The Darkness II Crafts a Convincing World That Fits Alongside Its Violent Tone «

If one look at the Darkness II’s lurid subject matter causes you to roll your eyes at all the extreme violence and gore on display, this review isn’t going to change your outlook at all. For all the bawling and wailing that happened on the Internet the day this sequel sans original developer Starbreeze was announced, I believe that new developer Digital Extremes has crafted an excellent adventure that furthers the grim adventures of Jackie Estacado, as he struggles to control an evil power lurking within him. And all of it is beautifully crafted in a graphic style that fits a comic creation brought to life.

The story takes place two years after the events of the first game, and presents a main character that has learned to suppress his dark gift. In the opening we learn that Jackie Estacado has locked away the evil entity known as The Darkness within himself, and runs the Franchetti Crime family as a young 23-year-old Don. Of course, everything quickly changes for the worse, and the developer uses a grim shootout at a restaurant early on as a opening tutorial — providing context to go along with all the bravado, gore, and firearms.

Click the image above to check out all The Darkness 2 screens.

The Darkness II is a something of a rare occurrence in games: a solid sequel that builds on the concepts of the original, but is crafted by a different development team. While the original Darkness introduced Jackie’s abilities, the sequel fleshes out the controls for each individual piece of his deadly arsenal. The mob boss can still dual-wield guns using the left and right triggers, but now players can control his Demon Arms individually as well — the left bumper grabs objects while the right bumper slashes foes via a sweeping melee attack. These additions to combat make controlling Jackie a much more engaging experience, and grant the player a number of techniques to use when dispatching enemies. You could slash a thug into the air with the right bumper and then fill the floating baddie with lead, or you could grab a car door and throw it Frisbee-style at a crowd of hitmen — eviscerating a number of them in the process.

Over-the-top presentation is at the heart of The Darkness II, and the developers aren’t afraid to embrace it — they even go so far as to take you on a tour through a gritty brothel located in the dark corners of NYC. And the violence doesn’t pull any punches either. Sure, it’s already uncomfortable to see any criminal decapitated with unabashed regularity, but the developers never hold back — even when a particular animation shoves a tentacle up into a thug’s abdomen before playfully ripping out his spine. In many ways, control of Jackie’s Demon Arm turns into the closest video games have to controlling a murderous, rampaging Doc Ock — complete with the same self-aware tentacles that extend from the main character’s spine.

Each kill or advanced technique used to dispatch enemies yields experience points, which can then be used to purchase upgrades from a skill tree, and each path develops a different aspect of Jackie’s dark abilities. I threw all of my points into my Demon Arms and ended up with four different tentacle killing techniques — each with three distinct insta-death animations depending on which baddie limb my Demon Arm clasps onto first. That leads to an awful lot of blood and gore, but a fun time regardless. Other upgrades work in less visually brutal ways: Some upgrade the amount of damage Jackie can sustain, while others develop his firearms and other non-Demon Arm abilities. The sheer ferocity is gloriously captured and makes playing the Darkness 2 a fun experience through abilities you develop and control.

 

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