The Darkness review


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Buy your copy from The Darkness (2007) starstarstarstarno star Publisher: 2K Games
Category: Action/Adventure
Available for: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
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If you don’t keep up with the world of comic books, then you should know that “The Darkness” is based on Marc Silvestri’s comic of the same name. I’ve never read the series, but I was more than interested to get my hands on the game, because there was much hype and speculation about it. It was touted an over-the-top gore fest with plenty of action and violence for those of us gamers who dig the digital brutality. So was it worth the hype. Yes and no. But read on.

“The Darkness” is centered on mob hitman Jackie Estacado, who on his 21st birthday, is introduced to the title character that is housed within him. Later on in the game, it’s revealed that this was all due to a family curse, but in the meantime Jackie must learn to deal with The Darkness while it tries to overtake him. You see, Jackie’s Uncle Paulie tried to put a hit out on him and failed to kill Estacado, so now Jackie’s out for revenge. The only person he really seems to have in the world is his girlfriend Jenny, who isn’t privy to the truth of Jackie’s day job. Of course, things get a little messy.

“The Darkness” is, at its core, a first-person shooter, but with the addition of The Darkness itself, it turns into a bit more than that. In fact, it’s a bit like the game “Prey,” with an additional gimmick that takes it out of regular FPS-land. And rest assured, “The Darkness” is a thousand times more entertaining than “Prey” was. The gimmick of this game is that Jackie gets to control The Darkness’ powers, along with these strange creatures called Darklings that can be summoned to help out with the battle. There’s a Darkling that knocks out all the lights; another one fires a chain gun at enemies; a third does a kamikaze attack; and the fourth is the Berzerker who jumps on enemies and kills ‘em real good, as it were.

However, summoning the Darklings all come in time as Jackie learns to utilize The Darkness. With it alone he can creep around remotely and go for stealth kills. The “Metal Gear” franchise has nothing on the fun of the stealth exploration and killing of “The Darkness.” Jackie can also utilize The Darkness’ “demon arm” to destroy and move objects that get in his path. The Darkness also supplies Jackie with some killer demon guns; and best of all, a black hole -- probably one of the coolest weapons ever given to a character in a video game.

If you like violence and foul language, “The Darkness” has it in spades. Perhaps you’re already privy to the infamous torture sequence involving a power drill. If not, get ready to wince. This being a game centered around the mob, there’s plenty of times you’ll be hearing the word “fuck” thrown about, as well as other mobster stereotypes that we’ve all become familiar with through movies and TV shows. I mean, you’re dealing with characters here called “The Butcher” and “Jimmy the Grape.”

The main idea of the game, though, is that darkness itself reigns supreme. If the demon powers aren’t working, it’s time to shoot out some of the lights. Literally. Too much light and The Darkness cannot operate efficiently. It’s a neat twist that will absolutely infuriate at times when you’re in the thick of a fire fight and you find yourself surrounded with too much light. This is when the Darkling that can knock out all the lights comes in handy. But even the Darklings are affected by the light, and will not go into areas with too much of it, or will dissolve into a puff of black smoke when they enter it.

“The Darkness” places Jackie not only in New York, but also within the mind of The Darkness itself. Whenever Jackie is met with ultimate death in the story line, he enters into the world of The Darkness. There, it is filled with a nightmarish WWII battlezone littered with zombies and sewn-up British soldiers. There, Jackie has to enter “The Hills,” one of the more difficult – and actually spooky – parts of the game. There are lots of lightning flashes and scary looking creatures popping out at you, and it’s guaranteed to make you jump more than once.

All of this makes for a fantastic single-player game. The story is engaging, and there are plenty of side missions to work through as well, if you’re so inclined. Where “The Darkness” fails, though, is in its multiplayer game. Unfortunately, this game lags like hell online, making deathmatches nearly impossible. You’ll find yourself shooting at an enemy, only to have it disappear for a second or two and then reappear elsewhere, usually leaving you dead on the floor. The game needs a serious patch in this regard.

There are also the occasional graphic hiccups within the single-player mode. For the most part, “The Darkness” looks and plays great, but there were times in The Hills where I was creeping around in stealth mode and making kills, and the camera would just completely mess up, pulling back to show the kill, but not really showing anything at all. When it would snap back to first-person view, it would be all out of whack. In addition to that, the mouth movements of the characters in the game don’t always match up with what they’re saying. Jackie constantly looks like he’s speaking telepathically, as his mouth barely moves at all during conversations.

Speaking of Jackie, his voice sounds like Al Pacino. And by that I mean Al Pacino of current day. So it’s really bizarre to see this 21-year-old character speaking with this gravelly, much older guy’s voice. It really just doesn’t work, but it’s a minor complaint. And for those of you who may be “Six Feet Under” fans, you’ll be pleased to know that Lauren Ambrose does the voice work for Jackie’s girlfriend Jenny. In addition, Mike Patton of Faith No More and Mr. Bungle fame voices The Darkness.

So what you have here is a near-brilliant single-player game with a couple of glitches and an absolutely terrible multiplayer experience. Still, for everything it does well, “The Darkness” is worth spending time with and playing through its main story. It’s one of those games that you’ll sit down with and keep coming back to every time you fire up the console until you beat the thing. Its story is very solid, and controlling The Darkness itself and all the Darklings is great fun. Definitely worth a rental, and perhaps a purchase if you want to play all the side missions and unlock all the extra content.

~Jason Thompson