The Darkness (PS3) Review

What would you do if you had an inner deamon? I don't mean that in a metaphorical sense. I mean literally, a deamon living inside you that made itself known and lent you it's power on your 21st birthday. This is the core question Jackie will have to answer as you make your way through this game. So what was his choice? And how good a game was it? Come see.

Story: Meet Jackie Estacado. He's an up and comer in his family business, if you know what I mean. Good job, roof over his head, loving family, and even a nice girlfriend to come back to after a rough day at work. But not everything is sunny and bright in his life. He was asked to get the money someone owed his Uncle Paulie, but rather then get the cash, he wound up woozy and slowly waking up in the back of the family car driving to the next job.

Of course, when your family is as nuts behind the wheel as these guys, it's not long before the boys in blue are chasing him down to the inevitable car wreck. Still, Jackie has a job to do and an uncle to get back into the good graces of... until he tries to kill him for his failure. And as if that isn't bad enough, he starts hearing a voice in his head. That voice belongs to a monster who just might be what he needs to survive this ordeal and getting back at Uncle Paulie for trying to kill him. But whatever it is, it's about to change his life for ever.

You will play the role of Jackie in this tale of revenge that can best be described as Spawn meets the generic Mafia story. You will find the story of the Darkness and how Jackie deals with it interesting and well developed. It will slowly ooze out details to explain some of what the Darkness is, as well as why Jackie carries it inside him. You will look forward to see how he does his best to deal with this curse.

But outside of the places where the two are inexorably mixed, the mafia story is just a backdrop for the deamon-powered action. Do not expect much of interest in the plot from this side. And in fact expect the ending's major flaws come from being lazy here. Without giving anything away, a little more work could have included one of the best and bad-ass possible endings in a video games. Instead you are stuck with what should have been a bad-ass ending with a "let's make this happy somehow" addition which has no business being there, but probably prevents gamers from even more "WTF" responses without it.

It all mixes to be a good ride, but the end falls ridiculously flat.

Graphics: Maybe it's because this is a PS3 game from back in the day when developers did not know how to make the hardware sing, but this game did NOT stand the test of time in the graphic department. Don't get me wrong, the textures have a descent resolution and the models are pretty good for the time the game came out. However, especially on larger screens, the low resolution is very noticeable. This becomes especially true when you are using the Darkness in really dark areas, leaving a raw glow-effect along the edges of everything. It looks ugly and leaves you wondering why the hell they could leave the game looking like this.

It doesn't help itself in frame-rate, either. Being a console title where everyone has the same hardware, there is absolutely no excuse for this to drop, ever... but drop it does on occasion here. Most notably during one of your boss kills, the game becomes a slide-show. What is puzzling about this is that the game has more going on in other scenes that run smooth as silk... scenes you are actually playing in, so why things like this slow it all down are anyone's guess.

Sound: Here the game begins to shine. While the sound effects and music are pretty standard for this kind of game, the voices are where I want to focus. All the main characters fit exactly what they should be, be it the older wise-guys, Uncle Paulie, or even Jackie himself. But the stars here are the Darkness itself and the collectible phone calls.

Offbeat, distorted, and always suitably creepy, the Darkness simply sounds great. It doesn't speak up often, but have a good listen when it does. You can hear the malice, dark joy at the slaughter, and even fear and desperation ooze through, giving the creature a lot of character, despite the fact that you only see it once outside of the two heads that enter your view when you use it's power in the entire game.

But at the same time, another highlight is your reward for collecting phone numbers along the way. Calling these numbers will reward you with some rather cool extras such as concept art you can look at in the main menu, but your immediate reward will be the answer on the other side. These were pretty much all made as jokes, and a good number of them are pretty funny. When you need a break they are a great quick one, and usually you will have collected a handful when you get to the point to look (they are not hard to find). Enjoy the smirk before you go back to work on taking down Jackie's uncle.

Gameplay: Being an FPS game on a console, I'll be honest. I was not expecting much here. I expected relatively clunky camera control hindering gunplay while an aim assistance helps counter it. This is about what the game gave in the FPS department. And if that was all this game was, there would be very little to talk about, but The Darkness has separated itself by the beast's powers more then anything else.

You gain them shortly after the game begins, well one of them. The game starts you with the most unique and fun power right off the bat... you can summon a deamon head that you can slither around everywhere while you hide in the shadows. This can be used to spy on enemies, scout the area in advance, or even attack enemies before they can reach you. However there are some game based limitations to this power which will be a little off-putting. The game does not quite always know how to handle when you slither between walls or the floor/ceiling resulting in a very notable pause while the game makes sure you mean to switch before letting you go.

As you play, you gain other powers by having the Darkness eat the hearts of your enemies. Certain enemies will grant you new powers which will prove useful at times, necessary at others, but all pretty effective. They just wont be quite as unique as that first power you get. The only catches are that you can only stay in this mode as long as your darkness power lasts or until you or your deamon head gets shot. You can tell how much darkness power you have by the light patterns on the side of the deamon's face. The bigger and brighter it is, the more power you have.

You can always recharge this power in two ways. The most direct is to get out of the light with the powers turned on. The Darkness will drink in the very shadow around you and recharge it's power that way, but an instant way to fill it is when you have it eat the hearts of the enemies you kill. This is recommended, not only to get back your full darkness power, but you also gain darkness levels by how many you have done this to. Each of the 5 levels gives you a higher maximum darkness power to use with the powers you gain in the game.

The result of this addition is a fairly fun game, but one with mechanics that could have used the work.

Bugs: I found only two real bugs in the game, and both of them were based on sending out the deamon head to fight for me. The and most important, it is possible to break the geometry of the game with this. At it's most common and most harmless, this will involve the person you are attacking or the deamon head kinda standing over and inside each other and until one of you moves out of the way, stop you from attacking them. But at worst, you can get stuck. Thankfully this is fixed by calling it back so this is hardly a game killer.

The less important bug is camera dependant, but sometimes, devouring a heart can land the camera inside an object, which in this game are apparently rendered solid as this shows itself as the entire screen besides the deamon turning one solid color. If you don't wait to see the game get back, it looks like you just crashed it. You didn't. Just relax and when the game returns, you will be as you expected.

Overall: This will not be the best game you ever played. I must be clear about this now. But that doesn't mean it's a bad game. It's just not a great one. I would recommend this game to anyone who is a fan of Spawn and Spawn style characters, but are willing to deal with some minor bugs. Your will to play an FPS without a mouse is also a must, since unlike most FPS games I review, you will find no PC version of this game. If these things do not fit you, you may want to go somewhere else, as you will find better FPS games out there.

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