E3 2011: The Darkness II Preview – Embrace It...
Written Thursday, June 16, 2011 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
Two years have passed since Jackie Estacado took down New York mob boss 'Uncle' Paulie at the top of a lighthouse in the first The Darkness title, rising to the position of Don of the Franchetti family, while the Darkness continued to envelop him. In those two years however, the Darkness has laid dormant and Estacado has been keeping his powers contained, much to the chagrin of the sentient demonic tentacles who are just raring to get out and indulge in some wanton carnage. And when an attempt is made upon Jackie's life in a restaurant and an encounter with the mysterious Victor Valente AKA 'The Crippled Man' – who wants the Darkness powers for himself - ensues, the Darkness wants to get out, but not before Estacado has the opportunity to wreak revenge.
And so the scene for The Darkness II is set, and the latest demo shown behind closed doors at E3 2011 takes us to a dockside carnival, where The Crippled Man's corrupted cronies are out to kill Jackie and remove the Darkness from his corpse. Not on our watch! The demo opens with Jackie wandering along the outskirts of the carnival, where he then crawls beneath a leaky, damp boardwalk to make his way into the park. Immediately, we're back in familiar territory as the Darkness turns the screen red while taunting Jackie and trying to snatch the pistol from his hand. “Go fuck yourself!” Jackie shouts as he bats the tentacles away. We can see that your relationship with the Darkness will be as antagonistic as ever, if not more so in The Darkness II, which is just fine by us.
Exiting from under the dripping, claustrophobic boardwalk planks, Jackie finds himself in front of a discarded old dodgem car, which a Darkling is using to keep himself amused, as he plays with the steering wheel while cackling like a little maniac. This is just the tip of the iceberg, as we'll get to see the Darkling getting truly psychotic in his own unbridled fashion later on in the demo. Estacado makes his way into the carnival funfair itself, where the game's comic book style really comes to life, with its unique hand-painted textures, bright colours and pencil lines that lend the game a distinctive look not unlike a more visually diverse Borderlands. There's not much chance to admire the scenery though, as Jackie is set upon by a gang of brotherhood enemies from all sides.
Using the game's quad-wielding, you're able to dual-wield two guns while using the tentacles to dispatch bad guys with brutal melee attacks and finishers. A van comes charging in with its headlights burning the Darkness into submission, reminding us of the importance that light and dark plays in the game. Shooting out the lights is of prime importance as usual then, but The Crippled Man's brotherhood are smart enough to know how to combat against the Darkness, and employ flashbang grenades and other tricks to keep you on your toes. With the headlights extinguished, Jackie's Darkness tentacles coil their way around foes, ripping them in half or impaling them, chomping through their stomachs in a burst of blood and guts, like the xenomorph bursting from John Hurt's chest in Alien. And of course, the Darkness still feeds on the still-beating hearts of the fallen to replenish its energy, so there's plenty of heart-ripping nastiness as usual.
You can also hurl objects using the demon arms too, so Jackie throws gas canisters and shoots them to take out several brotherhood members in one fell swoop. A teleporting Valente then enters the scene, evading any attempts at attacking him with quick warping in and out of view, as more brotherhood pour into the carnival grounds. Again, the demon arms set to work with more executions like the 'Spinal Tap' that enables you to pull out the spine of an unfortunate foe or the 'Anaconda' that squeezes the life out of enemies. Between gleefully gory executions, Estacado wields both a pistol and Kalashnikov rifle (better known as an AK-47) to thin the numbers, but he can also employ the 'gun channeling' technique, which as the name suggests channels power from the Darkness into Jackie's weapons causing them to glow ominously and increase their damage.
Jackie can stop at any 'Talent Shrine' dotted throughout the game and tweak his powers using the skill tree, meaning that you can upgrade the gun channeling ability or devote XP – earned through the simple task of killing - to boosting your mystical, demonic or weapon branches. Boosting the gun channeling ability makes Jackie's ammunition go much further – although you can quickly pick up ammo using the tentacles – and unlocks new abilities like the 'Heart of Darkness' that enables you to see enemies as red silhouettes through obstacles and shoot them through walls. At this point a new enemy is introduced, wielding a blue energy whip, which fails to stave off the marauding might of Jackie's demon arms as he grabs a steel rebar and flings it at the ill-fated bad guy, pinning him to the wall.
Continuing through the colourful carnival, painting parts of it in arterial red, Jackie uses the demon arms to pick up a fan blade and frisbees it through the air to decapitate the next foe he comes across. Suddenly we come upon an impasse, where the grinning entrance to a funhouse prevents Jackie from progressing any further. Remember that mischievous little Darkling from the dodgem car? Well, he's back driving a massive gas tanker truck, which he rams into the door in a huge explosion that blows the door wide open and enables Jackie to continue. In the final leg of the demo, we get to see Jackie deploying a black hole that has a devastating singularity effect, pulling everything towards it in a maelstrom of destruction. However, it's not enough to prevent Jackie being captured when he runs into a dead end where a series of scorching spotlights are flicked on, bleaching out the screen and incapacitating Estacado and the Darkness.
“So easy, so predictable...” Valente gloats. “You never had it in you, Jackie.” Estacado then finds himself coming around in a hospital where he awakens to the sight of a doctor looming over him through his blurred vision. “We're going to help you” says the doctor. Yeah, we bet you are... What happens next, you'll have to find out for yourself in the full game when it releases, because that's the point at which the demo ends, leaving us feeling very positive about the sequel to what was one of 2007's most overlooked games. The Darkness II not only looks incredibly distinctive with it's eye-catching comic book-style, but it also looks like it's a riot to play, with a healthy dose of unflinching violence, loads of fantastic action set-pieces and a vein of deliciously dark humour.
The Darkness II will be chomping through your ribcage on October 4th, 2011 in North America and October 7th, 2011 in Europe.