The Darkness 1 and 2 (Xbox 360)

Three heads are better than one…

Written by Kimberley Secker

I thought a good place to start my blog would be to have a couple of entries on what I have been playing over the past few months. For me the run-up to Christmas was swallowed up by compulsively playing dropzone in MW3 multiplayer. Here’s what I’ve been playing since kicking that habit:

I bought The Darkness about a year ago preowned from HMV for £3.50. Thinking it’s only a couple of pounds, why not? I purchased it and brought it home where it suffered the same fate as many games I have picked up due to their cheapness, Condemned and Alone in the Dark being prime examples, and sat on the shelf gathering dust, not getting a thought from me apart from causing a guilty pang whenever I happened to glance over at the neglected back-log I had failed to touch. I did however give it a token try a few days after buying it. Seeing there was an achievement for killing all the gangsters in the opening sequence there followed a frustrating hour and a half of me failing to kill anywhere near enough of them, then quitting feeling resentful towards the game and with the impression that it was a dull Mafia-type shooter that I had no interest in playing again.

A few months ago, seeing that there was an interesting looking sequel on the horizon, I begrudgingly gave it another go. After plugging through more tedious and difficult shooting at the beginning, I finally got to the main game and was rewarded for my endeavours with an atmospheric game with a great narrative and art style.

Once you gain ‘The Darkness’ the game changes from being a boring shooter by giving you two snake-like growths which you can use in a variety of interesting and entertaining ways, such as ripping your enemies hearts out. Your darkness powers diminish in light which adds an interesting dynamic, and resulted in me obsessively shooting out every lamp and streetlight in my vicinity. Your Darkness powers also enable you to summon darklings which each have their own abilities such as shooting enemies or distinguishing lights for you. Their usefulness is varied and at times the AI isn’t very good but they add some quirkiness and humour.
Set in a grimy New York, the subway provides a fitting hub in between missions in which you can talk to characters and do side-quests which are a nice interlude from the main action. Some sections of the game are set in the trenches of World War One. This provides some of the most interesting sequences and imagery of the game and adds depth to the story by exploring how you became a vessel for the Darkness, although they tend go on a bit too long and the bleak gloominess becomes oppressive after a while.

I played the game pretty much every night for about two weeks, absorbed in the narrative and immersive, if small, open world . Although I did not find the characters particularly likable, the story was nonetheless extremely engaging with the history behind the Darkness itself holding more interest for me than the fates of the protagonists. It was this that kept me coming back to the game every night, despite the agonisingly long gaps between check-points which sent me so far back if I died I easily would have not gone back had I not been so absorbed in the world of the game, even though at times I wanted to chuck the controller at the TV.

Shortly after finishing The Darkness, The Darkness 2 came out and I got it a few days after release, eager for more of what I had experienced in the first game. The second game improves on the first in a lot of ways: the cell-shaded art-style looks great, the checkpoints are closer together, the combat is more interesting as you can use your darkness powers in more varied ways and choose how you upgrade them. I missed the open world of the first game but not too much as the sequel moved along at a good pace and provided a variety of locations and tasks. Jackie’s mansion provides the hub of this game which was not quite as interesting as the subway, but provided a chance to interact with other members of the gang; and the asylum is an interesting ‘alternate reality’ that mirrors the inhabitants of the mansion and also other characters in the game.

Due to the age of the game it’s very hard to get a multiplayer game going on the Darkness, unless your friends have copies, and then, again due to age, the multiplayer is mediocre. The multiplayer on the Darkness 2 on the other hand is brilliant. The missions are interesting and complement the single player story very well. I was genuinely surprised at how much I enjoyed it and how long I played it for. You have the option of playing as one of four characters, each with their own special abilities which you can upgrade in the same way you upgraded your darkness powers in the main game. The missions are fun and tie-in well with the main story, for example the mission where you have to rescue Jonny. It is good in its own right and doesn’t feel, like in so many story based first person shooters, like an obligatory tag on. I would highly recommend both games purely on gameplay and artstyle – both games are great if you are looking for a decent all-rounder with a sense of humour that you can blast through in a few days.

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