Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Star Breeze
N Amer - 06/26/2007
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The Darkness Review
A few years ago, developer Starbreeze was in charge of developing a tie-in video game to the Vin Diesel vehicle, The Chronicles of Riddick. The film was perceived as a critical and commercial disappointment, but the game (The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay) quickly rose to sleeper-hit status, becoming the most pleasant surprise of 2004 and arguably one of the best licensed games to hit a console.
Now the development team is releasing their next-gen follow up, The Darkness. Based on the Top Cow comic series, The Darkness is a deep and engaging FPS with nice exploration elements, not unlike what was found in Escape from Butcher Bay. While the game does have a couple of problems, it’s still a pretty engaging adventure from start to finish and well worth a look in the slow summer months.
The Darkness follows the story of Jackie Estacado, a mafia soldier heading to perform a hit on his 21st birthday. However, he is double-crossed by his crime boss “Uncle” Paulie, and left for dead. Coincidentally, his 21st birthday also marks the very first appearance of The Darkness, a lifeforce inherited from Jackie’s father that manifests itself once its host reaches that age. Jackie then embarks on a revenge mission against his uncle, while trying to avoid the police and keep the people he still considers friends from getting hurt.
One main difference in The Darkness that sets it apart from other FPS games is the use of, well, darkness. Your character has an aversion to the light, since it weakens your power and makes you a lot more vulnerable to attacks. Therefore, it is essential that you take out whatever light sources you can as you progress through the levels so as not to lose your supernatural edge. You’ll probably spend just as much time shooting out streetlights as you will enemies.
The weaponry isn’t quite as fleshed out in The Darkness as it is in other FPS games, with only a few options like dual handguns and shotguns in your arsenal. Fortunately, your four Darkness powers really step up to the plate here, allowing you better means of disposing of your enemies. You can deploy your Darkness snakes (called Creeping Dark) in to perform stealth kills on your foes, Demon Arm (a tentacle that can take out enemies quickly and from a distance), Darkness Guns (guns that use Darkness power in lieu of bullets), and the Black Hole, a truly destructive power capable of clearing out entire rooms in one shot. These powers add a great element to the game, and are a blast to use.
However, the coolest thing that you can get out of your Darkness powers is the Darklings. If you devour enough hearts from dead bodies, you can summon these guys to basically act as your teammate in battle. As you gain levels, you get the ability to summon different Darklings, including Gunners (demons with miniguns) and my favorite, the Kamikaze, who have explosives strapped to their chests and a dynamite plunger sticking straight out.
However, the game is not without its problems. The controls feel a little bit sluggish, and moving around doesn’t feel very intuitive. Also, the AI is kind of dim, not really acting or reacting very well. It seems that they are a little too easy to sneak up on, especially with the Creeping Dark; taking away from the game’s otherwise great pace.
Graphically, the game is pretty solid. The character models look great and have realistic facial animations. The special effects are also very nice, but the game falters a little bit in terms of the frame rate, which can bog down a bit in the PS3 version.
On the sound front, the game is a real treat. The voice acting is excellent, the soundtrack is great, and the sound effects pack just the right amount of punch.
The Darkness is a pretty slick action game, weaving a great yarn and making for a very compelling single-player FPS experience. In the lazy summer months, this is one game that should be in your PS3.
Review Scoring Details for The Darkness
The Darkness is a deep FPS game, giving you a nice world to explore and great Darkness powers to use. The controls are a little sluggish, however, and the AI leaves a little bit to be desired.
The PS3 version has a little bit of slowdown, but the character models and environments look quite good.
Fantastic voice work, solid sound effects and a great score make this one a joy to listen to.
The Darkness tells a great story and has a stellar presentation from start to finish.
The game offers four online modes, with Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Survivor and CTF lining out a pretty standard set of multiplayer options.
The Darkness has a couple shortcomings, but on the whole it is a compelling FPS that would make a fine addition to anyone’s fledgling PS3 library.
Starbreeze’s latest is a dark jaunt into the Top Cow comic book series.
Reviewer: Steven Hopper
Review Date: 07/09/2007