The Darkness II Preview

  • By: CM Boots-Faubert
  • Posted 13th Mar 2011

The Darkness II

You cannot begin a preview of The Darkness II without first touching upon the original game to which it is the sequel: The Darkness (2007).

Faithfully based upon a comic book of the same name, The Darkness brought a measure of horror and macabre to the screen that was never outdone -- until we saw the demo and played the preview levels of The Darkness II.

In the first game in the series the protagonist, one Jackie Estacado, is a button man for a mafia family who is betrayed by the Don -- who also happens to be family -- and finds himself seeking revenge upon truly bad men who deserve the punishment he dishes out, with the assistance of a demon called The Darkness that has possessed him, giving him tremendous powers.

Over the course of the game a variety of modern weapons are also available to your character, but you do not really need them, because once Jackie reaches his 21st birthday (at the start of the game) the powers of The Darkness are made available him (though some powers not unlocked until later in the game).

The powers include two dark tentacle-like arms that can be called forth and used to impale foes, smash objects, and sneak up upon fies from a distance and kill them. The Darkness can also summon imp-like darklings attack foes.

As the game story advances, Jackie unlocks the special darkness guns that are much more powerful than any regular weapon in the game -- but their use consumes some of darkness energy in order to fire, potentially weakening Jackie.

The player must avoid the light, and use the dark as both sanctuary and a source of power -- and avoiding the light itself becomes a game within the game.

The Sequel

The graphical engine in the game delivers an visual experience that is convincingly that of the graphic novel, with images that are at once haunting and deep, and as the voice-over sets up the chapter the distinct style instantly sets the mood of the game, which is a dark and forbidding mixture of rich color and details using high contrast lighting and vivid textures that can instantly wash out into painful brightness when you get too close to a light source.

The play style of The Darkness II is a dedicated First-Person experience -- you are always playing as Jackie -- though you have help from associates in the game at various points.

The events of the game take place two years after those of the first game, with the preview and demo opening with Jackie being crucified -- huge spikes driven through each of his palms to pin him to a wooden wall, while the antagonist -- a crippled and disfigured man who we know only as 'The Crippled Man' uses a mystical siphon to drain The Darkness from you against your will.

The character of the antagonist has not actually been given a name yet according to the presenters, Tom Galt, Lead Designer, and Darryl Baldock, Lead Programmer, who walked us through the demo while answering our questions, so we know him only as what Jackie called him upon seeing him: The Crippled Man from the Restaurant.

Part of the process of draining The Darkness is forcing Jackie to relive moments of pain in his life -- and so we are constantly shifting from the here and now, where the Crippled Man is siphoning The Darkness, and the moments of pain that appear to facilitate that process. He is blunt in telling us many things -- that when all four chambers of the siphon are filled, The Darkness is his, but that the host of the demon must willingly give it up -- two statements that contradict.

Characters in the game are fully realized, with unique character and personality, and the women in the game do not resemble the meat puppets that are often found in games using the graphic novel style of animation.

The conventional weapons in the game include a variety of classic guns -- the 1911 Colt .45, mini-Uzi, and Winchester Pump Shotgun are revealed in the preview play. But of course there is also the two demon arms -- one for slicing, the other for grabbing and smashing -- that give Jackie an effective pair of weapons when he is out of ammunition for his firearms.

Game play includes a mixture of weapon use, and the player will find that it is often more convenient to use the demon arms and firearms in combination for the most efficient kills. With the grabbing arm objects from the environment -- hued in a purple glow -- can be picked up and used. Pipes can be used to impale, chunks of metal to cut and smash, and the doors from cars can be ripped out to use as a shield from enemy fire -- and there is plenty of that!

One interesting point -- as with the original game, the player can use the weapons in dual-mode, either two of the same weapon or a mixture, like a Colt .45 and a mini-Uzi, though in dual-mode they cannot use the iron sights, making aiming more of a challenge.

Speaking of challenges -- the game consists largely of objective-based challenges, as the player finds themselves overcoming obstacles and accomplishing specific goals in order to progress from level to level.

Healing in the game requires darkness -- spending any time in the light will not only prevent healing, but will make you more vulnerable to damage, so like the original game, effort will be spent in eliminating light sources as you progress through the levels.

The Demon Arms

The Darkness II is an incredibly violent game, and the Demon arms are perhaps the source of the majority of that violence, so they are a fitting subject for us to examine.

The left arm is for grabbing and smashing, and is used for special purposes, like executions, and ripping the still-beating hearts out of victims so that you can eat them, and recover power. The right arm is for slashing, and when the player holds down the right bumper they can literally slash through opponents, cutting them in half and sending the different halves flying!

The slashing arm can be used in pretty much any direction you like, but it takes both arms in combination to surmount some of the obstacles that are put in your way to prevent you from moving on to the next area or level.

There are executions that are similar to those of the original game, but with new twists and new names, and even with both arms out and deployed, the player can still make full use of their other conventional weapons -- and they will!

Darklings Return

Where the darklings of the first game was a passive power, in The Darkness II he plays a crucial role in the story, being a fully realized character with a voice and personality that is distinctly his own. The Darkling is a fully-fleshed out character, capable of assisting you in ways of his own choosing, but also capable of observation and comment.

Acting more like an old friend than a servant, the Darkling appears in a long shirt with the Union Jack on it, and at one point in the battle through the subways, it jumps up onto the rubble and urinates onto the corpse of an enemy it killed. Now that is character mate!

When you enter the booth for the preview and demo they warn you that the game is uber violent -- and it is that to levels that far exceed what we were expecting. It seems that the signs on the outside of the booth that required attendees to be 18 and prove it were not there for show, they are justified.

While this level of violence may not be everyone's cup of tea, it is an integral part of the story, and is not gratuitous or manufactured. It will be interesting to see how the public reacts to this game, particularly the conservative sorts who seem to enjoy attacking games that contain content that they do not agree with.

The Darkness II will arrive in the Fall of 2011 on XBox 360, and PS3, and will surely be Rated M for Mature.

Official Title: The Darkness II
Developing Studio: Digital Extremes
Publisher: 2K Games
Release Date: Fall 2011
Platforms: XBox 360 / PS3
Genre: FPS / Action Adventure / Horror
Ratings: M for Mature