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GamesCom 2011 – The Darkness II

4 min read


The original The Darkness was an addictive FPS that managed to combine standard mechanics with an emphasis on light and dark, as players used the supernatural force that was bound to them to tear their way through the criminal underworld. Now it’s a couple of years later, and 2K Producer Seth Olshfski wants to set things up with the sequel.

We dim the lights and Seth begins showing us some of the gameplay, as lead character Jackie Estacado is currently being hunted by the Brotherhood, an organisation that has become corrupt from the inside out after trying to destroy the Darkness for far too long. With comic book legend Paul Jenkins penning the script again, The Darkness 2 picks up 2 years after Jackie Estacado first set out to avenge the death of his girlfriend.

“This is a battle between light and dark, and we wanted to show players just how much of a difference the light makes to Jackie when he is caught in it. We want it to be painful for players. That’s why when Jackie has light on him, the screen gets blurry, too bright and you hear a ringing sound. Plus, you can’t use your Darkness powers of course”.

The fighting starts, and Olshfski tells us about the new gameplay. “This isn’t dual-wielding when it comes to weapons. It’s quad-wielding. You can have two guns equipped, as well as use the two Darkness tendrils on you to attack. One is for quick slash attacks, the other for grabbing and finishing moves, which we’ll show you shortly”.

The Darkness II - Big_Trouble_in_Little_Italy

“You’ll also notice the unique cell-shading look that we have for this game, think of it as a graphic novel crossed with pulp influences. We like to call it a graphic Noire look”.

We’re treated to some gameplay, and the action is fast and intense. Estacado is laying down fire with his two signature pistols, while keeping foes with strange glowing markings at bay with his tendrils. All of a sudden, he grabs one of them, and the tendril on the left starts coiling around the unfortunate henchmen, before finally impaling him in a gruesome scene straight out of the first Alien film. “We call that the Anaconda”, Olshfski says.

After showing a second finishing move that sees a goon ripped in half by the tendrils, Olshfski wants to demonstrate to us how the new XP earned in the game can be used for new abilities. “Every time you kill a guy, that’s some points coming your way, depending on how well you killed him. You can take those points and invest them in additional skills, like this one, Darkness ammo”.

Olshfski enters a sub menu and buys the skill, and then shows us how it works exactly. “Using Darkness bullets, you can transfer the dark energy into your guns in place of bullets. There’ll be more power in your shots, and the ammo is unlimited so long as the charge is active, meaning that you won’t use actual bullets. The downside however, is that you’ll get less XP points and hearts for The Darkness to eat, thus “limiting your growth in the long run”.

“As well as those primary abilities, you can also enhance them, to be more efficient, powerful or with added skills, such as Darkness vision. When we use this, we can see through solid objects to spot enemies, and fire through the walls to hit them”.

The Darkness II - Brotherhood_Carnival

Olshfski shows us some more combat gameplay, as Estacado becomes ridiculously unstoppable, mowing down Brotherhood members left and right. With that, the presentation is over, and we pitch a few questions to Olshfski, while we get some hands on time with the game. I ask, Olshfski, judging by the tone of the game and the Tony Montana Scarface inspired art and posters, will The Darkness 2 chronicle the rise and fall of Jackie Estacado?

“Ah, I can’t say too much about the plot. But let’s just say that while the first game established Jackie as a player with the mob, the second will see him consolidate his power, bringing the various families into line. From that point, who knows?”

I start jamming on the screen, and right from the get go, the action is intense, maybe a little too intense. There’s so much going on all at once, that it can be confusing at times, and the quad-wielding aspect does take up a lot of visual information on the screen.

Otherwise, everything is beautifully precise and visceral. The controls are fluid, the enemies are intelligent, and the gameplay balanced so that players don’t lose the feeling that they’re being constantly challenged.

Its a worthy successor to the original cult hit classic, one that builds on the original premise with balls to the wall action. It’s still got some teething problems, but it’s still at an early enough stage to sort out.

Last Updated: August 19, 2011

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