One of the highlights of 2K’s presentation at PAX East this year was The Darkness II
. The first-person shooter horror title in development by Digital Extremes takes places several years after the disastrous finale of The Darkness I.
You don’t expect your typical mafia themed video game to include demonic spirits and a lot of melee action. The Darkness, however, has never been centrally focused on the mafia realm. The protagonist’s involvement with the mafia takes the passenger seat to a deadly, malicious force that has chosen him as host. Jackie’s main drive in The Darkness II is revenge for his murdered girlfriend, killed as a result of his lifestyle choices, Jackie is haunted by her ghost, who also seems to lead him into even more calamity.
The demo opens with an unidentified, mutilated looking man intent on adopting your powers. You are brought to face what appears to be memories of your consumption by the darkness. Picking up a few years after the first game, Jackie is attacked by an opposing mafia group at his restaurant while innocently having dinner with two women. The darkness finally infiltrates Jackie’s being, and his burned and broken body is rejuvenated along with two additions: two demonic arms.
The Darkness II’s winning quality is definitely in the absurd amount of enjoyment you can garner from various melee options with your sprouted demon arms. Your left arm will snatch things up, while your right arm slashes at them. Together, the demon arms can land gruesome execution moves. My favorite of these is to snatch an unsuspecting enemy by the head to have the right demon arm tear his throat apart. Instant gratification is most assuredly to be had here.
Grabbing with your left arm is more versatile than it would seem. Your left demon arm can grab objects to impale or slice your enemies. However, more often than not the objects you grab will simply slam against your enemies. You’ll have to find poles for impaling, or blades for slicing. Conversely, out in the streets you can grab car doors to use as a shield while you shoot from behind them. That’s right: quad controls allow you to shoot and melee simultaneously as you please.
One of the main gameplay components in The Darkness II is your dependency on darkness to feed your connection to the demonic powers. While most horror games will have you running for the light, The Darkness II will have you shooting them out in order to stay connected to your powers. While there is a benefit to being able to control this aspect of lighting in places where the light source is electrical, it can also quickly become monotonous by having to continuously shoot lights out before you can make your attacks. This was indicative in one of the demo scenarios. The subway system through which we traversed had multiple racks of lighting, as well as multiple enemies surrounding them, making it a cat and mouse chase to defeat your enemies.
There are several things I would like to see in the progression of The Darkness II to turn an interesting combat routine into a wholly enthralling game. Firstly, the game should provide ample throw-able environment pieces that distinguish themselves from simply smashing into enemies. Second, gameplay combat from level to level often feels like an orchestrated dance. Developers know what areas of the room you will likely be defending from. The subway scenario that had you crippled by rows and rows of lighting isn’t conducive to the powerful perspective gamers are meant to partake in when playing as this demon-consumed mafia boss. I felt a disconcerting realization that I was at a severe disadvantage.
Rather than be a challenge, the gameplay aspect of light versus darkness felt overbearing. If light placement is intelligently designed, players will find it more as overcoming an obstacle than finally getting through a disaster zone. Otherwise, The Darkness II has a unique grasp of quad controls to vary your playstyle from vicious melee to the precision of weaponry. It is that quality that will keep my eyes in their direction, hoping the combat sequences are as interesting as the demon character you control.
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