The Darkness is one of those games I always intended to get around to. I loved the concept and was a big fan of Starbreeze's earlier work. I even went as far as to buy the game, knowing that I would get around to it eventually. But alas, it sits on my shelf collecting dust. There was something about the game that didn't immediately grab me, so I moved on to newer action games and forgot that The Darkness existed.
Perhaps I put down the controller too quickly. After checking out The Darkness II at this year's Penny Arcade Expo, I am excited to go back and see what I've been missing. It took no more than a twenty minute long demo to remind me why I was so excited about this franchise in the first place. With a new developer (Digital Extreme, best known for Dark Sector) in charge, The Darkness II is shaping up to be another must-own title from 2K Games.
It all starts with our hero, Italian-American hitman Jackie Estacado, being tortured. Jackie knows a thing or two about being tortured, thanks to a dark supernatural force that is making his twenties a living nightmare. But in this scenario he's being tortured in an entirely new way ... a more Biblical way. There's a mysterious man with a nasty face burn looking to take Jackie's dark powers any way he can, and right now he's literally crucifying Jackie. Things do not look good for our hero.
The twenty minute demo was mostly played through flashbacks, showing how Jackie got into this particular predicament. In the first flashback we see Jackie having a relaxing dinner at his favorite Italian restaurant. But even before the appetizers show up, a van busts through the windows and gunmen shoot up the place. Jackie's leg is injured in the explosion, forcing a friend to drag our hero to safety.
This leads to a rather exciting sequence where Jackie, still being dragged through the restaurant, has to keep both people safe. He grabs a gun and shoots any bad guy that gets in his way. The result is a fun on-rails sequence that got me excited about the way the guns handled. But I would soon find out that this was just the tip of the iceberg.
In another flashback we see the darkness take over Jackie, instantly repairing his leg and making him a force to be reckoned with. We're quickly taught how to use the dark powers, which manifests itself as a pair of black snake-monsters looping up from each shoulder. These demonic snakes can be used to whip enemies, rip bad guys in two, throw interactive items, pick up guns and so much more. They are your key to surviving this horrible situation you've been thrust into.
The demo takes us down a series of creepy corridors into an abandoned subway. Wait ... did I say abandoned? I meant to say that it's filled to the brim with bad guys! It's up to Jackie to use his powers to kill all of the attackers and eat their hearts all while staying out of the light. As we make our way through the subway we witness a grisly train wreck that produces even more baddies. But I didn't mind, it was a great way to keep learning how to use my power to prey on these hapless bad guys. They won't have a clue what hit them!
Back in present day, Jackie appears to be down for the count. Both of his hands have been nailed to what looks like a cross and a big surly guy is just about to make you go to sleep for good. And that's when Jackie does something daring. He rips his hand right off of the nail (leaving a gigantic hole you can look through) and buries the other spike deep in the torturer's head. It's a brutal sequence that was both shocking and liberating. He makes a run for freedom and the demo ends.
Even though it's still several months away, The Darkness II is shaping up nicely. Although the actual gunplay wasn't anything special, I had a blast using the darkness tentacles to rip people in half and impale baddies. I was also impressed with the visuals, which give off a cel-shaded look (though the developers insisted that they weren't using cel-shading). The narrative seemed tightly wound and I genuinely can't wait to find out what happens next. But first, maybe I should go back and actually play through the 2007 action game.