Gaming Today Reviews: The Darkness (Xbox 360)
The Darkness (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed])
Developer: Starbreeze Studios
Publisher: 2K Games
Released: June 25, 2007
Pros: Gorgeous graphics with high attention to detail; Great storyline; Unique loading segments help keep you in the game; Darkness powers
Story: The Darkness is a modern FPS developed by Starbreeze Studios, who are known for their amazing work with The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay. In The Darkness, you take the role of Jackie Estacado, a mafia hitman who on his 21st birthday is suddenly possessed by “The Darkness”. These powers are both a gift and a curse since it gives Jackie some amazing powers, but at the same time The Darkness completely controls what Jackie does. The game has you fighting Jackie’s enemies as well as trying to control The Darkness.
Gameplay: At it’s core, The Darkness is an FPS. What really makes this game unique from all other FPS games is the powers you inherit from The Darkness. When the game starts off, you are only able to perform one darkness move which has you controlling your tentacles in order to stealthily kill your enemy, scout ahead to prevent ambushes, or travel through vents in order to break open a locked door. As the game progresses, you will be able to increase your darkness powers by eating the hearts of your enemies. Yes, you read right. This game has you eating the hearts of your enemies in order to strengthen your powers. And eating the hearts of your enemies never gets old.
The powers Jackie inherits are well worth all of the heart eating. Jackie will be able to summon Darklings which will attack enemies in various ways (i.e. Berserker Darkling attacks with a sword, Gunner attacks with a huge gun, Kamikaze blows himself and the enemy up, and Lightkiller attacks with electricity and also destroys any lights in an area). Jackie will also be able to summon tentacles, special “Darkness” guns, and my favorite power, the black hole.
Jackie’s Darkness powers are only effective in dark areas, so plan on spending a lot of time shooting out street lights, house lamps, and anything else that may shine any light on Jackie which in turn weakens his powers. This gameplay mechanic requires the player to use a bit of strategy when fighting since you don’t want to turn a corner and be stuck fighting a gang with all of the street lights lit. As Jackie uses his powers, his darkness meter drains. When that happens, Jackie needs to recharge his powers by being in the dark for a few moments.
Controls: The controls in The Darkness are pretty standard in the FPS world. The left/right triggers are used for attacks. The left/right bumpers are used for your darkness powers. One problem I had with the controls was the process of selecting different weapons and/or darkness powers. That’s all taken care of with the directional pad (Up/Down changes weapons, Left/Right changes darkness powers). The problem with it is it was difficult to change through either the darkness powers or the weapons in the middle of a fight since you don’t have much time until the enemy takes you out completely. Having the powers and/or weapons at the simple push of a button would have made changing or performing the moves on the fly a breeze. But this is a minor complaint really since you get used to it later in the game.
Graphics: This is another area where The Darkness really shines. The attention to detail of everything in this game are amazing, from the graffiti on the subway walls, to the wrinkles on an old mobsters face, Starbreeze Studios really went above and beyond with the graphics in The Darkness. The lighting is also done very well. When lights are shot, they spark and fade with the realism of an actual light bulb. Each and every part of this game is a feast for the eyes and if you don’t play this game for the story and darkness powers, at least rent it to experience what true next-gen graphics are.
Multiplayer: As much as I enjoyed the single-player experience in The Darkness, the multiplayer was a complete 180 of my experience. The multiplayer offers the usual kinds of modes found in most multiplayer games: Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture The Flag, etc. In the multiplayer, players are able to transform between their human character and a darkling character. The darkling character’s view is very low to the ground since that is how the character moves and with a hit of the jump button is able to launch itself across the level, instantly killing anything in it’s path. This sounds like a pretty cool concept, but the low camera angle really makes it difficult to see where anything is and makes it even more difficult to aim your jump properly. I don’t know if that was done on purpose or not to make it more difficult to play as a darkling, but it’s just annoying and makes the experience less enjoyable. Not only are the darklings hard to control, but they also are very easy to kill. Basically one shot can kill darkling characters. The only thing they’re good for is their speed. Especially when it comes to capture the flag type games.
Conclusion: As long as you stay clear of the multiplayer game (unless you really need those achievement points), then I can not recommend The Darkness highly enough. If you enjoyed Condemned, then you will more than likely enjoy The Darkness. With a compelling story that has twists and turns no one would expect, really cool darkness powers that make you wish there were more enemies to fight, and drop dead gorgeous graphics that will amaze you with it’s attention to detail, The Darkness is a game that must not be missed by any gamer.