The Darkness II Hands-On Preview – Going Down...
Written Wednesday, October 19, 2011 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
Last time we played The Darkness II, we found Jackie Estacado embroiled in a massive shootout in a posh restaurant, but for this latest hands-on session with the game, we make our way through an altogether different establishment: a brothel. This is no ordinary brothel however, as The Brotherhood – The Darkness II's evil fraternity hell-bent on extracting the Darkness power from Jackie's body – have seized the place as a hideout, meaning it's crawling with unscrupulous Brotherhood guards, armed to the teeth and ready to kill Jackie dead.
Chronologically, this section of the game takes place around 3-4 hours in, shortly after the action-packed restaurant shootout that left Jackie crawling around wounded on the floor, with no choice but to once again embrace the Darkness and unleash the beasts within. Our latest hands-on demo opens with Jackie meeting a busty redhead named Venus, who gives us a way into the brothel past the guards, down a cargo lift and into the horrible, seamy underbelly, where open doors are a portal into depraved and reprehensible acts, and those doors really ought to be shut.
Once Venus leads us far enough into the brothel's inner sanctum and we've been searched by one of the bouncers, we're left to our own devices and don't waste time in sprouting our talking tentacles to start impaling, slashing and devouring our way through The Brotherhood's cannon fodder, who are actually anything but, putting up one hell of a fight with disorientating light grenades that wash out your vision with blinding white phosphorescence, while using cover and flanking tactics to outwit you. Despite being tooled up with guns lifted from Brotherhood bodies and our tentacles making Jackie a quad-wielding force to be reckoned with, The Darkness II is still a tough game at present, taking no prisoners during its shootouts, making carefully thought-out strategy a favourable tactic over storming in all guns and appendages blazing.
The Brotherhood are also well-equipped for Jackie's attack on their turf, with floodlights hooked up to generators causing all sorts of problems for the Darkness itself. As always, any contact with light causes the Darkness to retreat and experience searing pain, which transfers to Jackie. Spend too long in the light, and you'll become incapacitated, so we have to follow the yellow wires snaking along the floor to locate the light's generators and put them out of action. Fighting through the first section, we get to grip with the improved, revamped controls that have been made a bit more intuitive since our previous hands-on and subsequent replaying of that same hands-on section at Gamescom, with each bumper assigned to Jackie's left and right tentacle and the left and right triggers assigned to weapons.
Weapons are selected using the d-pad, with down selecting dual-wielding of the two weapons in your left and right hands, which are also selected individually with the left and right directions. Up selects a third larger weapon, like the pump-action assault shotgun we acquire that proves to be invaluable for close encounters when a slashing tentacle just won't do. Still, nothing beats pulling off a brutal execution with Jackie's toothy tentacles, from biting off a henchman's face to grabbing him by his feet and twisting his writhing body into two vertical halves of quivering meat. Jackie's left tentacle is generally used for grabbing, and you can snatch up enemies, dangle them playfully before pressing A to tear them a new one. Or you can dispatch them as you wish and tear out their heart as a tasty, health boosting snack by holding X. The right tentacle meanwhile, handles the swiping and slashing, and can be directed to perform vertical or horizontal slicing using the right analogue stick.
We come to an impasse during the demo that requires shutting down an electrical circuit as the light ahead is too strong for Jackie and the Darkness to proceed. The first electrical panel is easily destroyed by tearing off the cover and cutting the wires, while the second requires the services of our cockney Darkling minion, who's able to interact with glowing green objects, leading us up a green pipe and into a ventilation shaft. From here, we're able to see through the eyes of the Darkling, controlling him as we scamper through the duct, spying through the ceiling grates at the chatting guards below. Bursting out of the vent, we're able to dive at enemies and tear out their throats, before spotting the second relay box and once again severing the wires to kill the lights. Pressing on, we encounter a glowing purple talent shrine where we're able to spend XP amassed from our kills on an array of abilities and upgrades, whether it's a simple health augmentation or a damage boost, there's a huge upgrade wheel with branching abilities to unlock.
We're then thrown into a final, remarkably challenging gunfight on an open floor under construction, where we die multiple times. After slowing down and taking our time though, we make it through the battle, dual wielding a pair of assault rifles, picking up a pair of magnum pistols once the ammo runs out, and flipping to the shotgun to clear up the stragglers. We also manage to throw a circular saw for a spectacular decapitation, then hurl a metal pole to shish-kebab one or two bad guys. With the last of The Brotherhood in this area taken care of, we find our way into a corridor where an ambush has been set up, leading Jackie into an inescapable area filled with spotlights. Once again, light turns the screen bright white and Jackie finds himself pinned to a crucifix having stakes hammered into his hands. Aha! We've been here before. It's The Crippled Man (AKA Victor Valente) again, and his snivelling sidekick. But this time, there's a few twists, as this version of the demo shows us exactly how it'll play out in the game.
Looking around the room, there's shocking sights to see that we can't divulge in the interests of adhering to the international no spoilers treaty, and Jackie's forced to make a horrible quick decision that can't end well whichever option you choose. Clearly, The Brotherhood will truly stop at nothing in their quest to obtain the Darkness and as Jackie loses consciousness – possibly due to the big metal stakes being bashed into his palms – another surprise surfaces. In previous demos, Jackie simply tore his hand from the stake and punched it into the temple of The Crippled Man's minion, but this time, Jackie has to make his way through his own dream, using his tentacles to smash through brick walls as he runs through a dark tunnel. In The Darkness II, it seems that you'll have trouble distinguishing between what's real and what's in Jackie's head. Could Jackie be insane and losing his grip on reality? Maybe. Now there's a twist! Want another twist? At the end of the tunnel, there's a small circular platform, and suspended above the hellish arena, wrapped in bandages is Estacado's lost love, Jenny. Whaaa? Colour us confused, yet suitably intrigued.
The Darkness II is still looking great, and with the tweaked control scheme, new Darkling sequences replacing the creeping Darkness tentacle bits from the first game, more gore than a Saw movie (well, not quite), that cel-shaded comic book-style and a healthy dollop of mystery and intrigue, this could well be the sequel that we're all hoping for. Our demo hit all the right notes, and despite a somewhat uneven difficulty level at present, The Darkness II ought to please fans of the original game and the comic books alike.
The Darkness II is out on February 7th, 2012 in North America and February 10th, 2012 in Europe.