not for you to take cover, but rather for your enemies, but don’t worry. They’re not that bright, plus you’ll have plenty of ways to rip them apart.
The original featured the ability to utilize both your guns and abilities spawned from the Darkness, but these abilities generally turned out to be more like support attacks. If any of your abilities felt like they could be used primarily to devastate everyone, it was another set of guns to complement the guns you already had. This time around you can take advantage of an assortment of firepower while also being able to control two demon arms at the same time.
Only by utilizing all of your abilities can Jackie become capable enough to take the advantage away from his would-be assassins. A talent tree specializes and upgrades the Darkness, bestowing your protagonist with new attacks and methods of execution, each one more painful than the last. Even the environment, to a degree, can be used as a weapon. On the defensive side of things a car door can be torn away to provide a shield from incoming bullets. You can also take the offensive and fling the door, slicing your opponents in two.
Against all your methods of creating death they are effectively powerless, at least, until someone turns on the lights. The Darkness doesn’t work in the light, but this game goes beyond just limiting your abilities. The screen turns pale, color washes out into gray and the light itself becomes blinding. Every light seeks to blind you, and the farther you get into the game, the more its use of light becomes obnoxious. Grenades explode light. Enemies hold cannons that shoot out light. Accidentally run underneath a streetlight during combat and you might find yourself disoriented.
And when the going gets rough, there’s always the story to drive you forward, and it’s one that’s fairly well told. Jackie’s in a mess of things again, and it’s worth playing from beginning to end to see the truth of the matter. There are times when the story tries a little too hard to tug at you emotionally, but it does help convey the confused state Jackie’s in. There’s also a secondary co-op mode that compliments the main story. It’s decent for what it is, but generally lacks challenge, especially when you bring allies along.
The Darkness II is a worthy successor, even if it isn’t any better than the original. It takes a story that was already well developed and continues it in stellar form, doing justice enough.