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Monday, February 20, 2012

The Darkness II Xbox 360 Impression

It’s not the continuation expected but The Darkness II is enjoyable for gamers and comic fans alike.

The original The Darkness introduced games to hit man Jackie Estacado. A character established in Top Cow’s comic of the same name, and quite badass at that, but an interesting choice for a gaming experience. The Top Cow universe is not as tenured as Marvel and DC but it is rich with plenty of backstory and memorable characters (Witchblade!). The first game introduced Jackie in a fairly Top Cow universe free world where he and his powers shine and the experience was quite solid and fun. Fast forward to The Darkness II and besides a new developer there were also some story, pacing and graphical tweaks that just detracted from the original. What am I getting at? Let’s shed some light on this …

Gameplay – It’s bloody, oh so bloody, it’s bloody and gory and fun! There were parts of The Darkness that felt very sneaky and almost assassin like but in part 2 Jackie just rips it up. There is an unbridled fury unleashed and nothing is spared in the environment as Jackie goes on his linear path through familiar foes as well as a few new ones while constantly dealing with the death of Jenny from the first game. This is what annoys the most; such a killer and wielder of such power is still moping about the death of his girl which is just not what this comic fan remembers (correct me please). Jackie was a womanizer and having a love interest is great but driving the story from here … come on! Give us some more Top Cow interest, which would be hot!

Graphics – No gripe here as the game takes a very comic feeling shaded approach this time around. A game like Batman: Arkham City feels so familiar as it’s a continuation of the first game, refined and perfected, but where that was the same team continuing the same story, The Darkness II is like a guest artist stepping in with his own unique take on franchise. It works, especially with the gameplay pacing and source material. Cookie cutter baddies I don’t understand in this day and age, but whatever.

Sound – Solid voice work brings to life the emotion wanted in the story and accents keep it on the stereotype side of funny … overall well done. The background music also delivers the goods but there is overall nothing to really grab gamers and make an MP3 request necessary. No super memorable tunes here folks.

Design – As a single-player gamer the main mode is a bit short but the feel and power, different ways to kill makes the second play through solid. Can’t comment too much on any other mode besides single-player but as a fan of the comic and the first game the design is well done as it’s not just an extended version of the first.

Miscellaneous – Sorry, just can’t do it. This gamer did not want to connect with Jackie and his emotions, no matter how violent the boy gets the inner turmoil about Jenny just felt out of place knowing the source material. This killer can bring it and while touching in the first game the relationship with Jenny just feels like a bit too much.

Overall knowing comics will helps fans enjoy The Darkness II. Where Arkham City is like an extension, improved in so many ways, of Arkham Asylum; The Darkness II is like a new creative team (writer, artist, etc) stepping in for their take on said comic. It happens all the time, there are runs of artist and writers tied to a series and this comic game is no different. There is enough backstory for gamers to get familiar with what happened till now and the experience is very enjoyable especially as a rental. There are some technical hick-ups but it’s an overall solid and fun first-person romp … just don’t expect the next Halo or Battlefield.

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