PS3 Review: The Darkness 2

I’ve never cared much for gangster fiction, whether it be movies, books, or video games. My opinion on mafia-based stories was quickly changed when I played Starbreeze Studios’ “The Darkness” in 2007, and once again I found myself fascinated with the mob when I finally picked up “The Darkness 2″. Truthfully, the game is less about being the leader of an Italian gang and more about dual wielding weapons and slicing apart enemies using your inner demon’s snake arms… That’s right. Two tentacles with mouths are added to your arsenal alongside the standard cache of first person shooter weapons. The whole evil super power thing is where my interests piqued, and after playing the game, I can say yours should too.

“The Darkness 2″ was created by Digital Extremes instead of Starbreeze this time around, but nonetheless, the game is great. I clocked in just under seven hours on the hard difficulty (not the hardest mind you), and aside from the game’s length, I have very few complaints.

The game drops you into the shoes of Jackie Estacado, Don of the Franchetti crime family, and wielder of the awesome power of the Darkness. Jackie has kept his powers in check since the events of “The Darkness”, but when a strange group takes a hit out on him, he soon finds himself in need of some extra firepower – the Darkness. The game’s story was well written, and as a fan of the graphic novel series that inspired the creation of the game, I found myself intrigued and absorbed. The Darkness itself begins to play with Jackie’s mind, and there were several levels where I was seriously wondering if everything was taking place in Jackie’s head. The mystery of what is really happening is great motivation to play through the campaign. I always love cut-scenes in which the player is still in the first person view and this game has them in spades.

The game has an excellent aesthetic to it. The world and characters are cel-shaded, which gives everything a very graphic-novel-like appearance, no doubt drawing attention to the game’s source material. Some of the characters look a bit odd, but generally the art style looks fantastic. The Darkness itself looks great as well, particularly when eviscerating enemies, as the different execution animations are all visually pleasing and quite imaginative.

The sound of the game is very well done. Mike Patton (of The Dillinger Escape Plan, Faith No More) reprises his role as the Darkness and does a phenomenal job. Jackie’s voice actor is different from the first game, but certainly carries the character well. All of the guns sound great, and amidst the chaos of a big firefight, the explosions and bullets really brought me into the action. The voice of the Darkling (An impish character made of the Darkness) was awesome as well, giving some comic relief to the serious tone of the game.

The actual gameplay of “The Darkness 2″ is fantastic. The player has control over both of Jackie’s hands and both of the Darkness’ tentacles. When the back right trigger is hit, the right tentacle slashes out violently, smashing or slicing anything in its way. The back left trigger is used to grab enemies with the corresponding Darkness arm, and the player can execute the poor creature for a variety of bonuses – health, ammo, cooldown times on abilities, or a shield. The shooting elements of the game became a little fuzzy when dual wielding guns as there is no zoom functionality, but I was still able to pull off headshots when I was careful. A great inclusion to the game was the ability to play as the Darkling in certain areas. The Darkling had a great execution animation for sneak attacks, and was able to climb certain objects that Jackie could not. I only wished I was able to play as the little imp more often.

By the end of the game, I began to feel like a serious powerhouse, which was perfect considering Jackie’s powers. When certain story sequences played out, I felt compelled to destroy everything and everyone in my way, and the game allowed it. I truly felt like I was a part of the action.

Also important to note is the talent tree. As Jackie kills enemies or finds collectibles, dark essence points are added to a pool which can be accessed at certain Darkness terminals. There are a variety of skills and upgrades the player can invest in, and aside from a few, I found most to be pretty useful. The talent tree was a nice addition and allowed me to mold Jackie into a more fearsome killing machine according to my preferred skills.

Aside from the length of the campaign, I can find little to complain about. As aforementioned, some characters look quite strange, but on a whole, I was very pleased. I have yet to play the “Vendettas” mode, a multiplayer campaign, which sounds like a good diversion for a couple hours, but I do think I’ll be going back through this game on New Game + mode to collect the relics I missed and hopefully max out the talent tree. The story is well worth revisiting, and so I won’t mind seeing it again in the least.

“The Darkness 2″ really puts you in the shoes of a powerful man with awesome abilities. If you have any interest whatsoever in ripping apart enemies with two tentacles made of pure darkness, or even some great action in general, I highly recommend you check out this game. If you enjoy the game, I would definitely check out the graphic novels as well, as they are excellent.

Let me know what you think about “The Darkness 2″ in the comments below!

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