If there’s one company who knows how to make a good videogame based on a licensed property, it’s Starbreeze Studios. Their games are almost always one-trick-ponies with little, if any, incentive to go back again – but they’re a great ride. Back in 2007, they gave us The Darkness, based on Top Cow Comics’ supernatural thriller about a young mobster who gains demonic powers and uses them to overthrow his rotten uncle and head of the Franchetti crime family, Paulie.
It was great fun and it had that Starbreeze Studios je nais se quois – a distinctive feel in the gameplay that anyone who has played enough of their games will know. For this reason, I wonder how many fans of the game were worried when they learned that Digital Extremes would be handling development of the sequel, The Darkness II. Would it be the same? Would it be good?
The answer to the first question is no – it doesn’t feel like the Starbreeze game. There are some similarities in the controls and the idea of commanding demonic powers is similar, but that realistic, footstep-by-footstep style of moving and the floatiness in the aiming is gone, replaced by a trimmed, locked and buttery-smooth moving and aiming system much more like something out of a balls-out action shooter. Okay, but is it good?
To be honest, yes it is. The smoother aiming system makes shooting a joy, especially since there are plenty of awesome guns to use. Jackie’s Darkness powers are also tons of fun to sling around. This time, he can command each Darkness “arm” independently. The left one is used for picking up and throwing things – including enemies – and the right is used for delivering all kinds of nasty attacks. As Jackie kills enemies, devours hearts with his Darkness arms and finds hidden relics, he gains experience which he spends in several skill trees to learn all kinds of new Darkness abilities and attacks. He’ll also have a little Darkling minion that constantly follows him around, who is not only amusing, but useful. You can’t control him directly, but he’ll do his own thing, often pulling enemies out of cover so you can shoot them or jumping on their backs and covering their eyes.
Apart from that, it’s an entertaining story to go through, roughly five or six hours for most veteran shooter fans, with well-designed characters and excellent performances all round. The graphics are great; some people have complained about the illustrative style, but I don’t see why, it’s gorgeous. Oh, and once you’re done, you can play a set of side missions to the main story using four other characters who each have their own Darkness powers – cooperatively online, if you want.
So there you have it. If you enjoyed the first game, I can’t see why you wouldn’t like this one. It’s not going to change your life, but it’s a great way to spend a weekend with the side missions giving you incentive to pick it up afterwards.