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The Darkness

Platform(s): PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: Action
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Starbreeze
Release Date: June 25, 2007 (US), June 29, 2007 (EU)


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PS3 Review - 'The Darkness'

by Elnerdo on Oct. 24, 2007 @ 12:02 a.m. PDT

Based on the best-selling Top Cow comic book, The Darkness casts players as Jackie Estacado, a fearless Mafia hitman for the Franchetti crime family who is suddenly possessed by the terrifying and spectacular powers of The Darkness. Throughout the game, players must learn to control and harness The Darkness power in order to overthrow the vicious mob boss and fulfill their destiny.

The Darkness is enveloped in an atmosphere of unparalleled terror. You cannot see a thing, your home is the shadows, the path looks grim and a demon is feeding on your soul. Starbreeze, creator of the acclaimed Chronicles of Riddick, has succeeded in creating the appropriate ambiance in a dark and tortured tale that ultimately becomes a journey of redemption, revenge and love. Based on an exceptional comic book series from Top Cow, The Darkness tells a gripping tale of a primeval force that uses Jackie Estacado as its mayhem-causing vessel in New York City.

Uncle Paulie attempts to kill Jackie — on his 21st birthday, of all days. Jackie isn't very powerful man so he has no hope of bringing down Paulie, a tough guy who controls just about every goon in New York City. Luckily, Estacado's bestowed with the powers of The Darkness after the assassination attempt, manifesting itself within him, and he has the power to command the evil serpentine creatures that have taken up residence on his back. The time for revenge has come.

The Darkness throws the player into a battle between light and darkness. Even though the gameplay is primarily set in the nighttime, light is everywhere in the city, and if you're exposed to the light, your Darkness powers will begin to drain. In order to keep The Darkness' powers from receding, you'll need to consistently destroy light sources. The darkness isn't the only way Estacado gains energy. If you're a bit hungry and would rather go for "fast food," you can consume the hearts of the enemies. The more you eat, the stronger you'll become.

As you submit to the will of The Darkness, you'll earn new abilities that give you greater defense against damage, improved night vision and the ability to get a serpent to slither on the ground to look ahead for enemies. With this skill, you can travel virtually anywhere and execute a bite attack. Along the way, you'll get guns that use The Darkness' energy as ammo; you'll also pick up a demon arm attack, which literally stabs right through enemies and can swing them around. The most powerful attack, the Black Hole, allows you to open up voids that suck in enemies and subsequently kills them. Be very careful, though, since the Darkness powers drain energy every time they're used.

In order to help you on your killing quest, you can summon four different Darklings, each with its own special powers: Berserker, Gunner, Kamikaze and Lightkiller. The Berserker kills enemies it sees on the spot, the Gunner sets up the Gatling gun and goes to town, the Kamikaze blows up nearby enemies with the bomb strapped to his back and the Lightkiller shorts out lights so you can move in for the kill. The Darklings also add a dose of humor to The Darkness; they'll do whimsical things like curse at enemies during combat. Even if they're not too accurate with their combat skills, they are spot-on in their comedic techniques.

The Darkness isn't always jam-packed with action. Estacado discovers that he can't use his weapons and powers while at the subway station, so he takes this opportunity to let up on the revenge and do some good. The side-quests aren't very elaborate, mainly consisting of fetch and kill missions (i.e., finding someone and handing him a key). Estacado can practice the few morals he has left through these side-quests, but of course, once he completes the missions, he can also choose to kill the very people he's just helped. The Darkness never really leaves.

One of the more interesting locations in The Darkness is the Otherworld, a version of hell where zombies go Abu Ghraib on the souls of American soldiers. The world also features the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in unexpected manifestations. The foe encounters in The Darkness are pretty weak, so if the fierce Otherworld creatures had been available in the main game, it would have made for some interesting battles.

The single-player campaign, although amazing, leaves something to be desired. The Darkness stays on the easy side, enemies don't become more difficult as you progress and the final battle isn't anything to write home about. It's clear that Starbreeze wanted players to nurture a sense of accomplishment, instead of presenting them with a hopelessly difficult title and the inevitable sense of helplessness. Unfortunately, this aspect underwhelms the players by making everything too simple.

The animation in The Darkness is nothing short of stupendous. The enemies are vibrant in their attacks, and the audible curse words make it even better. The sight of one of your serpents slithering toward unsuspecting prey and eating their hearts is rewarding.

The PlayStation 3 version of The Darkness is largely the same as the 360 one, other than slight frame rate hitches when bringing out the big, bad serpents. Because of the available space on the PS3 version's Blu-Ray disc, in-game TV displays play movie clips from classics such as "The Man with the Golden Arm." In both console iterations, you collect and call phone numbers to unlock "The Darkness" comic book series, in addition to other Top Cow comics.

The single-player campaign is definitely worth your time, but the multiplayer portion seems tacked on after the fact. There are four multiplayer modes — Capture the Flag, Deathmatch, Survivor and Team Deathmatch — though none are particularly innovative. Up to eight players can play online as mobsters or Darklings; Darklings are quick and nimble, but they aren't as strong as the gun-toting mobsters.

From the beginning to the end, The Darkness is saturated with horror. Estacado is even darker and more atrocious than he is in the comics, and while he succumbs to the source of his disturbing abilities, his inner struggle against the demon proves to be his salvation. There is a good game in here, but it's too bad that the AI and gameplay mechanics weren't as impressive as the deep story line.

Score: 7.7/10

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