The Darkness II: Hands On At NYCC 2011

While we got to see a closed door demo of The Darkness II back at E3 and came away suitably impressed, this was the first time I actually got to play the game. If you haven’t played the first one, it’s based off of a series of comics set in New York City. You play as Jackie Estacado a mob enforcer who, on his 21st birthday, inherits The Darkness, an ancient evil that gives its host immense powers at a terrible price.

Set two years after the first game, The Darkness II sees Jackie as the head of the Franchetti crime family. He’s bottled up the powers of the Darkness vowing to never use them again. The demo I played appears to start right at or near the beginning of the game. You’ll see your hands being nailed into a cross and find out you’re being held by The Brotherhood, a centuries old society created to fight and destroy the Darkness. The corrupting power of the Darkness has apparently taken its toll on The Brotherhood over the centuries as they now want to take it from Jackie and use it for their own gains.

Right off the bat, the art style jumps out. While the first game looked realistic, if a bit generic, in terms of settings and style, the new game really has the feel of its comic book roots. Seth Olshfski, Producer at 2K Games, told me that the look came about during the early pre-production of the game. Digital Extremes sat down and tried to figure out how they wanted to tell the story and what it should look like. They tried a heavy cel-shaded style, a very realistic style but couldn’t find what they were looking for. So one day as they’re sitting around the office, surrounded by The Darkness comic books and compendiums, they realized that the perfect style was right there in front of them. So, pulling from the look of the books themselves, the new game has what they’re calling a “graphic noir” style. This gives you really dark colors with bright accents, high contrast lighting, and hand painted textures. If you look closely, you’ll see that it all looks like it’s right out of a comic book, and it looks fantastic.

We also talked about Paul Jenkins, a writer on the comics and the first game as well as the second. Seth brought up the fact that Jenkins is really good at setting up narrative moments that can shock and surprise you. You’ll be expecting things to go one way and suddenly, something else happens that throws you in a different direction. I definitely saw that in the opening moments of the demo. I won’t spoil how you end up this way, but, with a mangled leg and burned body, you’re being dragged through a fancy restaurant in chaos. You’ll have to fend off your attackers using only guns until you catch a breather and you’re forced to summon the Darkness once again.

Stepping back into the world of The Darkness, it took a few minutes to get myself comfortable with the controls again but once I did it felt great. The new quad-wielding ability gives the game a new dimension as I can use the Darkness and my guns at the same time. Moving into the street and under heavy fire, I was able to rip the door from a cab and hold it in front of me as a shield while still using guns on the enemies in the area. I then threw the door at one of the enemies and ripped his body apart in a shower of blood. Slashing through enemies, picking them up by both legs and tearing them right down the middle is pure comic book gory joy. The ability to pick up objects and hurl them at enemies all while shooting at them make for a much better game.

Later on, as I was ambushed, my Darkling appeared and helped me out. The Darkling is like Gollum from Lord of the Rings, only more psychotic. You no longer have to worry about controlling where he goes and what he does, he’ll run off ahead and cause chaos, pulling enemies out from cover, pummeling enemies over and over and just making merry mischief in general. It’s a great change and it lets you focus on the good stuff, allowing you to fight the way you want.

Once I made my way down into the Subway system, I was able to try out one of the powers, the Black Hole. It’s exactly what you’d expect, a miniature black hole that opens up and pulls in every nearby enemy, and it’s entirely awesome. There are several other powers, including Gun Channeling, which allows you to see and shoot enemies through walls and Swarm, which will overwhelm enemies and destroy them where they stand. Again, I love the look of this game. Digital Extremes has really captured a beautiful comic book style and the whole game feels great.

This game has quickly gone from “looks kinda cool” to “I can’t wait for this to come out”. Expect more coverage in the coming months as we lead up to the release February 7, 2012. In the meantime, check out the screenshots below.

Written by Josh Langford

Josh Langford

Josh has been gaming since 1977 starting with the Atari 2600.
He currently owns 26 different consoles and 6 different handhelds (all hooked up and in working condition) including all consoles from the current generation.

Josh is currently the US PR & Marketing Manager for Fountain Digital Labs and has recused himself from any involvement on PS Nation arising from posting or editing any news or reviews stemming from FDL.

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