I spent last weekend locked in the warm embrace of The Darkness II. This is a game I’d been waiting for, for quite some time.
The original Darkness was a unique creature – one that didn’t really embrace the archetypes of a traditional FPS. It was almost like Heavy Rain, in that we were made to actually give care about these characters caught up in this awful situation. Almost. But that’s the thing. The Darkness wasn’t really like anything, it was it’s own dark, haunting and crushingly sad masterpiece. I don’t actually think it was an amazing game – but it was it’s own work of art, and the perfect digital expansion on the world of the comic book (or, perhaps more accurately, ‘graphic novel’.
The Darkness II doesn’t really follow this pattern, perhaps choosing to go for the easy cash-in on a simple formula shooter rather than the amount of pure artistic effort that went into the first one. If The Darkness was Schindler’s List (no, I’m not comparing a fictional demon to the Holocaust) – dark, dreary and cold, The Darkness II is Taken – competent, fast-paced, but mainly fueled by a lust for vengeance and the ability to hurt people. Badly.
And it was fun, very much so. The quad-weilding is a nifty little mechanic – and one that isn’t as complicated as it perhaps ran the risk of being, letting you shoot, and rip, and slash, and grab, and throw, and bite, and tear to your heart’s content. The AI is fine to good, never quite giving you a run for your money or anything like that. The bosses are even pretty fun. Something’s missing. Ironically, for a game that gives you actual points for ripping out that oh-so-vital organ, this game lacks heart.
First thing you’ll notice about The Darkness II, is that the stoic visuals of the original have been released by 2K’s staple, cell-shaded graphics. I don’t have any issue with this, normally. Cell-shading definitely has it’s place – Borderlands was a great example of that. But after the unsettling ultra-realism of the original game - one of the few FPS’s that actually showed the feet and body of the main character, this seems like a huge cop-out. I’m not all that interested. Even Jackie Estacado, the main character, seems to have had his rough, grating, nonchalant voice subbed out for something a bit more mainstream friendly.
I don’t mind average games, that simply exist to have a good time and shoot some assholes in the face, or rip them apart with you crazy demon arms. But I think that it’s a pity when a game like The Darkness is shelved and replaced with something a bit more…normal. You don’t have to be into indie games, or buy your games imported from some bizarre, random Japanese developer, to appreciate games as pieces of art. Just got to play the right ones.