Friday, February 17, 2012

Right out of the gate you know this is going to be a profane and gruesome action packed ride with the opening scene of an attempted hit on your mob empire. This game does a great job of emitting that raw and real feeling I got from movies like Goodfellas or Casino. To some this whole mob story was stereotypical but once you tie in the Darkness and those who seek it, you have an excellent plot that helps propel even the slowest points in this game. So let's take a step into the Darkness and see if this sequel exceeds the great expectations set by the original.
The game opens with you, as again playing Jackie Estacado, who is about to enjoy dinner with some lovely twin hotties when a rival attempts to take out Jackie and his crew. This was a pretty good opening and start to a ride that most are sure to enjoy. Jackie must loosen his harness on the Darkness to find out who hit him at the restaurant and why. The story takes a turn from the mob family bit and heads for occult territory which shows us they seek what is inside Jackie versus his empire, as we initially thought. You will also learn more about the Darkness itself and how the newly introduced Brotherhood who seeks the Darkness fits into the equation.
As with the first game the story is a big plus here, and many times you will find yourself completely engrossed in Jackie's trials and tribulations. You also see that Jackie still spends a good amount of time thinking about his girlfriend Jenny, which he lost in the first game. The flashbacks/ quick time segments with the two can actually blend the line between cinema and game. I found this to be the case in the flashback scene which has Jackie visiting Jenny at work and they share a dance and then it all crumbles to show him the Darkness is just manipulating and messing with him. This was yet another reminder of how badly Jackie is still suffering from the loss of Jenny. I really enjoyed the alternate reality asylum scenes, made me really wonder if I/Jackie were actually going insane. The fact that your whole world of friends including Jenny had different roles from doctor to patient only made the whole asylum bit more believable. I love how the writers did not shy away from the violence and adult nature of the story, but embraced it tastefully much like the last entry in this series. I did not buy this game intending to allow my child to play it because this is not intended for a younger audience, be warned there will be a whole hell of a lot of violence, profanity and nudity, all of which worked perfectly.
I am a massive fan of games that use cell shading like Thirteen or Jet Set Radio did. Digital Extremes went out on a limb going in this direction with the art but was it was well worth it. Some complain that you lose detail with cell shading but in this case I believe the detail has been increased, everything from faces to inanimate objects carried a great level of detail. There is also a decent amount of variety in the characters you will come across in this game. The macho mob personality gets old pretty quick as almost every male character displays it, but I guess that's how it goes with most gangster flicks and such. I did hear a lot of repeated lines though which became annoying fast. If one more NPC ran for cover while calling me a piece of sh*t, I may as well have wiped myself up with a piece of toilet paper. The art is this game gives off such an awesome feel like you are playing an actual comic book. Those who love the style of comics or cell shading should not miss this one.
The game play when boiled down is really a standard first person shooter. It is all the things sprinkled in that makes this a load of fun to play. This is one of the first games I have ever played where you will "quad wield" weapons or abilities. Initially I was very skeptical because it sounded gimmicky and seemed like a lot to handle while in battle but the learning curve is excellent and will have you dismembering and spraying lead in no time. You can actually shoot two weapons at one time and use both Darkness tentacles or use a piece of debris for a shield and shoot one weapon. The variety of ways to kill is actually pretty awesome. I personally loved picking up a random pipe or stick and using it like a spear to impale an enemy. The Darkness also allows you to use the tentacles to perform different kills by grabbing an enemy and pressing the corresponding button on screen. As you advance you will unlock new kills, abilities, perks etc. via a skill tree. Each kill rewards points similar to Bulletstorm's skill shots. You also receive points for finding relics, which can all be used at essence stations to unlock all the new abilities like swarm, which hits the enemy with a swarm of bees or the ability to launch your darkling sidekick at a specific target which he will attack. The skill tree is actually quite varied and will keep you finding a fresh new ability to spend that essence on.
This time around we also see you have one specific darking companion, where as in the last game there were many, which left little personality or interest in them. Our Darking this time around is one vile little thing, with what seems to be a British accent and odd little outfit. At times you will see him peeing on the dead or talking smack as he helps you deal with the swarms of enemies. I found myself laughing out loud more than once at what he was saying or doing. The decision to go with one darkling left me actually caring for the little jerk as we progressed through the game. When Jackie cannot traverse an area you will get a chance to play as this little monster. He has his own kills and abilities which also helps to keep things fresh all while adding another layer to this gem of a title.
A lot of my initial excitement for this title came with the announcement of multi player that would be deeper than the first game. Hey, say all you want at the beginning but this multi player better be more than an after thought like the last one was. Everyone can relax and put the pitchforks or torches away because this multi player exceeds expectations. We now have a 4 player co-op experience versus the competitive game play of the last game. This co-op experience has been dubbed "Vendettas" and runs through the full campaign story.
We get 4 new characters specifically for co-op who have their own unique weapons, skill trees and story ties into the Darkness. There is a Scotsman named Jimmy Wilson who loves the drink and carries a killer axe, A voodoo man by the name of J.P. Dummond who wields a cursed staff, Inugami who carries a cursed katana sword that must be fed by killing and Shoshanna who packs a killer double barrel shotgun for that up close and personal experience. Each of these characters are unique and interesting enough to have you trying them all out until you find the perfect killer or score all those valuable achievements/trophies.
The online game play was really fun and reminded me of a lot of the same experiences I had with Left for Dead, which I absolutely loved. Getting into a match was actually pretty quick and took no more than a few minutes waiting for the player slots to fill. There was also interesting if not down right funny dialog to listen to in the lobby as the four characters interact around a poker table prior to the match starting. As for connection issues, I saw very few and only had one game time out in the few hours I played.
I would consider this game a must buy for any fans of the last. The core elements of the first game bleed perfectly into the second without dragging along the first games' baggage. If I had a gripe it would be the short single player campaign which clocks in somewhere between 6-7 hours. Looking at the first game though if you removed all the mindless crap like pointless side quests and focused on single player, it was also probably 6-7 hours. So I cannot really complain for a game that tells an awesome story with great visuals that kept me fully engaged all the way through. If you need more game to play do not overlook the excellent multi player which will easily extend your stay as you try to complete the various vendettas.
I will gladly take an extended stay in the darkness if this what I get, hell I may even opt to move in.
Excellent visuals/comic book style.
Very gore filled and adult in nature.
"Quad Wield" is awesome.
Great story.
Awesome multi player.
Annoying repeated dialog by enemies.
Short single player campaign.

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