The Darkness 2 Review

Darkness 2 on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC at Game

Hello Darkness, my old friend...

It's been five years since we last encountered The Darkness, but in The Darkness II, out now on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC, only two years have passed since the events of the first game. Gangster Jackie Estacado is still playing host to a malevolent demonic entity, but he's managed to keep it under control, despite still mourning the murder of his girlfriend in one of the first game's most dramatic moments. Something as powerful as The Darkness can't be contained forever, though, and when a mysterious organisation known only as The Brotherhood declares war on Jackie, he's forced to release the beast in order to survive.

Straight shooting

If you didn't play the original game (and if not, why not?) then the first thing you need to understand is that this is a first-person shooter with a difference. Yes, you're able to wield pistols, SMGs, shotguns and assault rifles, picking off enemy enforcers and hapless thugs with the crisp, smooth efficiency you'd expect from a thoroughbred action game.

Movement is slick, aiming is instinctive, and enemies prove agreeably vulnerable to a bullet in the mush. Not for The Darkness the artificial challenge of foes with impenetrable heads and torsos that soak up damage. This is a game that wants you to feel bad-ass, and mowing down bad guys by the dozen is just one of the ways in which it achieves this goal.

Darkness 2 on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC at Game

Embrace the Dark Side

Guns are only half your arsenal, however, and are quickly reduced to backup fire-power once you master Jackie's other combat option: The Darkness. Manifesting as a pair of snarling toothy tentacles, you can lash out into the environment and wreak extraordinary havoc with these puppies.

With simple context-sensitive controls, you can smash through obstacles and slice enemies up. You can grab objects and throw them, pinning foes to the wall with a pool cue or lopping their head off with a car door. They're the lucky ones. Spare a thought for any villain who gets close enough to be grabbed himself. An unlockable array of execution moves put these poor souls at your mercy, allowing you to butcher them in grisly style, topping up health and ammo into the bargain.

The Darkness bestows other gifts as well, as every kill awards Dark Essence. The nastier the slaughter, the more points you'll gain towards upgrading Jackie's four skill trees. Upgrades include a swarm of Darkness that harms and distracts enemies, the ability to channel The Darkness through your guns for unlimited ammo and increased damage, and the chance to grab black holes from defeated bad guys. Once thrown, these slurp up anyone in their radius, churning them into a sort of gruesome sticky red butter. There's also the Darkling, a scampering obnoxious little sidekick who can be controlled at fixed points in the story, stirring in a little stealth action as he goes.

Letting rip

Although bullets can bring Jackie down, your biggest threat is light. Stray into anything too bright and The Darkness retreats, leaving you blinded and without your best powers. Shooting out overhead lights, destroying generators and taking down enemies with shoulder-mounted spotlights is a priority if you want to maintain the upper hand.

Darkness 2 on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC at Game

This brings an element of strategy to the game, but not so much that it detracts from what is a ruthless action experience. With so many rival shooters taking a more measured pace, and forcing you to hunker down behind cover and pick off enemies methodically, it's incredibly refreshing to play a game where storming around, blasting away and causing massive carnage is the preferred approach. With its full-blooded comic book mayhem and breathless pace, The Darkness II is as thrilling a shooter as we've seen in years. The price you pay for this pulse-pounding tempo is a game that offers few chances to explore, and it's one that openly funnels you down corridors towards the next big fight.

Mission: Possible

Also differentiating The Darkness II from the current shooter crop is the deep and involved storyline, which often requires you to talk to characters and actually listen to what they say. There are sections where you're purely moving the story forwards without blasting or mangling, and it's a testament to the solid script that these moments feel worthwhile and entertaining, rather than intrusive.

For those looking for long-term thrills, the game doesn't have any competitive multiplayer modes, so there's no chance to pit Darkness against Darkness in a tentacled wrestling match of doom. What it does have however is a secondary story campaign, playable in co-op with four players, in which you control a quartet of colourful Darkness-powered mercenaries, following Jackie's orders. This campaign overlaps with the main story, and is a lot of fun.

It won't take you long to finish off the main story mode of The Darkness II, but the option to start over with your powers intact should entice you back for a while as you take advantage of your upgraded abilities to really pulverise those early stages. Muscular, violent but propelled by well-rounded characters and clever plotting, as story-driven action-horror gaming goes there's no reason to be afraid of this darkness.

GAME's Verdict

The Good:

  • Thrillingly gruesome action
  • Excellent controls
  • A story that actually matters

The Bad:

  • Short campaign
  • No competitive multiplayer
  • Not much replay value
SKU: Reviews-183627
Release Date: 08/02/2012