Final verdict: D-
Final playtime: Around 5 hours
I could act like a “professional” video game journalist here and make some shitty joke about shining a light on this game or some shit. But I’m better than that. This isn’t IGN or Kotaku or some place equally shitty. So I’m going to actually be professional and just talk about this game. Because that’s why you’re here, right? You wanna know what we think about bullshit that doesn’t matter? I did create this website on the assumption that people want to hear me spew bullshit about other bullshit, so I’m just gonna roll with it.
Alright, so, maybe you played the first The Darkness game. Or maybe you didn’t. It doesn’t matter much. Just know that it’s a generic FPS. The engine feels familiar because it works and looks and feels exactly like every other halfassed FPS. Spongey, soft, and its developers act like it has good lighting and physics. The Darkness had a couple of sorta fun little additions to the gameplay, though. Little backstory: The protagonist essentially has some snake-tentacles made of darkness itself and they loom over his shoulders. They can bite stuff, they can grab stuff. Pretty basic tentacle behavior. In the original game they could also detach, and sorta crawl around and you could use them to sneak through vents and open doors and stuff that you otherwise couldn’t have done by yourself. Eh. Whatever. But at least it was something. Now, in The Darkness II (roman numerals are more dark and broody than numbers just FYI), they can’t do that. They just lurk there not doing anything but taking up screen space. Sure you can slash them around to cut some electrical cables (which you’ll have to do often because apparently most lightbulbs are now bulletproof because I guess people shooting lightbulbs was a major problem and the technology to make invincible lights made astounding leaps in progress), or you can take a swing at an enemy with them if your enemies are really close to you. But they aren’t close to you all that often so you just shoot at them most of the time instead, because guns are so much easier to use than your other abilities which might be vaguely interesting if they had any substantial use.
I feel like I got ahead of myself a little bit there. Maybe I should start over. You’re Jackie Estacado. You’re the head of the Estacado crime family and your life is one enormous racist stereotype, but I don’t care enough to get into that. Basically, you inherited a terrible demonic power called The Darkness. It’s apparently super evil or something but it never really does anything especially evil, nor does it make YOU do anything evil. The narrative of the game beats you over the head about how big of a burden the Darkness is and how it’s ruining your life and how it’s gonna destroy the world and ruin everything for everybody but frankly all I see is a dude who cannot die because the Darkness heals his body any time he gets hurt. Sure you and your loved ones are getting shot at pretty frequently, but it’s not because of the Darkness. That’s because you’re part of a FUCKIN’ MAFIA CRIME FAMILY. YOU CHOSE A LIFE OF CRIME AND CONFLICT, YOU FUCK. QUIT WHINING ABOUT THE NEGATIVE EFFECTS THAT LIFE CHOICE HAS. THE DARKNESS NEVER DID SHIT TO YOU. LEAVE THE DARKNESS ALOOONE.
Okay, so as you probably figured out, I don’t find the plot or narrative to be particularly compelling, well-written or all that well conceived. If they wanted the Darkness to be some evil, controlling entity, they could have done a much better job at portraying it that way. I think I remember the first game being quite a bit better in that regard, but it’s been a long time since I played it and I’m sure as hell not gonna go back and play it again any time soon. Or ever.
So. Story: Bad. Characters: Two dimensional and stereotypical. Hell, two dimensions sounds like a compliment. Let’s call them 1.5D. That .5 comes from the slick, black hair and love of pizza. Gameplay: Extremely run-of-the-mill. The Darkness powers (and the game’s extremely simplistic RPG-style level up skill tree system) add very little to the combat. In fact the only useful abilities are the ones that power up your guns, which you actually do use a lot because the alternatives are so awkward and ineffectual. It’s also got your standard FPS bolt-on that’s so popular these days: Find the 30 hidden items throughout the game. Only it got that wrong, too. There’s only 29 of them, and they aren’t hidden. You’ll trip over them before you even remember that you have to keep an eye out for collectibles. They do at least make a small effort with the collectibles in that they have relatively detailed and kinda humorous descriptions, which are narrated by the game’s one good voice actor, and only interesting character. It’s nice to have backstory, and humorously told, well voice-acted backstory at that. But it also spoils the game’s “shocking twist” ending. Okay, no, it’s impossible to spoil something that obvious, so I can’t use that as a criticism. The backstory from the collectibles is fine.
I usually try to avoid spoilers, but I’m gonna make an exception because… this really is SO fucking obvious that if you didn’t see it coming I actually worry that you might breed in the future, and that you will raise a child, or multiple children, that will in turn spread their tainted DNA and set humanity on the path to ruin within a few generations. So fuck you, idiot. If what I’m about to tell you is a spoiler, you deserved it. The game goes on and on from the start about how the Angelus is the Darkness’ big number one enemy, and that it needs a female host. All the while, the game is reminding you about Jenny, your girlfriend and lead female (and only female with more than two lines of dialogue) in the game. Do you see where I’m going with this? Jenny’s the Angelus. Who’da thought, right? Your main enemy is going to be a female? And there’s only one female in the game? Oh but not that any of this matters, because that’s only going to feature in The Darkness III. If they make it. I guess. Because yeah Jenny only becomes the Angelus after having to sit through like 15 minutes of credits after you beat the game, making this whole game feel like it’s just a pointless segue into the real plot or something. It’s like playing an ad for The Darkness III.
I mentioned a few paragraphs ago that it’s been a long time since I played the first game. It’s been five goddamn years. FIVE. YEARS. First of all, fuck the passage of time and the constant reminder that we’re all getting older and will eventually die and there’s nothing we can do about it. But second of all, holy shit, the first one came out five fuckin’ years ago? Did it seriously take five years to make a sequel this simplistic, easy, linear, short and boring? Okay so it’s made by a different developer, but still, there’s no excuse for this taking five years to make. That’s like an hour of gameplay per year. This game is SHORT. Painfully and shockingly short. But… Can I use that as a criticism if the game is bad? This is genuinely blowing my mind. If the game is so boring, easy, predictable and linear, is the fact that it’s short actually a positive? It still wasted an evening of my time either way, so fuck this game regardless.
I guess I should talk about the actual gameplay some more. It’s ultra simple: One button does everything. It picks up guns and ammo, and eats the hearts of dead enemies to recover your health. This actually is really annoying, because you might try to regain health only to pick up a gun you didn’t want, because everything will always end up in a big incomprehensible pile somewhere and good luck grabbing the right thing when you’re simultaneously trying not to get shot by dudes. The weapon management system, if I can even call it a system, is basically that you can have a big gun and two small guns on your person at once. The small guns can be pistols or SMGs, and the big gun can be a shotgun or an assault rifle. You can also dual wield the small guns, but all that achieves is worse accuracy and no ability to aim down the sights. There’s a couple of different kinds of pistol, a couple different kinds of SMG, and a couple different shotguns/rifles. The differences between them are pretty superficial, though. It doesn’t matter what types of gun you have because there’s no strategy to the combat and the enemies don’t have any strengths or weaknesses to different kinds of weapon. Bullets make things dead, so pick up whatever gun is nearby and go to town. It’s designed to be this way, because the guns run low on ammo quickly, forcing you to pick up new ones as they get dropped by dead enemies. It felt sorta pointless and meaningless.
This game is heavy on cutscenes and other similar things. I’d go so far as to say it’s more a game about its story and characters and settings than it is about the combat. It’s just a shame that the characters, story and settings aren’t particularly interesting or good. Well, maybe that’s not entirely true. Some of the settings were pretty cool. I mean, you live in a big mansion, and mansions are nice. There’s a part in a subway which was reminiscent of the first game’s subway “hub” world that you went between levels, and also a mental hospital that had a cartoony feel to it.
So yeah. There ya go. The Darkness II. Short, easy, predictable, linear, and with very few redeeming features to make up for those failings. It’s a shame because I like the comic on which the games are based and was hoping for something more.
Final playtime: Around 5 hours
Final verdict: D-