The Darkness II Hands-On Preview – Whipping Up A Bullet Storm
Written Sunday, March 20, 2011 By Dan WebbView author's profile
Whether you like to admit it or not, Bulletstorm sparked something deep inside our inner sanctum last month that told us that plain ol’ killing just isn’t enough to satisfy our bloodthirsty needs these days. We used to get our jollies off on a teabagging here and a headshot there, but Bulletstorm changed all that by promoting its kill with skill mantra and engrained it on our inner psyche. It seems that the effects of such a system is already making waves in the industry and Digital Extremes and 2K’s upcoming sequel to the 2006 cult hit is looking to round their gameplay off with a very similar system. Yes, The Darkness II makes you feel like a socially inept hamster if you fail to kill someone with that much needed style. Pick up a parking meter and pin a bad guy to the wall with it though and that priceless pop-up is one of the most gratifying moments in video games.
After an overwhelmingly positive response to the hands-off presentation that Digital Extremes were doing at GDC at the beginning of the month, 2K brought that very vertical slice and made it playable for the masses at PAX East. A perfect opportunity to follow up and get to grips with the new Demon Arms if you don’t mind us saying. So now we’ve gone hands-on with it, let us delve in and give you a little more insight into things like the kill moves and how they’re performed, as well as the aforementioned points system, which incidentally wasn’t even in the GDC build – or it was turned off.
Quick recap for those that missed the GDC eyes on preview. The Darkness II takes place 2 years after the original and Jackie Estacado is back and as powerful as ever – he’s now the Don in his family. The demo is a fairly lengthy vertical slice from the beginning of the game and it reveals that Jackie has been captured by a mysterious “crippled fuck,” who’s looking to pilfer the Darkness from him. Through a series of flashbacks, the demo introduces players to all the key mechanics as the combat spills into alleyways, brightly lit streets and into the subway system. So when I say “all the key mechanics,” we’re talking about the Demon Arm’s grabbing and slashing mechanics, fancy kill moves, et al.
Now the first thing that we noticed with the hands-on, as opposed to the GDC presentation, was this new comic book art style, which was much more apparent to us this time around. Yes, it may be a little more vibrant in terms of colour in certain sections, but the almost cel-shaded esque dark edges does give it a certain level of uniqueness and charm. While we weren’t bowled over by the new art direction at GDC, PAX East’s hands-on did a lot to allay our fears and prove to us that it might be a savvy move.
The first of the three main things we want to touch upon are the kill moves that we saw as a spectator last time. The kill moves will feature quite prominently throughout the action sequences of The Darkness II if this hands-on is anything to go by and can be used when a foe is unaware of your presence or if they’re stunned. Our first experience with them saw us stood behind an armed assailant, completely oblivious to the tentacle-powered Jackie Estacado who’s stood right behind him. Digital Extremes use glowing hotspots on the intended target to indicate which kill move will be performed. So if you’re looking at his legs, the glowing hotspot will appear on his legs and by hitting the grab button (the left bumper), Jackie will perform a Wishbone execution, splitting him in two. Target his abdomen and he’ll do an Anaconda move where the Demon Arm wraps around him and the head pops out his chest, Aliens style. Lastly, but not least, is if you aim for his head, the Demon Arm rips his throat out. Brutal stuff. While these are very cool ways to take down foes, we’re hoping that there’s plenty of variety in the final game, as with only three, and us seemingly doing the Anaconda kill move every time, it could get old fast.
In fact, Digital Extremes use the whole glowing aspect for what worldly items you can pick up as well, so it’s handy to see what can be used as a weapon – a parking meter for instance – and what can be used as a shield – a car door, like they used at GDC.
The second aspect we briefly wanted to touch upon was the game’s other Demon Arm function – the slash motion, activated by using the right bumper in conjunction with the right thumbstick. Essentially what that means is, that if you press the slash button and sweep the stick from left to right, the Demon Arm will mimic that action. Do it diagonally from top left to bottom right and yes, you guessed, it, it’ll mimic that as well. Having that much control over the Demon Arm is a nice touch, although the range on it isn’t really that impressive, but the problem with slashing your way through The Darkness II is it doesn’t really reward the player with that many points.
Yes! The points system! The one I opened the preview with! That is of course our third talking point. Like Bulletstorm, but nowhere near to the extent it was introduced there, The Darkness II rewards players with points depending on how they kill their foes. Admittedly, it’s doesn’t have Bulletstorm’s range of choices, but it does truly push you to get the more glamorous and frankly more unique kills. If I recall correctly, a normal Demon Arm slash kill is worthy a paltry 5 points, but if you pick up a sort of disc-wheel of sorts and chop a foe in two, then you’ll get 20 points and a “Sliced” pop-up will appear on-screen. Similarly, spear someone with a parking meter and you’ll get an “Impaled” bonus and 20 points. Granted, the whole system is obviously very derivative, but it’s nevertheless a very cool addition and does promote the game’s most rewarding mechanics and most certainly rewards creativity.
It’s quite apparent that Digital Extreme’s goal to stir more action into The Darkness II’s pot – more than ever was in the original – has easily been achieved. The Bulletstorm-esque points system is a welcome addition, but it remains a bit of a mystery at the moment and until it’s fully unveiled, we won’t know the extent of how much that will impact the gameplay – we’re assuming there’ll be some kind of unlock system, where players can unlock cool stuff or buy even cooler stuff with the points earned. If Digital Extremes can inject some variety into the combat with more unique ways to kill foes and more unique kill moves though, then the gameplay is easily headed in the right direction. Dissecting someone in two or spearing them into a wall with powerful Demon Arms has never been so satisfying.
The Darkness II is scheduled for a fall 2011 release.