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E3 2011: The Darkness II (Impressions)

Posted by: Tina at 6/12/2011 5:51 PM
Game: The Darkness II
Developer: Digital Extremes
Release Window/Date: October 4th
What works: The Darkness II features a very effective comic-book style art design. Quad wielding, and in particular your vicious demon arms, are a unique combat mechanic that is both new and incredibly fun.
What needs work: Combat scenarios are sometimes predictable and dictate the kind of reaction you’ll have to have in order to deal with them effectively. I’d like to see more from the darkling companion than just clinging on to enemies and randomly leading the way.

There are several reasons why you should keep your eye out on The Darkness II. First, is the hand-painted art style. Digital Extremes specifically wanted to create a visual style akin to a comic book, and it certainly feels that way. Although glitzy, realistic graphics are always appreciated, there is something very warming about an artistic style whose sole purpose isn't necessarily to push the realism boundaries.

The Darkness II also has a very unique combat design. Through quad wielding, you can control a myriad of “weapons.” Two of these are your very violent, angry and sometimes unruly demon arms. I say unruly because they will literally snap at you to remind you that the Darkness has control over you. The demon arms target points of weakness on the human body, tearing limbs to shreds and snapping necks. They can also rip hearts out of enemies’ chest cavities to be consumed for health. The demon arms are brutally fun to play with, and my favorite part of the game. If you’re a traditional first person shooter gamer, however, you can use your measly human arms to hold a variety of weapons from shotguns to pistols and everything in between. You can also utilize quad wielding to hold up car doors as shields, or impale enemies with make-shift weapons and saws found around the levels.

If you’ve been following The Darkness II at all, however, you’ll already be accustomed to this. What’s new that was revealed by the E3 demo this year are the enemies with Darkness powers themselves. Although not as entirely consumed as you are by it, these enemies have particularly gnarly looking exteriors and can definitely put up a fight. You and your darkling will have to deal with them skillfully, while simultaneously avoiding the light. Unfortunately, because of their familiarity with the Darkness, they are very aware of your weakness to light, and will often come equipped to take advantage of said weakness.

Although having an additional, environmental threat to you as a protagonist is interesting, it sometimes becomes a chore of micromanaging your enemies. Although an enemy directly in front of you may be shooting at your (what I imagine to be) grotesque facade, you’ll have to first be mindful of the truck pointing its headlights directly at you. Otherwise, you won’t be able to use the Darkness to your advantage. Almost blindly spraying ammunition at your most immediate threats will deal with them, while you’ll also need to maneuver to a position to shoot out the lights in order to use your demon arms to their potential. It’s both a unique quality, as well as sometimes a nuisance because it will dictate how you play the game. Although Digital Extremes stresses that they give players a unique way to experiment with many avenues of outright murder, they’ve also created a gameplay component that forces you into making certain decisions first. You can’t ravage your enemies with your demon arms until you’ve dealt with the threat of light.