Now, that might sound like something of a copout to fans of the comic…so I guess you’ll just have to trust me when I say that Starbreeze have done a fine job replicating Jackie’s powers in videogame form despite these limitations. So much so in fact, I’d go as far to say that Jackie’s Darkness powers, particularly the ‘creeping darkness’ first handed to the player very early in the game, is equally integral to the success of The Darkness as the gravity gun is to Half Life 2. And it’s just as much fun, too.
If anything this is less of a gimmick than the gravity gun, because the creeping darkness is such an effective and enjoyable way to dispose of the many cops, mobsters, zombies and other badguys that come your way. Basically, once you’ve acquired your darkness powers a quick tap of the right bumper will swap your view down to ground-level as you take control of one of the darkness’ many tentacles that grow from Jackie’s shadow. Using the right stick to move long the floor, walls and ceilings at considerable speed, another tap of the face buttons will attack any unfortunates in your path while another button will rip their hearts from their dead carcasses, feeding the darkness and helping it to grow stronger (ie, last longer). Once you’ve dealt with everyone in the vicinity another tap of the bumper will send you zooming back at high speed, retracing the exact steps (slither?) you took to get there (usually producing a natural reaction of ‘wheeeeeeeeeeeee!’). From start to finish it’s an amazing effect and something that can be quite exhilarating; sneaking up on enemies unawares and taking them out in one swift blow as their comrades Image 1 of 17. Click to enlarge
Image 1 of 17. Click to enlarge
And if you’ve read the comic, you’ll know that’s exactly the kind of feeling that its creators were trying convey in the character of Jackie Estacado. He strives to be a good person, but in the end he just can’t deny the darkness within him. Playing this game can make you sympathise with that viewpoint.
A further three distinct darkness powers are revealed over the course the game, and although they’re all fun in their own right, none quite manage to recapture the thrill of the creeping darkness. That said, with a combination of the regular firearms available to you (dual pistols, shot gun etc) and your darkness powers this offers a lot of flexibility in way of tactics. And the game actively encourages you to be creative with the arsenal on offer as Jackie is extremely vulnerable; even on medium difficulty level he’ll go down after just a few shots. Even with the slightly dubious AI, using your darkness powers in tandem with your guns (both of which can be used simultaneously) is key to success.
There are also a couple of other elements to consider before wading in all guns blazing, too. Firstly, as the name suggests the darkness isn’t too fond of light. In fact, it eats away at its life force and renders it totally ineffective unless you either find a dark corner to rest or simply make one yourself by shooting out all the lights. A tactic you’ll probably get used to before seriously engaging with the enemy, and one that has the hidden benefit of allowing Jackie to see in the dark while his enemies cannot. Sweet.
The last thing the game throws your way, but by no means the least useful, is the darklings. These little imp-like creatures can be summoned from special portals in the ground and directed to do your bidding at the press of a button; gunning down the enemy, strapping themselves with explosives or simply taking out all the lights for the benefit of their glorious master. Again the element of power really comes in to play here; it’s Image 2 of 17. Click to enlarge
Image 2 of 17. Click to enlarge
Unfortunately this level of freedom does come with a price. While the majority of the game is highly polished to an almost ridiculous level, he two most unique elements the game presents – the creeping darkness and the darklings – feel as though they needed maybe a few more months of development. The amount of times I found myself stuck in a corner while the creeping darkness refused to move any further is testament to this, as is the darklings’ regular misinterpretation of your commands, sending them off in a totally useless direction in the heat of battle. Quite annoying as you can imagine.
Still, eventually you’ll become used to the fact that the darkness can’t go over dead bodies for some reason and learn to navigate around them instead. It’s annoying, but they’re still just quirks rather than game-crippling bugs. The overall enjoyment to be had from these features far outweighs any negative aspects.
The game helps effectively fight off the kind of repetitiveness that can become associated with genre by introducing you to two distinct environments. For reasons that I won’t spoil here, Jackie swaps his usual present-day New York setting for a nightmare-like World War I scenario in which the Germans are comprised of the recently dead (also known as zombies) and the allies are trying their hardest to keep themselves together. Literally, as you can tell by all the stitches across their faces. Although it can be a little too easy to get lost in no-mans land, the trenches, deserted villages and underground bunkers of this environment create such a fantastically oppressive atmosphere it’s hard not to be impressed. And if nothing else, it at least offers up a bit of welcome variety.
As was evident from their last attempt at the genre, The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, Starbreeze put a lot of effort in to the presentation and story of their games. As The Darkness is seemingly based around an enhanced version of the Riddick Image 3 of 17. Click to enlarge
Image 3 of 17. Click to enlarge
This also extends to the story, which has been aided with the talents of original comic scribe Paul Jenkins. A smart move, because his first story in the second volume of The Darkness around which this game is based is probably one of the best in the comic’s history. And the voice acting doesn’t let the side down either; it’s generally of a very high stand\rd throughout, including a star turn from Faith No More frontman Mike Patton as creepy the voice of the darkness itself, encouraging you to feed its lust for blood. I won’t spoil anything for you, but I can say that Top Cow couldn’t have expected much better from a feature film adaptation, let alone a videogame.
And really, that can be applied to The Darkness as a whole. There are maybe one or two doubts that stop me from wholeheartedly recommending to this to anyone and everyone, yet fans of the comic or anyone after something a little different from the FPS games should certainly give this one a try. And considering the already over-crowded FPS market on the 360, that takes quite some doing.
Retro Game Challenge“
Unless you are an avid fan of the content out of TVNihon.com you probably never heard of Game Center CX (unless you chanced upon it over at youtube that is). So with that said here’s a thought… if the...
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