The Darkness 2

Don’t let go.

I loved the first Darkness game on the 360. Ok, so it was flawed, and had its frustrations, but the story and premise were superb, and the darkness abilities were a tremendous addition to the FPS formula.

As far as I can tell, Starbreeze Studios weren’t available to make a sequel (as they were busy sticking the penis of modernity into the eye socket of the classic that is Syndicate, but I digress), and so this task passed to Digital Extremes. Famous for helping to develop the Unreal games, they also made the multiplayer components for both Bioshock 2 and Homefront. Generally, their expertise lies in multishooty.

What I would like to know is how they managed to go from being the multiplayer “go-to guys” to making a very strong contender for single player game of the year (if you (arguably) play it on a pad of some sort; it’s apparently a bit of a ballache to play with the mouse and keys, so I used the 360 pad for it). They took the controls and general gameplay from Starbreeze’s earlier work and tightened everything. The controls are super responsive, and to be honest they fucking needed to be, because the game quickly ramps up to be an onslaught and it rarely lets up. Most games, at their most hectic, try and throw everything at you and force you to bludgeon your way through. The Darkness 2 pretty much starts like this, and it forces you to quickly adapt to the always-changing surroundings. After a while, you’ll be aiming a pistol at one enemy while slicing at another with one of the Darkness tentacles while readying the other tentacle to eat the heart of a third enemy.

I’m trying to avoid the story for the game, cos any synopsis will rob you of the surprises, and it is an experience that isn’t much like any other (well, other than the first Darkness). There’s an introductory video that explains the broad points of the plot from the first game (Mafia kid Jackie Estacado hits his 21st birthday, finds out he now has the powers of eternal evil, which decide to manifest themselves as a couple of bad-ass tentacles, mafia kills his bird, he gets revenge, gets to see her soul one last time before it disappears), and with that covered it starts. And what with me trying to avoid the story stuff, I’ll tiptoe around it. Like this.

The Darkness 2 does things that usually annoy the piss out of me in other games, but it gets them right. For instance, the between-level hub. You know the drill; somewhere you can walk around slowly without any guns, just talking to people and then pressing a button or something to go to the next level. In The Darkness 2, the hub is the penthouse apartment Jackie lives in. Due to what happens in the plot, whenever you go there, all Jackie’s crew and family are there discussing the elements of the plot. Where this game gets it right is that it rarely takes control off you when you’re in the apartment (“no player, you MUST look at this!”), and instead of “press X to make the fucker in front of you give you a sermon”, you get “press X to make the fucker in front of you give you one sentence of dialogue”. One sentence. They’re all optional. You don’t have to talk to anyone if you don’t want to, and if you don’t want to hear anything else they have to say, you just walk away. However, you won’t really want to, cos the characters are brilliant. From Frank and Eddie winding each other up at the bar to the two idiot henchmen that are always seem to be taking the piss out of Jackie whenever he is right behind them, every mafia cliche is realised in a perfectly entertaining way, and you’ll like all of them by the end of it.

And oh my fuck, what an ending.

I’ll stop here now. After my slump the other week where I went totally off games, The Darkness 2 brought me right back on to them and then some. It’s a mighty fine piece of entertainment, a superbly-realised shooter with a twist, and it has a mockney elf running around shouting “YOU CUNT!” at people while you fight.

Game of the year.

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