The Darkness II takes place 2 years after the events of the first Darkness game. Villain protagonist Jackie Estacado wields “The Darkness,” a not-so-nice entity that thrives in — guess where — the darkness, granting him murderous tendrils, an underling that does his bidding and regeneration powers that would make Wolverine jealous. Appropriately, Jackie is powerless in harsh or even normal light. Unfortunately, Jackie is haunted by the memory of his deceased girlfriend Jenny as well as visions of what seems to be an alternate reality where Jackie’s a patient at a mental hospital — and everyone there looks like someone he thinks he knows. To make matters worse, he and his estate have been targeted by a mysterious figure who wants to possess Jackie’s powers.
Using The Darkness as a set of extra arms, Jackie can dual wield guns as well as using his Darkness arms to slash through enemies and improvise weapons out of junk found strewn about the environment. For example, clicking the left bumper near a parking meter lets the player scoop the meter up and use it a javelin. Car doors, circular saws, other people are also fair game and all of them can be used as projectiles. Jackie can also summon a Darkling, a diminutive wisecracking partner that attacks enemies and urinates on their corpses. Peeing on the dead is actually not as gratuitous as it sounds; it nets you in-game currency that can be spent on earning new abilities for Jackie/The Darkness. Some of these abilities include gaining health from killing enemies, extra finishing moves, added gun proficiency, access to explosive ammo, summoning bees and even x-ray vision to name a few. I preferred to focus on basics, buying the health recovery option (by way of eating your opponent’s HEART), then leveling up my gun skills until I gained access to the magic exploding ammo. The extra finishing moves tempted me, but taking the game seriously, I had to opt for the bullets.
Darkness II also offers a secondary co-op optional (co-optional?) mode known as Vendetta. Vendetta missions are an interesting take on some otherwise forgotten dialogue from the main story and they shed some light on certain events in the game. Players take on the roles of one of Jackie’s thugs as they do Jackie’s bidding. The henchman all get to use Darkness powered weapons and they even have access to similar abilities that Jackie has. I’m thankful for playable sid-quests like these, especially when they’re optional. Even if you want to know all the details about what it took to go pick up Jackie’s dry-cleaning or who Jackie wanted killed, you don’t want to have to diverge from the main story in the middle of the game. Also noteworthy is that these kinds of extra modes usually end up as late DLC for games, yet this comes right on the disc for Darkness II. Instead, 2K gave gamers extra content for free and let them decide when to play through it.
I only have a few complaints when it comes to The Darkness II. My first complaint is that some of the game’s dialogue is absolutely cringe-worthy. Thankfully, it’s not during any dramatic moments, but during an important cutscene, I’m treated to two of Jackie’s goons bantering back and forth about some unscrupulous acts they performed with an exotic dancer. It’s not that I don’t have a sense of humor, but this exchange goes on for an uncomfortably long time and any punchline the banter was supposed to contain was lost on me.
My other complaint is that the game ends just as you feel like you’ve gotten into the meat and potatoes of the game. Both a co-worker and I traded our experiences with the game. I told him I finished the campaign mode in about 9 hours, while he claimed to have reached the end of the game in 6 hours. Based on my own experience and the fact that he’s a much more talented gamer in the first person category, I believe The Darkness II can be completed in as little as 6 hours.
While some might find The Darkness II to be gratuitously gory killing spree of a game, I found it fun. I didn’t need to think about an elaborate character build, I didn’t need to spend hours level grinding and I didn’t worry about collecting every single item or looking for hidden weapons (although if that’s your thing there are hidden relics to discover in each level). Pop in The Darkness II and go on your merry way cutting enemies down, eating hearts and — listening to mobsters crack wise.
Eh, as long as you skip that last part, The Darkness II is a fun, albeit short romp through the criminal underworld and several sets of NPC innards that you’ll be glad you took.