With the video game industry what it is today, it is difficult to do something that has not already been done. All a company can hope for is changing an aspect of the norm enough to make it memorable, and hopefully, sell some extra units.
This latitude however, does not extend to every aspect of a game. In short, there are some things that cannot be overlooked, or excused. “The Darkness II,” both shines and, sadly, flickers out and dies in several areas.
A horrible picture is worth a thousand stereotypical words
“The Darkness II” deviated from its original art design in favor of something closer to XIII or Borderlands. While this change could have made the action on the screen seem more visceral, sadly, in most cases,what actually comes across the screen is something closer to “Perfect Dark” for the N64.
Jackie’s darkness powers are crisp, clean, and beautifully rendered which, when combined with the action taking place on screen, create a real treat for the player. In fact, some of the executions give the fatalities from MK a run for its money. Sadly, once the action stops and the conversations begin, all the characters on screen look as if they were all having dinner when the Ark of the Covenant was opened.
The only element worse than the texturing is the dialog; the developers took just about every stereotype from every gangster movie ever made and put it all in one place. Most conversations revolve around prostitution, urination, and food. What dialog is relevant to the story at hand is forgettable at best. Jackie’s darkling on the other hand has the funniest dialog in the game. It is also the most believable character in terms of emotion and building a connection with the player.
Guns are our friends
Games that fall into the FPS category have a unique challenge to overcome, and that is simply to stand out in a category that is saturated with AAA titles, such as “Call of Duty” or “Medal of Honor.” This is the one area of “The Darkness” that really stands out. Gunplay is responsive and accurate as is the hit detection protocol. Combining this with the darkness abilities gives the player the feeling of being a God among mortals.
Moreover, a lot of credit must be given to the artists who designed the weapons used in the game. The detail on the slides, custom triggers, and the stocks are beautiful, as is the physics engine. When hits register limbs will twitch and in some cases halt an approaching enemy.
Aren’t stories supposed to make sense?
Story is by far the weakest element of “The Darkness” and in a FPS a weak story is a death sentence. In the first installment of series Jackie Estacado discovers he has the ability to control the darkness. The story revolves around him coming to terms with his new abilities, the death of loved ones, and taking over the family business. The second installment picks up several years after the events of the first game. Jackie has refused to use his abilities and hopes to just move on with his life. A shadow group of religious zealots however has other ideas. The Brotherhood, the aforementioned religious zealots, launches a full scale attack on Jackie in hopes of bringing the darkness back into the open. Needless to say, they succeed.
However, sometime between the action, the hallucinations, and the end of the game a lot of elements of the story just felt tacked on. The worst offenders of this are the involvement of Jackie’s father and the “light side” equivalent of Jackie. In fact, Jackie’s Yoda to his Vader is only referenced when looking at the discovered relics; which makes the extra content after the credits a bit confusing. On this topic, there are two separate endings and the relics are almost impossible to miss.
“The Darkness II” was supposed to be the explosive ending to the series, but what actually came out was a game that is only decent. It excelled in the areas of action, graphic design when not having conversations, and gunplay.
However, it fell short in terms of story, dialog, and character design. If a player is looking for a quick mindless gun carrying romp though various environments then this is the game for them. However, for the rest of the gaming population, wait until the price drops or borrow it from a friend.