As the floodgates open back up for the world of video game releases, one of the first out of the gate will be The Darkness II from 2k Games. While the full game, and our full review, won't be out until February 7, we were invited by 2k to play the first hour and a half or so of the game, and the worst thing about the experience was that it ended so quickly.
The game starts with the much-demoed restaurant sequence that leads to Jackie Estacado using his Darkness powers for the first time in years (since the ending of the last game). This time, though, things seem to be different for Jackie; while the Darkness is opening itself up, allowing him to utilize it more thoroughly, it also seems to be torturing him quite a bit more this time around.
The first hour and a half of the game has Jackie taking on more of the standard thugs than the big bad Darkness using cult that you'll face later on. While the enemies, with their guns and blunt instruments aren't too varied, the ways to dispatch them most definitely is.
"Quad-wielding is not just a buzz word; I mean, it is a buzz-word, but it's also extremely cool," said a rep from Digital Extremes, developers of the game. And that's the truth. Quad-wielding, the ability to hold two guns, plus wield the "grab/throw" Darkness arm and the "slash" Darkness arm all at the same time using the four shoulder buttons, is the perfect use of a console controller. It sounds like it could be confusing, but it actually feels quite natural, and even makes you look at the battlefield differently. When you're firing two guns (or, more often in my case as I enjoy precision, doing a zoom-aim and fire with one) while simultaneously looking for a pole to throw or a car door to use as a shield, and charging at another enemy for a little close-quarters slash kill, there is zero possibility of ever becoming bored with this combat style. Throw in the vicious executions and unlockable higher-end Darkness powers, and you absolutely have enough to carry you through what they reported as about a 6-7 hour main story campaign.
The immersion of the game is great, too. The cel-shaded graphics, used to give the game more of a comic book feel (regardless of most comics not looking like that anymore) do help environment objects you can interact with really "pop," a useful tool for the chaotic style of gameplay. Audio is great, too, with The Darkness itself chattering in your ear, taunting you, plus that foul-mouthed and disgusting little british Darkling running alongside (just wait until you unlock the ability to throw him at enemies as a long-distance assassin. SO much fun). Cut-scenes between major mission objectives open up the story, and while we didn't get to see too much of it just yet, Jackie's internal battle against the artifact that powers him is definitely intriguing.
After an hour and a half, we unlocked three new powers, faced down a couple of bosses, and ate a lot of hearts. When they said we only had about five minutes left and asked if there were any more questions, only one came to mind: "When do I get the full game?"
Well, everyone gets it next Tuesday, and they should be pretty excited about that.