In 2007 gamers were introduced to a mafia hitman named Jackie Estacado. On the surface, Jackie appeared to be another low life thug headed for either the penitentiary or the cemetery. But Jackie and his family had a secret that was more terrifying than anyone could have imagined. Jackie’s family was the host family of the “The Darkness”, an ancient evil that has existed for as long as time itself. I’ll be honest, even though I got a chance to go hands on with The Darkness II a few weeks ago, I still wasn’t sure that the game could deliver on all that it was attempting to do. Well, not only does The Darkness II deliver, it over achieves in “almost” every category.
The Darkness II opens up two years after the events of the first game. Jackie is now the leader of the Franchetti crime family, and you would think that Jackie would be on top of the world, but he is a man on the edge that is just trying to hold it all together. He has learned to keep The Darkness hidden away and is struggling to come to grips with the violent murder of the love of his life, Jenny. Just when things are finally starting to become somewhat normal, a new threat emerges that wants Jackie dead and The Darkness for themselves. After being severely wounded and on the verge of death, Jackie is forced to release The Darkness and the resulting bloodbath is of epic proportions. This game is one of the most bloody and violent games you will EVER play, though underneath that this is really just a love story.
On the combat front, the game is refreshingly dynamic with its innovative “quad-wielding” system that allows you to use two weapons at once while also using your Darkness powers. This system takes some getting used to, but once mastered allows players to mount an offensive assault on their enemies that is almost unstoppable. In terms of firearms, players are able to equip everything from basic handguns to high powered assault rifles. I really enjoyed the fact that with dual wielding guns, they don’t have to be the same type of weapon, which allowed you to make best use of whatever weapons were available.
Gunplay is great, but to really get the most of out of the game’s combat system you need to make heavy use of your Darkness Powers. The most ridiculously cool and gruesome of these powers are Execution Kills. There are four types of execution kills that the player can use that are not only awesome to watch, but actually gives the player some kind of tangible benefit depending on which one they use. This system makes the use of execution kills strategically relevant depending on the situation. If you are low on health, perform an execution that gets you some extra health, low on ammo there is one for that too. The use of Darkness Powers make The Darkness II more than just your average first person shooter, it’s more of a “FPS+”, if that makes any sense.
The game is filled with tons of environmentals that you can use to destroy your enemies. Everything from car doors to metal rods. I’m telling you, there is nothing more satisfying than impaling a guy from distance, which is much easier now as the team has built-in a little bit of auto targeting to allow you to spend more time decapitating and less time aiming.
By leveraging the evil powers of The Darkness, Jackie has access to an array of attacks, but you have to earn them by gathering dark essence. You get dark essence for almost everything you do, and at certain key spots you can use the points to buy increasingly awesome powers. The powers are broken up into four groups that have several layers of escalation – meaning that everyone gets to develop their character in a way that is unique to how they play.
The game is not without its faults though. The game has a tendency to create situations where the player is overwhelmingly outnumbered by such dynamic set of enemies that they are almost set up for failure. This causes you to die a LOT -way more than you probably should. When you get into the last quarter of the game, it starts to become extremely frustrating and that is on the medium difficulty level. I can’t imagine what it would be like on the tougher difficulty levels. When it came to the execution kills, they were awesome to see but I would have liked to see more variation in the animations – after a while they become repetitive.
In this game, there is “one primary darkling vice multiple different types of darklings that do multiple things”. While the little guy is extremely funny, he really doesn’t play all that large of a role. I felt like they could have really given the darkling a role that was more functional and less cosmetic.
The Darkness II is not only superior to the original, it is one of the best games I have played in a while. The actual story is one that is genuinely compelling as you go on this journey that will take you to the very bowels of hell itself. Jackie isn’t a hero, but he’s not a villain. Even with all his faults you will like the guy. As I said in my preview, the game has a lot of violence and gore, but it’s not just for shock factor. The violence is merely a necessary backdrop to facilitate the telling of one of the best stories you will experience this year. For that we give The Darkness II 8.5 out of 10, for those that like great stories in their video games this is a must buy.