The Darkness II (PC) Review

What would you do if you had a deamon that could make you a god? What if you knew the horrifying price of such a thing? Jackie knows, and his story is laid out in this game. So how was it? Why don't you read and find out? 

Story: It's been two years since Jackie last used the Darkness. With the help of an ally who's connections into such things allowed him to understand and seal it away, he has lived a much more peaceful life. It will never be completely peaceful, since, after all, he is a Mafia Don and his first experiences with the deamon inside him resulted in the love of his life dying right in front of him. But still, things have been a lot better. But all that changed when a hit was put on him and the restaurant he was visiting one night instantly became a war-zone.

In order to survive, Jackie had to let the Darkness free again, leaving him to struggle to seal it up and show the punks who tried to kill him just who the fuck they are dealing with. But not all is what it seems, for Jackie seems to be slipping between realities... and on top of that, the Darkness is making demands holding something very dear to him hostage. With all this going on, the story this time around has a lot more happening then the last game, and this is really for the better. Enjoy it, for they are much better suited to face off with Jackie then anything you have seen against him yet.

However, not all here smells of roses. The original game ended like it was trying to be a happy ending despite the Darkness winning. To this end, it would seem this game is intentionally spaced years later so as to let people assume anything could have happened between now and then. This was a good move, but a "fake happy" ending is still better then a cliffhanger that demands a sequel we may or may not see depending on the whims of the publisher. There, this game has fallen short... is it epic? Yes. Does it get you hyped for what might come next? HELL yes. But does it actually finish anything? FUCK no. You are left with a "to be continued" ending, and until we can at least be assured there will be more, I have to hold that heavily against the game.

Graphics: Once again, this feels a bit like a mixed bag to me. This time around, the game went with a look to mimic the comics rather then to try to be gritty and realistic. While it looks a lot better and runs a lot smoother, that does not mean it is perfect. The attempt seems to leave the lighting on several characters looking a bit off, still great, but off somehow.

However, once you get past that, this game looks absolutely great. Every environment could have been pulled a straight out of the awesome look of the gritty comics of the 1990s, and the characters fill in the space fitting in perfectly, be it everything from a lowly thug trying to shoot you to some of your more supernatural enemies, to even the Darkling who hangs out with you throughout your entire adventure. Add that to some amazing looking weapons and even better looking darkness executions and you will have little to complain about graphically here. In fact, this is one of those rare cases well I look at the requirements and Im amazed they did so much with so little... right there with Crysis 2.

Sound: Expect the sounds and music to fit the game well. Every gun until the very very very last act of this game sound heavy and perfect, be them shooting at you or by you. The damage you can do with melee are also hit that perfect balance of meaty but not to gross. However, this is not the star of the sound.

Nor for that matter is the music. Not that it's bad. In fact, every tone again fits into the environment it's set to perfectly. Im not sure I would call it memorable in any way, but it fits when you hear it, pretty much blending into the gameplay.

The real star here is the voice acting. Jackie and the Darkness will take the majority of it, and they will sound great. You can really hear the tone of Jackie's thoughts through his comments, and the Darkness sounds just as creepy this time as it did in the original game. But this time they are usurped by a new character, Johnny. Want a hint of why? All you need is to either let the game go for a little before opening the main menu, or let the game play it before you begin actually playing.

Yep, that's the guy. He is an expert in all things Darkness related, and is the one who helped Jackie get the thing contained two years ago. And while he only takes so much screen time, he will be one of the two biggest reasons to collect every relic you can find. He is an absolute treat to hear explain each of them when you look them over in Jackie's house.

Gameplay: Right off the bat, you should feel like you are about to play a rather unique FPS. From the absolute epic introduction which serves as an introduction to the dual and quad-wielding mechanics that this game will have you using all the way through, you will be familiar with the basics quickly and enjoying the lessons. That's right, for once we have a tutorial that you will only recognize as one if you stop and think about it. It blends that well into the rest of the game.

And this fits well to make the game work since a lot of mechanics demand you access a lot more buttons then you are used to on your keyboard for FPS games. In fact, if you have a mouse with more then your standard 2 buttons and mouse wheel, this game may be the first that will REALLY take advantage of what you have to offer it. It works well enough on the standards, but I could feel my hand stretching for some of the more on-command powers in use, and having them at the thumb of my mouse would have been VERY convenient.

You will spend the majority of the game moving between using a single gun and dual wielding, each with unique perks. All the while your Q and E keys will be used to control your tentacles... the left one (Q) will allow you to grab things and weakened enemies, the later of which you will then be able to execute, usually to get some kind of edge in the game (ammo, health, ect) depending on which kind you do. The right tentacle, on the other hand, is used to rip and tear, usually the heart of an enemy out of their chest to be eaten. In addition, the tentacle is also your melee attack as by holding the mouse wheel and moving the mouse, you can lash out with it, your mouse movement determining if it's left/right or up/down.

On top of that, this game includes an element of customization in the form of purchasable talents. You get points based on the technique of your kills as well as how tough the enemy is or even if you devour their hearts (the first talent you buy as part of that tutorial section of the game). These abilities will greatly adjust how the game plays, from granting you new powers to extending how much ammo a gun carries before you reload, to even making things that normally would not explode when you throw them. There are a lot of powers you can buy through this game. You can further boost your points to buy these powers by finding relics. At 300 points apiece, you would be a fool not to grab them when you see them. Add to that the explanation you should find waiting for you when you get back to the mansion, and these are a big part of the enjoyment of the game. And enjoy you will.

The game itself, however, screams one word about as strong as I have ever seen a game scream it... port. That isn't to say it is a bad game, but make no mistake, the game definately was not made with the PC in mind first. Before you get very far, this is made obvious by the tree navigation when you select talents to buy. Where it would have been natural to spin the wheel with the mouse wheel, the game demands you use M and N to spin it like they were trying to figure out what to do with extra rocker switch commands. Dual wielding also reveals it due to the odd "reverse sides" issue it has. It is almost as if someone thought that since the average player was right-handed, they would want to keep that gun as the "main" one despite what would make sense for what was on the screen. There are a few additional more serious issues, but we will go over them in the next section.

Sadly, however, the multiplayer does not seem to get the same benefits as the single-player. In this mode, you will play the events the family asks others to do to investigate what is going on while Jackie is out getting people back and kicking ass. It is obviously a lot harder being made for 2 to 4 players... but this is where the game fails. At the max, while trying to find a game, I saw 5 others player. But none had more then 2 players and none of them were being hosted from an English speaking country. In short, good luck getting one.

Without them, expect to maybe struggle through the game on easy if you are lucky. I imagine it would be worth playing if you can get a bunch of friends to join you, but seeing as most people bought Kingdoms of Amalar, you might have to convince a few friends to get it or wait till they get it on sale before you will be able to find out. Do not think about getting this game for this purpose right now though... it's not worth it.

Bugs: This engine definitely has issues which suggest the port thing all the more. For starters, I am playing on a machine which is so far beyond the recommended requirements that no reason for it to run anything less then perfectly liquid smooth at any given time... and yet, I can't say it did. In a few very specific rooms on a few very specific levels, the game seemed to chug, and yet that isn't even the correct word. Your movements chug and seem to be in odd blocks of animation, but everyone else is perfectly smooth. I do not understand it, and the only explanation I can think of is the engine was not made for PC hardware, but adapted later and not too cleanly. Add this to the fairly easy time I had of turning quicker then you would on a controller and seeing things render in after they were on my screen, and Im pretty sure this, while a great game, is a not-so-well-done port. And for once, I have to argue that being a port is a bug since it has made some engine functionality appear, well... buggy.

Overall: Despite the issues I can honestly say this is a damn good FPS game, and I highly reccomend it to anyone looking for something a little different in the genre. If you are a fan of series like Spawn, then all the more check this one out. You won't regret it.

Aquired: Gamestop

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