I usually refuse to line up for anything. I couldn’t be bothered to line up for a Wii or a PS3 (even though I just wanted to flip them on eBay) or any new games coming out. Heck, I don’t even want to wake up early enough on release days but there was just something about this game that made me think to myself after breakfast last week “Hey, I should go check if Best Buy has The Darkness in stock yet.”
In case you haven’t heard of The Darkness, it’s a first person shooter for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 in which you play Jackie Estacado, a New York hitman who just turned 21. Oh right, he’s also possessed by a crazy looking demon called The Darkness, which manifests itself in Jackie in the form of tentacles and snake-like heads that pop out of his back and shoulders. If you think that sounds awesome, that’s probably because it is.
The game begins with a crazy car chase that has you with your two comrades speeding through a crowded New York tunnel in the wrong direction at high speed while all sorts of crooked cops and construction workers try to kill you. The plot is that after a deal goes wrong, your Uncle Paulie suspects you had a hand in it and everyone tries to kill you save for a few friends in the organization. I know it sounds like standard fare but the story is actually quite good when you take into account there’s a crazy demon inside of you.
The Darkness constantly speaks to you and taunts you through-out the game but As you progress, you and the Darkness become more and more powerful and gain new abilities. You start off with something called Creeping Dark, which allows you to take control of one of the two heads popping out over your shoulders and maneuver it as you like. It’s quite helpful for opening locked doors, finding items in crawlspaces and taking out hordes of enemies from a distance. That is, provided that you have enough Darkness power to keep it going. You recharge your powers by, well, being in the dark while being in the light depletes your strength. The Darkness also shields you against a certain amount of damage and gives you a sort of night vision.
Eventually, you get more and better powers including the ability of control tentacles that can be used to break lights, stab people and throw objects as large as trucks and dumpsters. You’ll also get Darkness guns that use Darkness energy as ammo and a Black Hole, which I’ll talk about later.
You’ll also have access to a large number of standard bullet-based weapons including pistols, shotguns, assault rifles and SMGs. At standard difficulty, the auto-aiming system seems to gravitate the guns sights toward enemy heads, which makes the game a bit too easy sometimes, in my opinion. Jackie has also never heard of recycling since every time you use up all the bullets in a gun, you throw it away and whip out a new one.
The game itself is too easy and too short. While there are some parts that are somewhat difficult, you’ll never really be stumped by much. Being a demon possessed man allows you to basically tear your enemies to shreds as long as you’re in the dark and they don’t get really lucky. After you gain the Black Hole ability, you basically win since you can just make one in the middle of a room and it’ll make a nice neat pile of bodies. The Darkness can be completed, I think, in as little as ten hours provided you stick to the main storyline. If you decide to do the side quests, that might add a few hours of playtime but there’s no real reward for doing so other than you gain access to some concept art (which includes the comic books on which the games are based and perhaps some achievement points.
However, this game is not one to pass up. Sure it might be too short and easy but it is fun. Running around stabbing people through the chest with a giant tentacle arm and then tossing them across a street or through a window is dementedly amusing and the game is quite fast paced. Even the load times seem to take no time at all since most of them during the main storyline involve Jackie sitting in a dark room explaining the plot further. There is a bit too much subway running around for my taste but that’s a minor quibble.
The voice acting is absolutely top notch. Everyone that has a voice in the game does a superb job and give fantastic performances. Even minor characters have personality. They make you care about the game and the people involved in the story. Jackie sounds like a real New York tough guy. The Darkness’ voice is especially well done as it changes pitches and degrees of rasp perfectly for a demon. It’s honestly creepy. The storyline has some great twists and in-game cutscenes. You’ll always feel like a part of the unfolding plot and, well, I don’t want to give anything away but some parts are genuinely heartbreaking. The mood and the music are also perfect for the setting.
There are a few things that I really have a problem with, though. First is that there are freakin’ tentacles growing out of my back and few people seem to be scared. Sure, they’ll yell “WHAT THE F**K IS THAT!?” but they still run at you with a gun…or worse. Seriously, there’s a part in an abandoned subway where some hobos come at you with knives. Seriously, knives. At that point, I was a bit dumbfounded, thinking “You think you can kill me with that? I’m the motherf**king Darkness!” Civilians will cower but I’m almost sure that if any of this happened in real life, all the characters in the whole game would just piss their pants and run. Instead, it’s as if they’re saying they see the demon thing going on but they still want to kill you. But I’m the freakin’ Darkness!
The ending was also a bit of a let-down for me since it just seems like a way for them to say there will be a sequel if this one is successful. It’s not as satisfying as I would have hoped although the sentiments expressed were quite nice for the storyline. You’ll either love it or hate it.
Visually, the environments are detailed and rendered wonderfully. Lighting is a main theme in this game and it’s done very well. You’ll be shooting out a lot of street lights, by the way. The character models seem a couple years behind the cutting edge but their movements seem genuine enough. Jackie waves his hands a lot while he’s talking but it seems like he would actually do it.
If you’re not too squeamish at the prospect of eating people’s hearts with a pair of demonic tentacle snake-heads, I highly recommend you try The Darkness but since it’s so short, it might just be a rental. I haven’t tried the multiplayer yet so maybe that will be good enough to make it a purchase instead.