Publisher: 2K Games
Release Date: June 25, 2007
The Darkness, if absolutely nothing else, has one of the most slam-bang opening levels in recent memory. As a slightly injured Jackie Estacado, you're a young Mafia gunman who's just had a job go very, very badly. As you're driving to your hideout, the cops suddenly catch up to you ... but they're on the take, and they just open fire without warning. Your Uncle Paulie has sold you out.
You grab a shotgun and shoot back, but one friend's dead and the other's panicking. Before you know it, the car's crashed, you're now alone, and suddenly, there's something demonic whispering at you from the shadows.
Happy 21st birthday. Here are two dead friends, a major betrayal from a member of your immediate family, and a set of deeply horrible supernatural powers that require you to rip out and devour the still-beating hearts of dead men.
The Darkness is based on the surprisingly long-running comic from Top Cow productions. As in the comic, you're Jackie, a mob hitman with more of a conscience than that description would seem to indicate. You're also the current heir to the power of the Darkness, which has been passed down through Jackie' s family for generations. It also has a knack for killing its wielder as soon as he's sired a child, which makes things awkward and surprising.
The game reboots Jackie into sort of a new continuity, and pits him against his Uncle Paulie, who has turned what would appear to be the entire New York Mafia against Jackie. To get back at Paulie, your goal is to use your newfound Darkness powers to cripple his operations, kill his men, and generally cancel his Christmas.
In a way, there are two games here. When Jackie's standing in direct light, the game is a fairly standard, if next-gen, first-person shooter, with a typical assortment of weapons. When he's in the dark — and you can shoot lights out to ensure this happens as often as possible — you can wield all the powers the Darkness has to offer, and there are a few.
Using the Darkness, you can lift and throw heavy objects, rapidly regenerate health by drawing energy from the shadows, and summon small goblinoid bastards called Darklings for a variety of purposes. You can bring 'em out with Gatling guns to provide cover fire, send them after your enemies' knees with a jackhammer, or simply use them to scout out new areas. Along the way, you can refuel your Darkness power by ripping out and devouring the hearts of fallen enemies, which is always good for a laugh.
The Darkness will also ship with an online multiplayer game, allowing you to blow your friends and acquaintances into tiny little pieces. Like the main game, it's sort of a two-for-one deal. On the one hand, every player has the usual assortment of automatic weapons and grenades, making this a decent distraction.
On the other, every player also has the ability to transform at will into a Darkling form, allowing for a variety of options. This includes crawling through ventilation shafts, being nearly invisible in dark corners, and clawing the holy bejesus out of your opponents' knees. It's perfect for making quick escapes or setting up ambushes, and lends the game a certain tactical utility and versatility it wouldn't otherwise have.
Jackie's powers, and the powers you get in deathmatch, go a long way toward combating the single greatest threat a shooter can have in this day and age: the "Just Another FPS" syndrome. With the ability to hit a man with a flying dumpster, then devour his living heart and use it to fuel a small machine-gun-wielding demon, The Darkness is, if absolutely nothing else, unique.
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