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Genre: Action
Min OS X: 10.6

The Darkness II
April 26, 2012 | Jon Carr

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He Asked For It
The real adversary this time around is the ancient and secret Brotherhood who want to steal The Darkness from Jackie, and are willing to go to disturbing lengths to get it. Victor, the head of the Brotherhood, proves to be a truly twisted piece of work and a true villain. While Jackie as a mobster isn't particularly heroic, the Brotherhood is far worse and it's easy to root for Jackie over them. Early on they don't provide much challenge to Jackie's Darkness powers and blazing guns, but as the story progresses they throw increasingly difficult Brotherhood enemies at you, such as those with giant shields, lights, or whips - which can steal whatever gun you have equipped. Alone none of the foes are particularly troublesome, but in concert they become a challenge and force the player to use a variety of skills and abilites.

Fortunately, Jackie is very well equipped to take on any and all who oppose him. The Darkness grants him a level of life regeneration, Darkness arms and as he gains more dark essence, the ability to channel Darkness into his guns, and upgrade his Darkness powers in various ways. There are 4 skill trees available, and they cater to different play styles. One focuses on guns, one on Darkness arms, one on Darkness powers and one on Darkness executions.

If you favor heavy gunplay, you can spend points on faster reloading, extended clips, explosive bullets, and even the ability to see and shoot through walls and auto target enemies for brief periods of time. If you want to use your Darkness powers more you can upgrade your types of executions, give your Darkness arms blades, generate shields, send out swarms of insects and more.

Since you dual wield any pistol or SMG, this gives way to "quad-wielding" since you have two Darkness arms, and these can be used or fired independently of each other, or all at once. Its quite spectacular to feel and use Jackie in full swing, dual guns blazing, Darkness arms snatching up foes, performing executions, hurling pipes to impale distant enemies or snatching off car doors to use as a shield.

The left arm is used for grabbing objects or enemies, while the right arm is reserved for slashing and hacking obstacles in your way, as well as rending the life and limbs from anyone foolish enough to stand against you. In addition to single or dual wielding smaller weapons, you will find and pickup different shotguns and assault rifles which pack more of a punch, but cannot be dual wielded. Fortunately, it's easy to switch between any combination as you like.

Lastly, you also have a Darkling at your side. The small impish creature abuses corpses, curiously refers to you as "monkey" and is great for distracting or attacking enemies. An upgrade in the skill tree also allows you to grab him and hurl him at a foe where he will proceed to rip them to shreds. Your Darkling also plays a key role in the story and you even get to control him a few times.

Graphically, The Darkness 2 embodies its comic book origins with cel-shaded graphics and a vibrant art style. It looks great and the many contrasts on display help enemies stand out and environments shine. There are a few stereotypical locations such as a deserted fair, graveyard and whore house, but this doesn't hurt as everything is well designed. Your Darkness arms are a shady blue with pulsing purple lines and they hiss and wave about menacingly. Guns look and feel good and everyone is well animated. Even character faces have believable reactions and expressions.

On the audio and sound front The Darkness 2 is top notch. The voice work remains impressive for each and every character throughout the game. Jackie is likable, Jenny is sweet, Victor is menacing and the voice of The Darkness itself screeches and seethes with rage and undercurrents of violence. Ambient effects around levels are diverse and immerse you into the story and gameplay. Similarly, gunplay and the various gory deaths from The Darkness arms or powers are suitably gruesome and punchy. The music isn't the type you want to listen to by itself in iTunes, but it's also well done and suits the game well.

The flow of action to story sequences are perfectly broken up in the first few hours of the game, though the last 2 hours of the game mostly turns into a giant shooting gallery. The story is still there, but you lose the quiet moments and character interaction you get earlier in the game. Gameplay doesn't particularly suffer because of this, it just made me miss it because it was so interesting. What doesn't let up however is how the game toys with your expectations. Jackie frequently switches between two realities, a mental hospital where everyone tells him his mob life and The Darkness are fantasies, and the supposed real world in which he battles the Brotherhood. The story does an excellent job of making you doubt which one is the true reality, and you only find out at the very end.


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