Support Sid, click to buy via us...
The Darkness II matches a new look with its comic book credentials, but it's still the sheer demonic madness of it all that is the real draw.
The Darkness games are based on a comic book, but not just any old comic book. This one has such a convoluted and intricate plot that it makes Lord of the Rings seem like a walk in the Plenor Fields. The Darkness II follows up the 2007 game that broke new ground in terms of first person story telling -- although it was rapidly eclipsed by era-peer Bioshock.
The Darkness II may sounds like it's going to be more of the same, but it quickly looks quite different. For a start the visuals have moved to a hand drawn look, a bit like Borderlands, and give the game a more playful feel.
Of particular interest to me is the recently announced co-operative Vendetta mode where you play as one of four characters each with different abilities. Because of this mode's restraint in demonic descruction, in comparison to the main game where you summon huge demonic octopuses and golem-like Darklings, it offers a more strategic turn. You can't just charge into an encounter and expect to come out alive -- quite the reverse.
My favourite looking character here is Inugami who wields a possessed samurai sword that has the added bonus of being able to restore health -- as well as slice up the demon hordes. He also has a unique magic attack that summons a swarm of tiny demons which I also like the look of. The other co-operative characters offer shotguns (Shoshanna), black holes (DuMond) and fast fists (Wilson).
The co-operative mode is a mix of the sort of gameplay you find in Left 4 Dead, Halo Reach's Firefight mode and Gears Of War's Horde mode. This ensures that you have to make the most of your characters abilities to score well. I enjoyed learning to play both Halo Reach and Gears of War with the different load-out options, and the thought of having another multiplayer game like this to get my teeth into is more than a little exciting.
The co-operative is a mix of Left 4 Dead, Halo's Firefight and Gears Of War's Horde mode.
This co-operative mode also has a story running through it, although I'm less excited about this. The story in the main game is more convincing however and I expect to be hooked in pretty quickly - I actually took to taking notes about the different characters and plot points in the first game to try and keep track of it all, although maybe I shouldn't admit to that publicly (ed: too late).
The campaign's protagonist returns from the first game. Jackie has a variety of special abilities but it is the range of firearms that look the most fun to play with -- this is a first person shooter after all.
Alongside these traditional weapons are a variety of demonic appendages that can grab people, rip things apart and generally cause carnage in a blood thirsty kind of way. Those of a sensitive disposition may want to stop reading at this point as the grossness continues to build. Enemies that have been captured and killed can have their hearts eaten by Jackie to regain health -- which proceeds a particularly unpleasant process of cutting them out with your hand weapon.
This is more than mere gross novelty, or shock value though. The Darkness II puts its gore to good work in terms of gameplay. Tentacles are essentially a novel way of interacting with the world and enable you to grab and throw, rip open car doors and even construct makeshift shields. All this is achieved with a system that avoids making the player too powerful and demands that you pay attention to stay alive.
But to dwell on the offense of it all is to miss the point.
As well as all this you also have your Darklings horde to call on. Unlike the first game though you can now dictate where they go and how they attack. Jackie and the Darklings are upgraded as you make your way through the slightly over complicated range of skills -- each of which lead to yet more ways of being gross with your enemies in the name of victory.
Some (many?) may find all this a little too much to bear. But to dwell on the offense of it all is to miss the point. The Darkness II was always going to be this sort of game. What is more of a surprise, and much more exciting, is how much innovation there is in terms of gameplay. Sure, it's bloodthirsty offensive gameplay, but that's never stopped a videogame being fun in the past and it's not going to hamper The Darkness II now.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: