The Darkness

(was meant to be playing Magicka last, but the multiplayer side of it is bugged to fuck, and I don’t want to spoil it by hoofing through the single player, so I had chance to finish The Darkness and finish this monster post too, so here it is)

The ace thing about having a blog that no-one reads is that I can type what I like. For example, things I’ll forget. Like all them games that come close to greatness and yet don’t quite make it. The games that you’ll forget about, and years down the line, someone will mention it, and you’ll remember that it was great, but you won’t remember why. The Darkness is one of them games.

The story is a bit, well, off. Jackie Estacado dresses like a goth and is a mafia hitman by the time he is 20 years old. Read that sentence again, absorb it, realise how fucking stupid all them words are when they’re put in that order, and we’ll move on. Jackie Estacado, the gothy mafia hitman nipper, gets a surprise on the eve of his 21st birthday; he finds that he is inextricably linked to a load of black tentacles growing out of his back. They can also speak to his mind. They call themselves The Darkness (not the band, thankyouverymuch).

Jackie finds this out when he has to fight for his life, because his Uncle Paulie (not his real uncle) decides he hates Jackie enough to send people to kill him on his 21st birthday. Uncle Paulie, the man who adopted Jackie as a kid and taught him how to be a hitman, decides to have him killed on his 21st birthday. Read that sentence again, absorb it, realise how fucking stupid all them words are when they’re put in that order, and we’ll move on.

So that’s the story. What’s the game like? It’s a twitchy, fiddly FPS to begin with. The aiming cursor is minute and skids all over the place. The bad guys are all bullet sponges, so you fire like mad all the time. Eventually you get used to the aiming, and it becomes very comfortable. You learn that there’s enough auto-aim for you to trust when the cursor starts going walkies. The weapons aren’t too bad either; dual pistols and sub machine guns are best, followed by the tactical rifle, and I avoided the others like the plague cos I didn’t need to use them really. The dual wielding takes some getting used to as well. It seems that the Darkness is concealing an entire gun rack behind Jackie’s leather overcoat as he never reloads the dual wielded weapons, he just drops them when they’re empty and new ones magically appear. In this game, you don’t run out of pistol ammo, you run out of pistols. Bizarre, but there you go.

Here’s something I don’t get to do very often. I’m going to rant about the sound in the game. The Darkness is a game that assumes you like listening to things, rather than seeing things or, more importantly, playing things. For each collectable secret you find, you have to use it on a payphone in the game to unlock the extra content for that collectable (and the more I type about this game, the more I realise it makes absolutely fuck all sense half the time, but I digress). So you go to the payphone, you select which collectable item you want to unlock, and then listen to an audio clip of some amusing nutter or amusing answer phone message or amusing business advert. Where this gets ultra annoying is when you have, ooh, say twelve collectables to unlock content for, which means about twelve minutes of stupid shit. You can skip all this by not redeeming the collectables, but that’s not very fair cos you’ve collected the fuckers already. Just hand the extra content over, Starbreeze Studios! You can also skip the individual audio clips, but you still have to sit through the “picking up the phone” animation, listen to two phone rings, hammer the B button into oblivion to cancel the audio, sit through the “putting the phone down” animation, rinse, repeat, just fucking shoot me now.

Doesn’t sound so bad, does it? Well, try adding unskippable animations whenever you go to a new place or get on a train, which were a good idea (they’re meant to cover the loading times), but they loop. Oh, they loop. You’ll have heard most of them twice by the halfway point. By the end, you’ll be praying for loading bars to come back.

These things the game does, these things annoy me. But I must have liked something, surely? Why else would I type all this shite? What does The Darkness get right? Everything I’ve not mentioned yet.

Jackie and his Darkness tentacles are a slice of game design genius. You get four Darkness powers, three of which take on aspects of the tentacles, and the last one is a set of poncy guns (which I didn’t really bother with, cos I’m like that). The Darkness powers combine to give you choice on how to approach a situation, and power to force your way through if if starts going tits-up. I generally like to start a fight by getting a stealth tentacle to climb up the walls, across the ceiling, back down to the floor behind a bad guy, and get the razor-toothed bugger to bite the bastard’s face off. This usually alerts other bad guys, so I switch to the stabby tentacle and skewer a couple of them, throwing the corpses at their chums for good measure. Finally, if I’ve got enough powers left, I’ll finish off with the black hole tentacles which conjure up a black hole that sucks in the remaining enemies and kills them.

Much like Jackie and his Darkness, I have a love / hate relationship with the game. Jackie loves the fact he can kill the fuck out of things with his big black tentacles of doom; I love the fact the games lets me make him do it. Jackie hates how the Darkness can be a bit of a cunt at times; I hate how The Darkness throws small, annoying bits of cunt at you all the fucking time. Like the aforementioned audio shite with the unlockables, the hub structure to the game that means you get up to four loading animations to sit through before you get to where you want to be, the fact that you’ll try and use your black hole ability where it makes sense to use it (where your cursor is aimed) and the game decides to put it somewhere else (in front of the scenery to the side of where your cursor is). I could go on. These things, I hate.

But there’s so much to love. You’re asked to play as a mafia hitman with badass supernatural powers, whose story takes you to a couple of places you’d never expect to go, and you’re given the chance to revel in being as much of a monster as the tentacles spewing out of your shoulders are. Did I tell you that you level up your powers by making the Darkness eat the hearts of your enemies? They love hearts! I’ve grown rather fond of the Darkness, so I’ve ensured that every available corpse is scavenged by my cute little black death back worms.

I’ve tried not to spoil too much about the game here, even though it is six years old (ish). The game has plenty of surprises up its sleeves, and if you ever get the chance to play it, you’ll appreciate each and every one of them. I got it pre-owned for £3. Bargain.

Keep in mind it’s an old game, and you’ll fucking love it. Recommended.

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