PAX East '11: Demon-Hands-On With THE DARKNESS II

PAX East: Demon-Hands-On W/ DARKNESS II

Click here to see a bevy of high-res screenshots just released this weekend at PAX East!

The Darkness had a pretty solid first time out in the video game world. It was well-received by critics and fans alike, who were surprised by the depth offered in both the story and gameplay.

As the saying goes, though, you ain't seen nothing yet. 2K Games is back with a new installment simply and logically titled The Darkness II and this game is shocking in its upping of the ante. We got hands-on time with the game at PAX East in Boston this weekend, and even at an early stage it impressed in pretty much every way.

The story sees Jackie Estacado as the head of his (yup, the arrogant bastard renamed it!) crime family. In the demo we got to play, we saw a decrepit older man who claimed to have held the power of The Darkness once before now holding Jackie in captivity. Literally nailing him to a cross, the villain is syphoning The Darkness into a special container, but tells Jackie he must give it up of his own free will. He tries to convince Estacado that it's "for your own good" and "the only way you can be free of this curse," but Jackie isn't buying it.

This tale is interspersed by a scene of mob boss Jackie Estacado walking into a restaurant owned by the family. He enters the art nouveau styled eatery, being told what's going on by the maitre'd. Just as he sits down to dine with two lady friends, a van busts through the wall, instantly killing them both and severely crippling Jackie's leg. And here's where we take over as the player.

Our associate literally drags us through the restaurant, which is being assaulted at all sides now, explosions and gunfire everywhere. While sliding through on our back, we shoot thugs with a handgun, getting acquainted with the basic shooting mechanics. This was fairly standard, with left trigger going down the sights, right trigger firing. Controls were tight, even in this early build and chaotic situation. After being drug to a bar, you take a second gun and hold off some more baddies before slamming into the kitchen. Unfortunately, in the crossfire, the gas main gets shot up, and like clockwork a molotov cocktail comes through the window…

Of course, this blasts Jackie outside the restaurant, and into the dark. The Darkness rebuilds his leg and foot, and as "demon arms," long tendrils of pure Darkness spring from his body, he swiftly dispatches two thugs with extreme prejudice.

Now the real fun begins, and we start playing with the two demon arms. With these, we have one for grabbing, controlled by left bumper, and one for slashing, controlled by the right bumper. If you hold the right bumper, you can also control directional slashes with the right thumbstick; this is great, especially with how satisfyingly you can slice enemies to ribbons. The grabbing arm can pick up enemies, and if you time things right after a nice stunning blow, you can plunge the arm through their chest, pop their head clean off, or rip them from crotch to neck clean in half. It can also be used to grab objects; pick up a stray metal pole and pin an enemy to a wall, or grab a car door, use it as a shield, and throw it through multiple enemies, slicing them in half. Outside, we also found two handguns and saw the crazy "quad-wielding," where we were shooting with both triggers, grabbing enemies and objects with one arm and slicing their limbs off with the other, all at the same time. It's bloody, it's chaotic, and it is really freaking fun.

We also saw some time with the assistance of a darkling, one of Jackie's more permanent darkness-based creations. The developers promised the Darkling(s) would have way more personality this time around, and this one would even build a real relationship with the player. He also helps out in combat, leaping onto enemies and incapacitating them so you can score that slice, headshot, or grab and execution with much greater ease.

The game plays hard-and-fast, and the Darkness controls are just non-stop excitement. It's bloody and visceral, and the game makes you feel instantly like a nearly-all-powerful-badass. That's really all you can hope for in a game about an anti-hero that controls a primal force of the universe (or does it control him, the demo posited?), and even this pre-alpha hands-on accomplished it. With innovative controls, no fear to go dark, and a story once again by longtime Darkness comic scribe Paul Jenkins, it looks like The Darkness II is going to offer something special for first person shooter and comic book fans alike when it releases to PS3, Xbox 360, and PC in Fall 2011.

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