The Darkness isn't perfect. I've played plenty of first-person shooters with better-designed levels, and the story is almost as cheesy as the comic book it's based on. But on Unik Gamer – a site written in charmingly broken English, on which gamers arrange their Top 25 lists – I placed it second. Why? Find out in this conversation with…well, myself.
Is The Darkness really the second-greatest game ever?
I couldn't argue that it's objectively a better game than those more familiar with "Greatest Games Ever" lists. I wouldn't either — I'm not interested in "Greatest Games Ever" discussions. I'm more interested in why games are important to individuals.
So what is it about The Darkness that got me, er, you hooked but not the rest of the world?
As I wrote in July, the feeling of being in another's body is something I notice in games. Protagonist Jackie moves at a human pace with just the right amount of head bob, and he pokes his guns over or around cover.
The atmosphere is thick with ambient music, graffiti, and TVs with substantial programming. Entire movies, episodes of Popeye, Flash Gordon, and Gabby, and a few music videos can all be found by flicking through the channels. To Kill a Mockingbird, starring Gregory Peck, is on in the background of this important scene:
That's not exactly common in first-person shooters….
It's full of those moments. You're strapped to a chair facing the wrong end of a drill bit at one point. People talk about hammering buttons to get Snake through a radioactive tube at the end of Metal Gear Solid 4? That's how I feel about the drill scene in The Darkness.
The feel of Jackie's movement, the first-person kissing, and drill torture formed the most intense connection I've felt with a game character.
Why do you think it was thrown in the bargain bins so quickly?
That "human pace" I love translates to "painfully slow movement" for others — even Bungie felt Halo: Reach needed a sprint button. Maybe those same people were also bored by the scene in Jenny's apartment, the adventure-game moments, or stopping to devour the hearts of Jackie's fallen enemies. (Innocents were spared this indignity — an important detail, I thought.)
The powers that the Darkness (the character) gives Jackie and uses to control him don't fit that well with the game — you can easily do without them except for a few puzzles that require one power or another. That said, impaling a man on your tail, then holding him at length while he claws desperately at his chest, then throwing him aside is sadistically fun.
Wait a minute…tail? And what are the demonic faces in that screenshot?
Jackie Estacado — a hit-man adopted and raised by the mob — mysteriously inherits dark, evil powers on his 21st birthday. Voiced by vocal-gymnast Mike Patton, the Darkness tightens his grip on Jackie as the human uses these powers to vanquish his enemies. Jackie must take the short-cut to hell — by killing himself — in order to confront this evil power.
Yeah…it sounds bad written like that. The game mixes that mumbo jumbo with a more personal and earthly plot, though.
This is the cheesiest shit I've ever seen. And I'm a vegetarian, so I eat a lot of cheese.
Thanks for that image, rhetorical device. But you're right. So are Max Payne and Twin Peaks, though. They're cheesy because cheese fits their bombastic, paranoid, paranormal stories. The characters get to be larger than life, thanks to the heightened suspension of disbelief. "Cheesy" doesn't mean "bad" — boring characters and nonsensical plots make a story bad, whether it aspires to realism or cheesy entertainment.
These Darkness powers are cool — I can throw black holes and summon adorable demons — but as a shooter it's hardly comparable to Halo, is it?
It's not the same type of shooter, though. It's more about experiencing a comic book from a first-person perspective than it is about gun skirmishes. The powers allow you to play around with being a badass demon assassin, and it's fun to keep your two pistols out and execute henchmen.
It always feels like you're going somewhere — to talk to a particular mobster, to investigate an orphanage, or to plant a bomb — and you always look cool doing it. The game world is small but open, so you never feel like you're coasting along like you can in a level-based shooter. The Darkness has direction.
So it's an adventure game with shooting?
Sort of, yes. There is a quest that involves intimidating a thug and taking a harmonica from him. There;s a lot of talking to people in subway stations.
Who made this?
Starbreeze Studios — the Swedish people behind the Chronicles of Riddick games.
Will there be a sequel?
I've given up hoping for one after numerous yesses, noes, and maybe-sos.
You sound like you're trying to convince people to buy it.
This is a writing exercise to see if I can articulate why I love it and thereby convince myself I'm not crazy for loving it.
So should I play it?
Let's ditch this flimsy facade of a fake interview, shall we?
If you like paranormal plots, mobster movies, or melodrama, play The Darkness. If you like first-person hugs in Mirror's Edge, play it and experience even more interesting uses of the first-person perspective. If you need your shooters to stick to the pace of Call of Duty, don't play it.
By now, it's probably cheaper than XIII – that other comic-book shooter that bombed in price faster than a Steam game on the weekend — so check your game store's used shelves.
Who else played The Darkness? Did anyone love it as much as I did? And why not check out other Bitmobbers' Top25 lists and share your own in the comments? Are there any surprises on your list?