The Darkness II Multiplayer Preview – Embrace the Darkness!
Written Tuesday, December 06, 2011 By Lee BradleyView author's profile
The Darkness' multiplayer was rubbish. Borne of a lack of imagination and plagued by terrible netcode, the collection of dull maps and thoughtless game modes stunk the place up. Slapped onto the side of a lovely campaign and excused of any real responsibility, it didn't really matter though. Not really.
But four years on and times have changed. With consumers showing less and less faith in purely single-player experiences, the multiplayer aspect of any game is of increasing importance. Tacked-on online modes just don't cut it anymore. Now in the hands of Digital Extremes, can The Darkness' sequel do any better?
The set-up is certainly promising. Eschewing boring old competitive multiplayer, The Darkness II instead offers something called Vendettas, a standalone, four-player co-operative mode that itself features two distinct game types. It's an approach that ensures that The Darkness 2 plays to its own unique strengths.
So while something like Deathmatch would have thrown out what The Darkness was particularly good at, the Vendettas Campaign Mode openly embraces it. It's a story that runs alongside the main campaign, overlapping at points and engaging with the central narrative. The main difference, of course, is that here you can play as any of four characters, united in their hatred of the Brotherhood.
They're a characterful bunch, each one more badass than the last. All capable of dual-wielding from a loadout of four weapons, this grizzled bunch of killers also have unique Darkness powers and instruments of death. You would not mess with any of them for a second.
First up is Shoshanna. She's a Mossad agent. The very best at what she does, she's been drafted into New York to take on the Brotherhood, who the Israeli Secret Services believe are priming a strike on Israel itself. With an evil looking shotgun pistol and a power called Gun Channeling, she'll be making sure that doesn't happen.
Then there's Jimmy Wilson, a hilariously-accented Scottish lunatic. Born and bred in inner-city Glasgow and sporting some wonderful face furniture, Jimmy wants to wipe out The Brotherhood because he thinks they're English. And he hates the English. To help enforce his violent racism, Jimmy is armed with a Darkness-infused Dark Axe and is capable of summoning Darklings.
J.P. DuMond is next up. He's a witch doctor with a twist – he feels a bit guilty about it. Skilled in Louisiana Voodoo and wielding a Darkness-powered Midnight Stick capable of emitting magic blasts, DuMond can also summon Black Holes to swallow up enemies. Which is a handy skill to have, innit?
I played as Inugami, a psychopathic assassin also known as the Hound. He didn't have the best start in life, bless him. At a young age he was buried up to his neck and forced to watch his family being slaughtered by the Brotherhood. It's safe to say he's not too keen on them now.
In New York for vengeance, Inugami has a deadly trick up his sleeve: Kusanagi. Fuelled by the Darkness, Kusanagi is a sword destined to take the lives of 10,000 wicked men. Inugami might just know who those men are.
Taking control of this gloriously demented Japanese killer I tackled one of the Hit List missions. These are one-off missions that sit within Vendettas, either lifted from the single-player campaign or crafted specifically for the mode. Each tasks you with taking out a particular target.
Mine was a particularly nasty Brotherhood boss, holed up in a television studio. His death was inevitable, but first I had to battle my way past a whole bunch of Brotherhood goons.
Armed to the teeth with a rifle, a sub-machine gun and the glowing Kusanagi blade, I got stuck in. There are a few different ways you can deploy your weapons. If you dual-wield your sword and, say an assault rifle, then you'll only be able to fire from the hip. By design it feels rather imprecise, but it's an acceptable trade-off for having your sword close at hand. Because my God you're going to need it.
The Kusanagi is a nasty little blade in its own right, capable of slicing and dicing enemies, but it's also vital to your survival in other ways. Inugami's health is divided into quarters. Take damage and your health will tick down, stay out of trouble and it will tick back up. But only to the nearest full quarter. To earn those quarters back you're going to have to devour souls.
This is done in a wonderfully gruesome way. When an enemy is downed, purple darkness energy will swirl around their corpse. Approach them and tap a shoulder button and you'll plunge your sword down and suck out their soul in a blizzard of viscera, thus regenerating their health.
In this way the game ensures that you are constantly pushing forward, rather than hiding in a corner. Thanks to the tough enemies you'll come up against - everything from heavily armed goons to mace-swinging brutes and Darkness-powered militia - this means that there's a nicely balanced risk reward to piling in to bad dudes.
Making things tougher is your reliance on darkness itself. Step into brightly-lit areas and you'll become almost snowblind, your vision reduced drastically. This is a mechanic carried over from the previous game, but here it's greatly amplified.
Your only choice is to shoot out as many lights as possible and stick to the shadows. Fail to do so and your white-outs will become speckled by blood and you'll go down, only revivable when your co-op partners pass the next checkpoint. (If you have any co-op partners, that is, you can play most of the Hit List missions solo).
It's in this way that I sliced and blasted my way through the level, my screen a squall of blood, bullets and blindness. I won't spoil the details, because you'll want to discover it yourself, but the story element of the mission was nicely handled, fleshed out enough to add a nice bit of narrative impetus to proceedings, but unobtrusive enough not to get in the way. You'll be encouraged to replay missions too, thanks to a scoring system that dishes out points for kills, without being put off by long repeating cutscenes and the like.
Indeed, the fact that The Darkness 2's multiplayer employs a narrative is one of its greatest strengths. Not just a bonus extra slapped onto the side, Vendettas is a fully-formed set of co-operative missions that tie-in nicely with the actual campaign, while also offering the chance of some insane battles alongside your mates.
It also helps that Digital Extremes has chosen to ignore competitive multiplayer, as setting everyone loose with Darkness powers just wouldn't be feasible in that kind of environment. This way, Vendettas gets to retain what makes the series unique. Nicely put together and populated by some memorable characters, the early signs are promising. Get ready to embrace the Darkness once more.
The Darkness 2 is out on February 7th, 2012 in North America and February 10th, 2012 in Europe.