Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Darkness II (2012) Xbox 360

Behold greatness!
Rating: 5 out of 5 Perfectly Executed Fight Sequences

Plot Synopsis: Jackie Estacado got control of The Darkness and managed to suppress it. Suddenly a mysterious group of people show up and start a war with Jackie, his mob and his Darkness.
The Good:

-A "previously on..." Intro to get you up to speed. It tells you everything important in the first game and tells you about Jackie and Jenny but it isn’t the same as experiencing it. Does not experiencing it detract from the game? I don’t know, probably not.

-Art style is an improvement, it uses a brighter cel shaded look. The dark areas aren’t so god damn (Baman) dark that you can’t see anything so you can maneuver easier. Now bright lights flare very obviously and you instantly lose your powers under a bright light with the screen going almost completely white with a ringing sound. It’s much better handled then in the first game where there’s a quiet sizzling followed by the sudden loss of your power while you’re trying to stay alive in a gun fight.

-You feel immediately empowered. The Darkness is right there the whole time. It feels fluid, fluent, you are in control & badass.

-I didn't realize how slow everything was in the last game compared to this. This time around the pace is much faster. You are constantly in action and things happen very fast.

-Upgrades, upgrades, upgrades. A massive 4 group skill tree offering a ton of options.

-The story is fantastic. Instead of the WW1 hell from the first game we get a normal, bright insane asylum. The WW1 hell was visually more interesting but this one is psychologically more interesting. It really makes you feel like you are insane and experiencing a delusion.

-The story is perfectly paced. You are fed questions and answers in a way that it keeps you involved right up until the very end.

-Added to the already interesting Darkness character we get a Darkling. We get just one this time but it has quite a bit of personality. It's frequent peeing & farting gets old but he is still an endearing & somewhat sympathetic character. The best part is he is actually useful, he automatically attacks people, he makes enemies vulnerable to you and he himself can be thrown and used like a projectile weapon. His personality is such that you start to really feel a connection with him by the end of the game.

-There are just more, better characters all around but Jackie's occult specialist Johnny has the most personality. The whole supernatural element of the plot makes it better than the last game as well. In the last game we just had mob guys. Mob guys that seemed to know more about the Darkness then they probably should but it was never explained what they knew, how much they knew or where they learned it from. This has a much more intriguing supernatural plot.

-The "quad wielding" mechanic is ingenious & turns you into a whirlwind of guns, darkness & blood. Throw in the ability to summon a swarm of hell bugs & channel the Darkness through your guns & you become one unstoppable killing machine. Everything comes together almost perfectly. In a fight I’m dual firing machine pistols, I grab a pole and throw it impaling a bad guy to a wall, slice through a melee guy with one Darkness arm, slice another guy up while he’s held by the Darkness, then grab him and tear him apart for health, fire out a swarm of bees, grab a car door and deflect a bunch of oncoming fire, fire through the open window and then finally throw the door which cuts the last guy in half. It just all comes together smoothly and you are in total control the whole time. After you get used to it you become like a conductor of gore in a fast paced orchestra of violence.

-The up close Darkness executions are downright disturbing in the amount of gore and violence they display. It is awe inspiring.

-You get a change of pace occasionally when you get to play as the Darkling.

-You don’t see the ending coming at all. Assuming they create a third game then I’m very interested to see how they resolve the ending. If they don’t create a third game then it’s not very satisfying.

The Bad:

-There is a delay between a grab and the execution options which leads to accidently activating your sub-powers (swarm or gun channeling) as the most frustrating examples. Otherwise you just reload your gun or jump which isn’t that big a deal. It’s a little embarrassing but since nobody is real and they’re just all ones and zeroes I guess it’s forgivable.

-There are two mini games that involve shooting bottles or shooting pigeons that are more frustrating than fun.

-There are relics scattered in every level and some of them are pretty hard to find. I didn’t scour every level but I would go everywhere that was off the beaten path but obvious. I would look in every corner and anywhere else I could look but I missed a number of relics by the end of the game.

The Ugly:

-Not much ugly here.

Final Thoughts: Now this game is THE Darkness game. It takes everything that is great about the first game and amps it up while eliminating pretty much everything that sucked and replacing it with pure, unfiltered awesome. I would put this game up against any other game of any genre, and it would end up in at least the top 10 if not top 5. My own bias thinks this would end up in anybody’s top 5 but there are a lot of games out there. The story, the pacing, the character, the combat, there are very few games that combine them with the skill and artistry that this game does. Go out of your way to check this one out, you won’t be disappointed. In all honestly I was able to fit both Darkness games into a long, 3 day, weekend, they aren’t long games so it might be worth it to accept Darkness 1 and all its faults just so you can experience both games back to back. That’s how I experienced it and I think it was enriched because of that. But that first game is just plain bad compared to this, I don’t think I could go back at this point so I’m glad I played it first.

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