Game: "The Darkness"
System: Xbox 360
Published by: Other
Reviewer: Dr. Boogie
Review: I could count the number of issues of The Darkness I’ve read on one hand, and chances are, I could include the issues you’ve read on that same hand. In spite of its relative obscurity, or maybe because of it, the game based off those comics is pretty damn good.
You play the role of Jackie Estacado, a mafia hitman and the man currently held in the grip of The Darkness, a supernatural force of evil carried by all the men in Jackie’s family. After a botched operation puts him at odds with his uncle Paulie, The Darkness emerges and saves Jackie from being gunned down by Paulie’s men by brutally killing all of them. What follows is the symbiotic, yet dysfunctional, relationship between the two as each tries to gain the upper hand on the other.
From what I understand, there are a few small differences between the game and the comic it’s based on. The biggest difference I can see seems to be in the art direction. Rather than decking Jackie out in some shiny armor with loud colors, his in-game look when he uses The Darkness is merely his normal look, albeit with glowing eyes and what look like black moray eels coming out of his back. “Toned down,” I guess would be the way to best describe it; there’s certainly no shortage of blood and gore, but it seems like the artists were going for a more modern and (relatively) believable look, which I think works out really well and emphasizes the frightening nature of Jackie’s powers.
And using Jackie’s frightening powers is a lot of fun. In the memorable scene when The Darkness first emerges, you get a glimpse of all the different powers you’ll eventually have access to, from a simple tentacle for impaling people, all the way up to a localized black hole. The only catch is that you have to be in the dark to manifest those powers. You would think that the entire game taking place at night would make that a simple thing to do, especially when most light sources can be snuffed out with either a bullet or a razor-sharp stabbing tendril. It is fairly easy for a while, at least until your enemies catch on to the fact that you’re no good when there’s a spotlight shining on you.
Among the more useful powers is the Creeping Dark, a tendril you can guide around corners, over walls, and even along the ceiling to surprise your enemies and bite their faces off. The usefulness of the other powers is debatable. The impaling tentacle, for instance, doesn’t see that much use, apart from quickly smashing out lights, because your guns have a much greater range and can be used more readily. Later in the game, you can even summon a pair of guns that use Darkness energy instead of bullets, but they use said energy fast, which is bad news even when you’re standing in a pitch black area shooting at people. And once you get the black hole... well, you may not want to use anything else.
They are introduced to you slowly over the course of the game, coinciding with boosts in power you get from eating the hearts of your enemies. Seriously. Whenever you make some new corpses in an area, you can walk over to one, hit a button, and one of those eels on your back will dive into the corpse’s chest cavity, rip out the entire heart, and swallow it whole. It’s an interesting new substitution for an experience meter, and there are a number of different animations for eating those hearts, but over time it gets to be a chore. You have to freeze in place to eat one, and so you generally won’t be doing so in a firefight. Instead, you’ll clear everyone out, then go from one body to another looking for hearts to eat so you can make it to the next upgrade level.
You can also summon goblin-like “Darklings” to help you clear out enemies, but again, their usefulness is questionable. Each one is surprisingly frail, even the melee attacker variety. Most of the time, you’ll be better served saving your Darkness energy for sending out the Creeping Dark, or just absorbing a few more bullets.
The multiplayer aspect of the game is also a bit of a disappointment. Sure it’s there, and you can play as minions of the darkness against regular humans, but who wants to be a normal human in a game where you have access to all sorts of malevolent powers when you’re not? Furthermore, who wants to play as a boring old human when there are some serious lag issues that still need to be worked out?
Nevertheless, the single player experience is fantastic, if short. The presentation is great, as is the voiceover work, especially Mike Patton as the titular character. I’ve had my doubts about some of his other voiceovers, but nowhere is he better showcased than in this game. They didn’t even have to enhance his voice to make him sound convincing as an immortal force of evil.
Most comic book games out there, the best thing you can say about them is that they’re mediocre. Batman: Arkham Asylum is receiving high praise right now for being one of the best examples of what a comic book game should be, but if you’re looking for a good single player comic game, and you don’t have $60, do yourself a favor and check out The Darkness.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
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