The Darkness II: The Kotaku Review

TThe first Darkness game was released in 2007. With some original ideas for the genre and a setting that wasn't space or a war, it was a surprise hit, and people still say nice things about it today.

The second Darkness game was released in 2012. It's...well...yes.

While The Darkness was developed by Starbreeze, who are now putting the finishing touches on the new Syndicate, this game is the work of Digital Extremes, a studio normally responsible for platform-porting other 2K studios' titles. So there are changes. The game feels a bit less serious this time around, for example, the cel-shaded graphics giving things a more pulpy look.

There's also some other stuff that's changed. Let's see how much for the better.

WHAT I LIKED

Slice & Dice. Four-armed combat is still as fun as ever. The Darkness II will give you, at least initially, that same giddy rush you get from shooters like Halo and Crysis, that feeling that combat is as much about experimentation and expression as it is mere progression. The fact you can carry guns, dual-wield guns, throw objects, use objects and lash out in a variety of ways with your evil tentacles means every encounter is a chance to try something new, meaning the actual act of killing somebody in this game is always a blast.

Funky, Cold. There's a point early on where you walk into a bar and Tone-Loc is playing. Tone-Loc. That was pretty great.

Light our Darkest Hour - I can't remember if the first Darkness game had this, but the second one definitely has a Dead Space-style pathfinding system. Press a button and a purple vapour runs through the corridors ahead of you, showing you where to go next. Not that you get lost that often in such a linear game, but when you do, it's a welcome touch, one I wish a lot more games went to the trouble of implementing.

WHY: The four-arm action is the only interesting thing about this game. And you can get that, and a better overall experience, in the original game. Everything else feels like a step backwards. From a game that came out five years ago.

THE DARKNESS II

Developer: Digital Extremes

Platforms: PC / PlayStation 3 / Xbox 360 (Version played)

Released: February 7 (U.S.), February 10 (Europe)

Type of game: First-person shooter with a supernatural mobster twist.

What I played: Finished the story in around four hours. Played some co-op as one of the most flamboyantly Japanese stereotypes I have ever seen in my life.

My Two favourite Things

  • Twice the arms really does mean twice the fun when it comes to killing things.
  • As someone who's read the comic, I appreciate the efforts to bring the game closer to the source material.

My Two Least-Favorite Things

  • It's way too short for a predominantly singleplayer experience.
  • Stupid AI and boring levels make for a dull game.

Made-to-Order Back-of-Box Quotes

  • "Why can't you hold four guns?" - Luke Plunkett, Kotaku.com
  • "Press X to read box quote!" - Luke Plunkett, Kotaku.com
  • "Jenny! Jenny! Jennnnnny!" - Luke Plunkett, Kotaku.com

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE

2012?. The Darkness II tries to get closer to its comic book origins with a cel-shaded effect, but it's not as fully-implemented as you've seen in games like XIII, or Okami. This gives the graphics a half-assed look to them; sometimes the cel-shading works, most times it just leaves you with muddy textures that make the game look like it came out in, say, 2007.

Sleep Chamber. It's a damn shame that, for all the tools you're given to experiment with, the game doesn't ever give you much of a chance to really put them to the test. Enemies simply appear and run at you, and the cramped level design and scripting means there's little avenue for flanking or surprise. You are little but a four-armed meat grinder, clocking on for an evening's repetitive work.

Short. The campaign is short. Like, you could finish it in 3-4 hours. And that's including the awful "story" sequences I'm about to get to. If this game had a large and robust multiplayer component that'd be fine, but it doesn't. There's multiplayer, yeah, and story-based co-op at that, but it's not much fun. It plays like a slippery, more chaotic game of Left 4 Dead, and will only be of interest to those with an interest in the game's story.

On Rails. The Darkness II tries to flesh out its tale of dismemberment with frequent first-person story sequences. If you liked the Desmond sections from the first Assassin's Creed, you're going to love these. They consist of walking along corridors able to do nothing but hit X when you're standing in the right spot or facing the right person.

PRESS X TO SIT WITH LADY FRIEND

PRESS X TO LIGHT CANDLE

PRESS X TO FEEL REMORSE

Maybe the developers thought giving you this control would make you feel more, well, in control. Maybe it was a way to save time and money on cutscenes. Whatever the reason, it ends up being incredibly dull, as there's no real interactivity to them. Many of them, for example, are set in Jackie's mansion, of which you've got full access. Only...there's nothing to do. You walk up to a man, press X to initiate a conversation, then he tells you to go see someone else. You go over there and...press X.

The game is obviously trying to give you a feeling of choice and control, of being part of the plot, but ironically all it does is rub your face in the fact that you're being dragged at a snail's pace through a story that I didn't find surprising, didn't find engaging and was populated with cardboard characters I couldn't have cared less about.

FINAL WORD

It's fitting that one of the last sequences in the game has you riding through a haunted house, literally on rails, while enemies pop out predictably to meet an instant and unsatisfying end. So much of the rest of the game had felt just like that, only less obviously put, that it almost feels like an apologetic nod and wink from the developers.

So, it's a "NO" from me. For a game that you may have noticed did OK elsewhere. Since this is the first "NO" any of us have handed out, I may as well explain what's going on with this new review system of ours. A "YES" and "NO" don't correspond to "GOOD" and "BAD" games. They correspond to whether the individual writer thinks the game is worth checking out. I'll recommend you play what I think is an awesome game, sure, but there are also plenty of terrible games I'd recommend playing (not buying, playing!) as well. Maybe they're funny. Maybe they're just interesting.

I'm most unkind to games like this. The grey ones. The middle of the road. The ones that do nothing to excite or interest you either way.


Comments

    3-4 hours short? Wow, even Force Unleashed II beats that. Even COD MW beats that! :P

    It was funny reading this article, then noticing Darkness 2 advertising ALL OVER KOTAKU.

      We cannot be bought! Except our banners. All our banners can be bought. :P

        I'll give you fifty bucks to promote healthy living for gamers.

          I am afraid you will have to pay us... OVER $9000!

        "All Your Banners Are Belong To Us"

        Get intouch with your media guy their side, you could do a lot of exclusive interviews here with Australians that used to live in BNE and MEL that worked on this game. This would also probably be content a lot of people that come to Kotaku would be interested in reading, for 'where are they now?'

    I thought it looked pretty poor to begin with, saw a demo for it last year while at supernova.
    Gameplay looked stale and repetitive and the AI looked worse than terrible back then.
    To hear they haven't improved any of that is disappointing.

    This was an interesting read, I was a bit nervous after hearing that Starbreeze wasn't doing this one and it seems I was right to be.

    Maybe I will pick up the Russian version for 20 bucks.

    I quite enjoyed the demo and was a fan of the first game.

    I'll still be buying it but it's not on my must-have list right now so it might get left until there's a Steam sale.

    3-4 hours?! Wow & I was going to pick this up on payday, mite be a better weekend rental

    I think I truly believe now that Kokaku can't sell out!

    Also, what's this about no Mike Patton? Wiki still says he's in it. Other reviews/comments on the demo have mentioned him. Which are the lies!?!?

      Yeah sucks that Pattons not in (apparently).

      How awesome was Tomahawks 'Captain Midnight' as the credits song for the first game!

      It's not often you finish a game and then have to mark it up on the basis of awesome credits.

        I don't know where Luke gets his facts from but every fact I've seen says Luke is wrong. Maybe if he read kotaku he would know better http://www.kotaku.com.au/2011/02/mike-patton-is-back-for-the-darkness-ii/

          You beat me to it!

          Mike Patton is in the Darkness II:

          http://www.joystiq.com/2011/02/17/the-darkness-2-brings-back-mike-patton/

          + another 2 million articles as well.

    I'll make up my own mind, but if it's really that bad, I'll just get it over with then sink my time into Amalur until ME3 comes out. Was told when I picked the pair up at EB that Amalur had completely sold out (my preorder was the last copy in the store), but Darkness had sold barely any...
    I suppose a metacritic average of less than 80 really does impact sales.

      ... although Amalur only has an 80 average... My guess is it got compared to so many different genres, so it appealed to so many fan-bases - people saying "This looks like WoW, might be worth a try", or swapping WoW with Fable, Skyrim, God of War...

    Thought the demo was quite average, so much so I could not bring myself to finish it. Shame as I had heard the first was quite a good game and was really looking forward to number 2.

    I thought it was Mike Patton as the darkness? the rest of the google seems to think so.

    disappoint was that Kirk Acevedo didn't return to voice Jackie Estacado.

    I thought the demo was awesome, and this was almost an insta-buy for me, but I started hearing about how linear it is.

    The first one was a semi-open world, I remember walking thru the subway and watching those TV shows. Is there anything like that in this one?

    Don't know WTF he is getting his facts from. Patton is in, as has been mentioned in the comments and every other website in the world.

    3-4 hours? Everyone else is saying its between 6-10. Is this guy playing on easy and just breezing through everything or something?

    They said that Vanquish was 5 hours. I played on hard and it me took quite a bit longer than that. I always take "game length" with a grain of salt. Most reviewers play on easy to get to the end game.

    I've preordered Darkness 2 anyway. I've been collecting the comics since day 1 so its a no brainer for me.

    I just bought this and after work I am going home to hit into it. I've been keen for this since way before it was announced!

    I feel a little miffed at Kotaku eviscerating it so badly, but since I honestly find about 99% of what Plunkett writes to be trash and incorrect this game will most likely rock!

      Yeah everywhere else I've read has been positive reviews whereas this review just pans the hell out of it.

      Hence why you read multiple reviews and user reviews to make up your mind. Video games are so subjective.

    Kotaku are doing a better job of putting of advertisers than Kyle Sandilands

    Re: the Mike Patton thing an edit was made to the article after it was posted but it only changed on the US site, not the AU site. It has now been updated, so sorry about the delay/confusion!

      I think you should've left it in the article anyway. It reveals how much research and how little attention Luke paid to the voice since he said it's really obvious that Patton isn't in it.
      Kinda makes me think the rest of his review might not necessarily be that accurate. ;)

        Can't wait for the new Mike Plunkett album!

      At the very least you should have put a correction rather than editing the whole article (or at least acknowledge in the article that you've done so).

      Digital media is great that way, but Gus is right - it's good form to acknowledge when there was a boo-boo that's since been fixed.

      Still, ta for the review and your work.

        Relax, they're just bloggers not actual journalists. Give them some slack.

    Luke Plunkett is the definition of human failure.

    Don't Kotaku have a policy of releasing their reviews a week after the game releases? How come this one hit on release day? (well, before the official aussie release and about 24 hours after the US release)

      Because Luke was reviewing the demo, he thought it was the full game, obviously.

    I felt like the second game was pretty much a copy of the first. Which angered me.

    "Oh noes! They took your girlfriend! Go get her!"

    "Oh noes! They took your girlfriends soul! Go get her!"

    Whole bunch of stuff I was hoping they were going to bring in from the comic. But they didn't. And just before I went onto the internet to rage, the credits ended. And then I was happy again.

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