Flaws aside, The Darkness is a game you really should play.
- Fast paced, visceral experience with a mix of shooting with guns and using the titular Darkness
- Voice acting is fantastic throughout
- While script gets wonky at times, it is extremely solid
- One of the few games that knows when to slow down for its emotional scenes
- That being said, there are some genuinely heartbreaking scenes in this game
- "Open-world" with a variety of side missions, unlocks, and powers
- "Creeping Dark" is an awesome power
- Darkness/Light powers are unique and very cool
- Jackie is the first antihero that's actually an antihero: you are very sympathetic towards him despite him clearly being an awful person
- Really makes you feel like a badass
- Side-missions usually net you nothing but collectibles
- Parts of the story go from "awesome" to "weird" really quickly
- Of the four darkness powers, you'll only really use two (spike tentacle and creeping dark)
- You'll also almost never use Darklings, as they are essentially useless since you are an overpowered monster
- "Open world" really just means "you get to walk a lot on empty streets"
- Lots of dead time between your main objectives that seem to be just padding the length
- Graphics are decent but everything has that "shiny plastic" look of early high-def games
Fun fact: This game is M rated. Who would have thought?
The Darkness was a game that snuck out relatively unnoticed back in 2007 and didn't sell any copies until years later. Now considered a "cult classic," the game is based on a comic book regarding the life and times of mob-boss-in-training Jackie Estacado, an young italian who, on his 21st Birthday, inherits a supernatural, parasitic demonic badass known only as The Darkness. Which is great timing, considering it was just about this time that his jackass Uncle Paulie decided he wanted to off him, seeing as Jackie is next in line to be the big boss. What follows is a bloody adventure through both New York and (surprisingly) Purgatory as Jackie tries to both off his Uncle, discover the truth behind The Darkness, and rid himself of its corrupting, evil powers once and for all.
Of course, this isn't until after he's told The Darkness to brutally murder hundreds of people, but hey...you have to use what you've been given.
|You get both guns and The Darkness. Uncle Paulie is totally screwed.|
The Darkness (the game, not the character/demon/whatever) is essentially a limited open-world game combined with some wild shooting sequences and an occasional drop to the linear Purgatory. Because it tries to blend so many genres, it falls short a bit by never doing any of these things excellently, but it is perfectly content on doing all of them well. Darkness powers are especially fantastic to use, especially when you unlock more of them, because they are both brutal, disgusting, violent, and awesome. Basically you have The Darkness with you at all times (except it's retracted when around civilians), and it absorbs power when you are in the dark, and burns away into nothing if you are in a light. Which means keeping an eye out and shooting up lights is an essential part of gameplay. It sounds annoying, but actually it works out pretty good, especially when the standard thugs flip out whenever you turn out a light and then impale them seven feet in the air with a massive tentacle of pure darkness.The Darkness (the power, not the game) is limited, however, to short distance attacks. You do get a bunch of oddities to your arsenal - a black hole that takes all your power but makes a big portal that sucks dudes up, a pair of 'darkness guns' which are pretty much useless - but the only two I used were the impaling tentacle of doom thing and "Creeping Dark," which gives you the creepy perspective of a darkness head as it crawls about the ground, and you can sneak up on people and EAT THEIR HEARTS OUT OF THEIR CHESTS for an instant kill. Oh yeah, and how you gain power-up/level-up is by eating the hearts of enemies you've killed for some really nasty animations. Like I said: this game is M rated for a reason.
|The Darkness (both game and character) is exceptionally well animated throughout.|
The shooting is passable, with duel-wielding being the order of the day, though it isn't anything to write home about. Killing people with The Darkness power is much more satisfying (and easier), so I usually only used guns for shooting out lights or the occasional jerk who was too far away for me to rip his heart out from a distance.The open-world elements are probably the worst bits of the game. Essentially The Darkness (the game, not the character) really wanted to have a bunch of side-quests but had no idea how to reward you if you finished them, seeing as the hearts of mortals is the only way your Darkness powers up. So instead it just gives you crappy unlockables like concept art, which was great until we developed the interent three decades before this game's release where you can get all that stuff with a simple Google search. The areas you go to, if you don't have a specific quest assigned there, are totally empty, bland, and not worth visiting. It's like everybody went inside and closed their doors because a big Jackie with demon arms popped out of the subway station. Who would have thought?
The point being is that The Darkness (the power, not the game) is a blast to play, the shooting is passable, the main story missions are captivating and fun but the side-missions and anything to do with the open world are boring. This is only accented by the fact that Jackie has no sprint button and likes to meander about at his own pace, so if you play this game ditch every side quest and just do the main stuff. Because the main stuff is really, really good.
|Plus The Darkness (the power, not the game) can lift cars and seriously mess stuff up.|
Here's something I bet you didn't expect: The Darkness (the game, not the power) has a really, really good story. Yeah, I know, right? We have this super-violent first person shooter seeped with bloody demonic executions and taking place in the seedy, mob underbelly of New York, and the story actually has a lot of heart to it? It's true!The main "heart" of this story comes from Jenny, Jackie's girlfriend who he genuinely cares for. In many other games this would be a contrived, sappy, garbage romance but in The Darkness (again: game, not power) their relationship is handled...well, realistically. There is very few sappy quips or melodramatic lovey-dovy moments. There's even a part in the game (that has since been brought up by any fan of this game as an example of excellent in-game storytelling) where you simply sit on the couch with your arm around her (in first person still), watching To Kill a Mockingbird on TV as she slowly falls asleep. You can literally watch the entire movie with her if you feel like it. It's a quiet, tender moment that makes you wonder why the hell movies have been able to do this forever, but games are so scared to have any sort of emotional scene without bludgeoning you with how you should feel about it. What happens with regards to Jenny in the story only further push this whole thing into "heartbreaking" and "holy cow this is told really well" territory, and while the story itself really isn't that groundbreaking, it's the execution that really shines.
Parts of the story get really weird, and without getting to spoilers I'll just say this: you spend about 2/3 of the game in New York, and 1/3 in Purgatory. As in, literal Purgatory. See, Jackie's story is about both needing The Darkness (the power, not the game) to fulfill his goals and not wanting it to corrupt him further. So he has to figure out how to get rid of it, and can only do that in Purgatory. It's a story based on a comic book series, ok? It's going to be a bit...out there.
|The game doesn't look particularly great, but it's passable so whatever.|
Something that is great is the voice acting, which is fantastic throughout. You don't really notice good voice acting (unless it's paired with an equally great script, like Portal 2 or Nier), but the voice actors in The Darkness (the game not the...you know what? I think you are smart enough to figure it out) really pull no stops. The Darkness itself is voiced by Mike Patton, the lead singer of Faith No More, and his growling voice and leering threats are executed flawlessly.It's also really cool how, during loading screens, Jackie monologues on screen about his life while smoking a cigarette or messing with a pistol. These little loading bits are actually really well written, and I just wish there had been more of them. They do change as you progress through the story, however, which is another amazing touch.Graphically this game won't turn any heads, except maybe the extreme gore when The Darkness (you know which one) rips a heart out of some guy and eats it right in front of you. Everything looks a bit...heavy and plasticy, like most early Xbox 360 games did. It certainly isn't bad, it just lacks style. Luckily they seem to have fixed this in The Darkness II, which has more of a "graphic novel" look about it with its incredible cel-shading, but The Darkness still looks fine if a bit dated.
|Also, whoever did the cover art for The Darkness II should get a prize. That just looks...awesome. Some loyal reader should buy it for me so I can play and review it. :D|
So...the final verdict? I really enjoyed my time with this game. The story, the voice acting, the great Darkness powers...all of it came together in a package that was a lot of fun. It does have some frustrating gunplay, especially at the beginning, and on Hard the game actually is...well...Hard, but despite the assortment of minor problems plaguing it, The Darkness is still a very solid game. Considering you can grab a copy for about $8 used from Gamestop, I'd really suggest picking up a copy if any part of this game has interested you. It's a fascinating anomaly in a world where most games prefer to just stick to their genre trappings, and it looks like its sequel is just as good.
Were I to give it a score rating, it would be a four out of five.
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