Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Star Breeze
N Amer - 06/26/2007
- Also available on:
The Darkness Review
The Xbox 360 has seen its share of first-person shooters, some of them good (Call of Duty 3) and some of them very disappointing (Perfect Dark Zero). Still, how many first-person shooters allow you to look for a woman’s lost bracelet in a subway station or devour the hearts of your enemies? The Darkness, a game based on the Top Cow Comics graphic novel of the same name, comes to the Xbox 360 and makes this one of the coolest shooters to arrive this summer.
The game follows the plot of the graphic novel and uses its characters perfectly throughout the game for you to interact with in the single-player mode. You assume the role of Jackie Estacado, a hitman working for the Franchetti mob in New York City under the direction of his Uncle Paulie. During a failed assignment, Paulie believes Jackie is a thief and puts a hit out on his own nephew and this puts Jackie in a really bad mood to the point that he decides to take out Paulie once and for all. This, of course, would have been considered suicide but on the day he turns 21, a supernatural force awakens within Jackie known only as the Darkness and it consumes his soul but grants him a demonic gift. Will the Darkness inevitably control him or will Jackie find a way to tame the demon inside?
Almost immediately gamers will know they’ll be in for something different since the game’s opening is not merely an animated cutscene but rather an interactive one where you’ll actually be participating in a frantic car chase down a tunnel during rush hour. From there you’ll be exploring the game’s world on your own and when I say explore I mean walking around to different areas in the city. While there will be plenty of running and gunning, there are also moments where you’ll be walking around pedestrian-filled areas as well as spend some quality time with your girl Jenny Romano. Jackie gets around by subway so you’ll be catching a ride to Chinatown and to the very orphanage Jenny and Jackie came from before Jackie was picked up by his Uncle Paulie. In the subway station you’ll be tasked with some side objectives such as looking for an elderly woman’s prized bracelet that fell off somewhere or helping a subway performer who has been bullied into keeping his mouth shut.
These things are but a few samples of what you’ll come to expect from The Darkness. When Jackie encounters a television set you can switch the channels and watch complete music videos as well as an entire movie or three (like the Sonny Chiba martial arts classic The Street Fighter or the Frank Sinatra film The Man With the Golden Arm). There are even classic Gabby and Popeye cartoons and the complete Flash Gordon chapters from the old serial. It’s these small things that might seem insignificant that gives the game its unique twist on the genre. You’ll be interacting with familiar characters like Butcher Joyce as well as Aunt Sarah.
The Darkness, the demonic entity that comes to reside within you, arrives early in the game and gives Jackie his own abilities that allow him to do more than just shoot the bad guy that happens to get in the way. Still, Jackie is no slouch when it comes to shooting and he can easily dual wield different handguns and submachine guns. He’ll even come into possession a shotgun for those close-quarter encounters. The Darkness comes complete with two snake-like demons that can be activated at any time you wish. The left snakehead actually can send it to scout ahead from a long distance, attack an enemy, devour said enemy’s heart by ripping it off the corpse’s chest and then retract at your command. Devouring hearts actually works to upgrade your Darkness powers to make room for new ones such as the Demon Arm to impale bad guys as well as Darkness Shield that protects you.
It even won’t take you long to figure out how to use your Darkling minions. Darklings are vicious demons that come to your aid once you summon them. They appear only when you manifest the Darkness and there are four different kinds of Darkling minions. The first demon breeds you’ll encounter are the Berserkers, Darklings that will slash at your enemies then you’ll graduate to the Gunners (who carry around a chain gun), Light Killers (they destroy any light source) and Kamikaze (who have explosives tied to their bodies and detonate before a crowd of enemies). You can summon the different Darkling types by holding the right bumper button and picking which type best suits your needs. The best part about them is that they actually get to work quickly and do a pretty good job taking out the enemy.
With a solid story that is quite gripping and filled with colorful characters, you would think the game is gaming perfection. It’s not quite perfect when it comes to the controls, which can be a tad jerky at times and sometimes it takes a few bullets to take down a bad guy. Then there are the moments in the game where you’ll think logic was completely tossed out the window. What doesn’t anyone react to the snakeheads unless you send one to scout ahead? Why do some enemies talk to a corpse you just killed a few inches away from them?
Overall, these small problems will not fail to distract from the game’s best qualities and the great level design that makes the game such a treat to play. You will find yourself fighting against police officer and a SWAT team that enters an Italian restaurant and you’ll infiltrate and wipe out a mobster safe house. You’ll face off a large number of Paulie’s goons and they’re actually smart enough to take cover and shoot from a safe location. There’s even a multiplayer mode, although it feels put together rather quickly and doesn’t stray from the usual deathmatch and team deathmatch mode with human and Darkling avatars.
When it comes the visuals, The Darkness also looks great. The game is dimly lit yet you’ll be able to see plenty of details in the environments that give the city a truly gritty look. The character models themselves are also beautifully detailed and move naturally. Another aspect of the visuals that will not fail to impress are the visual effects and there are plenty of them. Aside from the flashy effects that come from the Darkness, you’ll find great lighting and gunfire that light up a corridor nicely.
The game’s sound also makes quite a good impression since the voice acting is excellent and true to the characters. You’ll actually learn a lot about Jackie from the load screen conversation he holds by himself as if he were being interviewed. The game does not shy away from bad language so if you’re easily offended this might not be the game for you. There’s also a great score that is never repetitive and wonderfully emotional to the point that it tends to pick up at just the right moment. Add detailed sound effects and you have a game that does the sound right so play this one with a good sound system.
The Darkness for the Xbox 360 is an enjoyable and wonderfully unique first-person shooter that’s not only appropriately creepy but also deeply engrossing. While the game is far from perfect, the game’s very few weaknesses are overshadowed by the many things that make this an addictive, bullet-fueled romp worth the purchase price. If you’re looking for a first-person shooter with a lot of personality, great next-generation graphics and plenty to do, then this is the game for you.
Review Scoring Details for The Darkness
It’s a first-person shooter but the supernatural elements add a new twist to the genre in a good way. The controls can be a bit jerky at times but it pales in comparison to the great story, the interactive environment and the solid action. While the game features the ability to rip out human hearts, the game isn’t overly bloody.
On the Xbox 360, the visuals really shine and the level of detail placed on the character models as well as the environments will not fail to please those who enjoy good eye candy. The cutscenes are a real highlight in the game, as are the visual effects thanks to the demon.
The game possesses a great soundtrack that is both lush and beautifully cinematic. There’s also a very strong cast that voices each character perfectly and the sound effects are wonderfully detailed to the point that you’ll even make out the rats going through the garbage.
Your Uncle Paulie will send plenty of his goons after you and there are times when you’ll be outgunned even with your Darkness powers. Still, thanks to the game’s checkpoints, you won’t have to travel very far and the Darkling demons actually do lend a helping hand.
The graphic novel comes to life and so does a good portion of New York so you’ll get a good look at the grittier side of the city and even interact with characters in areas like the subway. The story and the characters are a highlight of the game and what other game can you sit back with your girlfriend and watch an entire movie like To Kill a Mockingbird with Gregory Peck? There are also dozens of extras to unlock like comic books and concept art.
Up to eight players can battle it out online or through System Link in a multiplayer game that lacks a unique game type. Still, the action flows without a stutter and the ability to play as a Darkling or a human allows you to mix up the action.
A truly unique experience from start to finish, The Darkness is one of those games that will hook you in and steal your soul. In other words, with a blend of the supernatural as well as an action-packed mobster story, this game has all the goods to keep fans of the genre quite satisfied with all the things this game has to offer. Xbox 360 owners, this is a game you will most definitely want to buy.
A truly unique experience from start to finish, The Darkness is one of those games that will hook you in and steal your soul
Reviewer: Nick Valentino
Review Date: 07/09/2007