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The Darkness II Review

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On 02/13/2012 at 11:45 PM by Nick DiMola

I really wanted to start this review with the My Cousin Vinny "deer" quote.

For all shooter fans, especially those tired of the cover-based ones.

Whenever a franchise switches hands to a new developer, it's never clear what you're going to get. Some adhere to the source material too closely, others don't manage to capture the essence of the original, but a select few manage to supersede the achievements of their predecessors. The Darkness II falls into the latter category – borrowing some of the concepts laid out by the original, but establishing a number of its own, creating a much faster-paced and memorable experience.

Embodying Jackie Estecado once again, players will find themselves at the head of the New York City mafia. Since the last quest, Jackie has kept The Darkness at bay within him, thanks to the help of Johnny Powell. Little does Jackie know, "The Brotherhood" wants what he holds within himself and will stop at nothing to get it.

Unlike the first game, The Darkness II starts off with an explosive scene that immediately draws you into the experience. As you sit down in a restaurant for dinner, a car drives by spraying bullets at you, ripping a hole in the face of one of the women you're dining with. The car smashes into the restaurant, badly injuring you. Pulled from the wreckage, you'll have to gun down the would-be assassins. As you lie dying, The Darkness rears its ugly head, forcing you to choose between life and death. Choosing life, The Darkness springs out of Jackie once again, thus beginning the quest.

Once you're back on your feet, you truly get a taste of what The Darkness II is all about. Eschewing the modern constructs for a first person shooter, The Darkness II is old school in its design. You won't be crouching behind boxes every chance you get or waiting around for your life to refill – you'll be blitzing enemies with full force and no regard for the potential danger. It's a refreshing take on the genre to say the least.

What enables this sense of reckless disregard are your amazing powers granted by The Darkness. As long as you stay within the shadows, you'll have two snake-like appendages that can melee people or grab them up once they've been weakened for a quick execution. This comes in addition to the dual-wielded weapons you're able to strut around with at all times.

These appendages can also grab a variety of items in the environment, all of which can be flung at enemies to quickly dispatch them. Certain items can double as a shield allowing you to safely move about without taking much damage. However, you'll rarely need to play defensively as you can quickly acquire life by eating the hearts of your enemies from within the darkness.

The world is your playground in The Darkness II and it's empowering to have so many abilities at your disposal. The fluid controls are the cherry on top of the sundae – you'll never find yourself struggling to execute any of the techniques, it comes naturally.

Part of what makes the game great is the ability to consistently upgrade Jackie's Darkness powers. As you kill enemies, eat their hearts, find hidden relics, or perform certain actions in the environment, you'll earn Dark Essence. Via an upgrade tree you can imbue Jackie with some interesting powers, like the ability to siphon life from your enemies when performing a particular execution or generate black holes that can be tossed into a pile of enemies to consume them.

The light mechanic also adds a bit of strategy and thoughtfulness to the gameplay. Because your Darkness powers only work in the shadows, you'll need to avoid and destroy lights whenever possible. Enemies understand your weakness and will tote giant spotlights and throw light grenades. Generators attached to construction spotlights will often be kicked on, forcing you to skulk through the shadows or take long distance shots to disable the light.

Boss fights punctuate the experience, which is another nice, old school touch. Each will require a different strategy – some are thoughtful and require you to attack only at the right moments, others require quick reflexes and persistence.

Despite everything The Darkness II does right, it's mostly held back by its own construct. The game is all about fast-paced, slash and burn action and as such it's a mostly disposable experience. While a fun romp, it's not one that I'd likely go back to at any point in the near future. The Vendetta mode provides more of the same type of gameplay online, with up to four players co-operatively. Though I much prefer this to a forced competitive multiplayer mode, after finishing the quest I wasn't quite ready for more of the same.

The Darkness II is a great shooter that provides a nice blend of old school design and modern mechanics. Though fun while it lasts, it's not an experience many will return to after completing the entire story arc. Fans of the original game shouldn't shy away from this just because it's developed by a new team – The Darkness II is a solid and enjoyable sequel.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.

Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.

Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.



Nick DiMola Director

02/14/2012 at 10:21 AM

This marks my 200th review for PixlBit. Phew, can't believe I've written that many here already!

Joaquim Mira Media Manager

02/14/2012 at 10:25 AM

Congrats, Nick.


02/14/2012 at 11:37 AM

200 reviews Nick? Awesome, keep them coming. To infinity (reviews), and beyond!

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