PAXEast Hands-On Preview – The Darkness II
*This preview is based on a very early build of the game, containing sequences and plot elements that may not be reflective of the final product*
Most people on their 21st birthday go out to a bar to drink. I myself had college finals, afterwhich me and some friends tried to go to dinner at a local Frostburg hibachi restaurant, after we found out there was a two hour wait we decided to go to a movie which ended up being sold out. At this point my friends gave up so my 21st birthday ended up being me and my roommate eating Pizza, drinking cider and watching CSI. My bad luck on my 21st birthday pales in comparison to Jackie Estacado’s from 2007’s The Darkness. In the course of just one night he lost two of his friends during a massive gunfight, was set up to be killed by his paranoid adoptive uncle, became bonded to an ancient demon called The Darkness, and had to watch his girlfriend and longtime love Jenny be murdered right in front of him by the man who raised him. Talk about a crappy birthday. It’s been two years since Jackie’s life fell apart and he embraced The Darkness living inside of him. Now he is back to his old mafioso ways and has taken over as the head of the crime family, but a mysterious group of people are after him so they can steal the powers of The Darkness for themselves.
At the start of the demonstration Jackie’s luck doesn’t seem to have improved, he has been taken captive by the mysterious organization and crucified while a strange device sucked the power of The Darkness right out of him. The first thing I noticed is the radical difference in art styles. The original game had a very gritty, dark and realistic style, reminiscent of developer Starbreeze’s other title The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay. The new game features a cell shaded graphic style giving it a more comic book style. The game didn’t look as dark as its predecessor did, but it does a much better job of expressing the series’ comic book roots. After a brief conversation with the leader of his captors a flashback begins showing Jackie out for dinner at a fancy Italian restaurant, he only just sits down with his two dates when the shooting starts and a van crashes through the window, mutilating Jackie’s leg. One of his henchmen grabs him and begins to drag him through the restaurant while Jackie, now in the player’s control, shoots at the attackers. Anyone who has played the first game will be right at home with the shooting mechanics, which remain a rather standard fare; right trigger shoots, left trigger aims (or fires the left weapon when two guns are drawn). Jackie is almost free from the restaurant when a gas explosion engulfs him and the remainder of his men, ending the first part of the flashback.
Back at the torture party our busted antagonist (who looks a bit like a post car wreck Crispin Glover) explains that Jackie must give up The Darkness of his own free will, and if he doesn’t someone else close to him will die. Upon his refusal a large fellow is brought in to help persuade Jackie a little more, and after a few painful looking interaction it’s back to the gameplay. At this point Jackie is still a gimp, surrounded by enemies and potentially on fire, all hope seems lost when Jackie finally manages to crawl outside and into some shade, unleashing The Darkness, which proceeds to dish out its usual brand of slaughter. Jackie has his leg restored by The Darkness, which remarks in a creepy and familiar voice, “Death is not an option”; thankfully Faith No More singer Mike Patton returns to voice the title demon. Now we get to take a stab at using The Darkness itself in combat, more specifically the new and improve Demon Arms. Now you have the ability to manipulate more objects in the background, from poles and other sharp metal objects which can be thrown to dispatch foes in many horrifying ways to car doors which can be used as shields and mobile cover to protect you from enemy fire before being thrown. You can also grab enemies from behind (sometimes from the front if they are distracted enough) and perform grizzly execution moves. Jackie fights his way down the street to his limo only to be blown into a building by an explosion, again being put at the mercy of one of the enemies. It is now that Jackie’s old pal The Darkling makes a reappearance, saving him from his would be killer and giving him an uzi and some ammo to help him continue to fight. Instead of having multiple Darklings like the first game, now you only have the one. Instead of just being used as gun fodder though this one is pretty useful, he will not only attack and distract enemies but also grab ammo for Jackie in the middle of conflicts. He will also gain new abilities along with Jackie as the game progresses I am sure, but no details were given. The final area of the demo is an all too familiar subway tunnel, now you need to start combining gunplay and Jackie’s Darkness powers. This is again very familiar to anyone who has played the original game, you have a few new powers, but at the core it is still the same.
I wont spoil how the demo ends, but it’s looking like things aren’t going to be any less tragic for our anti-hero this time around. The game is still early in development, but it is still looking remarkably well polished. The first game had some RPG elements in the gameplay, mainly side quests and dialogue trees, and while none of those were present in the demo I played and I couldn’t get a solid comment as to their inclusion I have a feeling that those elements will be returning. Major story details are still scarce, but fans of the comics will be happy to know that Paul Jenkins, writer for many of the original comics and also the first game, is returning to write the sequel. I played the game on an Xbox 360, and I know a PS3 version is in the works. I would also expect a PC version will be available. No release date has been set, but I think we can expect the game sometime early in 2012. I was a huge fan of the original and cannot wait to get my hands on the full game.
As a final note I am going to just say that the original game is only $4.99 for a used copy on gamestop.com, so there is absolutely no excuse why you haven’t bought one of the most original shooters from the last 5 years. At the very least you can watch the entirety of To Kill A Mockingbird inside the game, that film is a classic and should be worth 5 bucks alone!