By TAN KIT HOONGbytz@thestar.com.my
Wield the power to crush your enemies.
THE fact that The Darkness, a game that came out almost five years ago, has a sequel is a bit of a surprise - although the original was a fairly competent and critically successful game, it didn't do well enough that a sequel was guaranteed.
Anyway, a sequel there is, and it's called The Darkness II - this time instead of Starbreeze Studios, the developer in charge is Digital Extremes.
With the new studio also comes a host of changes, most notably a new cell-shaded art style that makes the game more akin to its comic-book source material than the original was.
There are a few more changes here and there, but on the whole, The Darkness II is close enough to the first game that it feels like an evolution instead of the work of a whole different developer.
Embrace the Darkness
The Darkness II continues the story established in the first game. Jackie Estacado, mob enforcer, gains a host of dark powers when an entity known as the Darkness (which is passed down from generation to generation) manifests itself on his 21st birthday.
Jackie's dark powers include two snake-like creatures that act as extra appendages coming out of his left and right side. The developers call the one on your left Grabby, while the one on the right is named Slashy.
Together with the extra appendages, Jackie has, amongst other powers, the ability to heal himself and even send out a Darkling - a small demon created using Darkness powers that will aid Jackie when he needs it.
In the original game, Jackie's love interest Jenny is killed, which leads him to use his dark powers to exact revenge and to eventually rise in the ranks of the Italian mob.
The Darkness II begins some time after, with Jackie now the head of the mob and with his Darkness powers suppressed... for now.
This is where the gamer is thrown right into the action - after a bomb blast nearly kills Jackie, the Darkness resurfaces to aid him.
However, it soon becomes clear that a new and sinister group is after Jackie because of his dark powers.
Fans of the comic will probably already know who this mysterious group is, but if not I won't spoil it for you - after all, the storyline is actually quite solid and one of the highlights of this game.
Control the Darkness
While much of The Darkness II is familiar to gamers who've played the first game, there are a bunch of tweaks and new features that developer Digital Extremes has added on.
For example, there is a more extensive skill tree now and every time you kill more people or collect hidden relics in the game, you gain "essence," the in-game currency that allows you to purchase new skills.
These skills include more common ones like reducing gun reload times and increasing ammo clip size to more out of this world ones like being able to fling your Darkling at enemies for a targeted attack and even a skill reminiscent of one from BioShock - the ability to send a swarm of insects to confuse and attack your enemies.
However, what Darkness II giveth you, Darkness II also taketh away - the really cool (but admittedly outrageously overpowered) "creeping dark" power in the original game, which allowed the player to send one of his snapping appendages creeping long distances to kill enemies is now gone.
In fact, Grabby and Slashy, your two snake-like appendages, have more limited powers in Darkness II - they are mostly used in close combat, or to fling items or hold items up as shields.
Grabby can grab and throw a variety of items at enemies, from car doors to propellers, while Slashy has the ability to slash enemies horizontally or vertically.
Grabby and Slashy can also work together to grab enemies and then tear them apart, or to tear open fuseboxes and then using Slashy's ability, to slash fuses in half to open locked security doors.
Jackie's Darkness powers are still a lot of fun and is very useful for close combat, but removal of the "creeping dark" power means that Digital Extremes has skewed the game more towards being a first person shooter - about 80% of the time, you'll get things done with guns.
Another change from the original is that now Darkness II is a totally linear game - the original Darkness, while largely linear, still had a few sequences where you could go on side missions for various NPCs that you meet in the subway.
These sequences are gone from Darkness II, and all that is left is a totally linear adventure.
This isn't a bad thing at all. The game moves along at a a good pace and the storyline is as engaging as the first one, and there are more varied levels to visit with no backtracking required.
Last but not least, the art style is worth mentioning - Darkness II ditches the realistic 3D models and shading of the first game in favour of a cell-shaded art style that looks like Borderlands.
The whole effect is actually pretty good and the cell-shaded art style suits this game while the colour palette makes it look a lot nicer than the original.
The Darkness II isn't a very long game - you'll probably be finished in about six to seven hours - nor is it as innovative as its predecessor.
In spite of this, the few hours you spend with it is a blast and you'll get a solid shooter with a very good story that'll keep you engaged all throughout.
Being even more linear than the original Darkness, the developers have also managed to keep the pace and excitement up, which is always a good thing when it comes to a first-person shooter like this.
So was the game any good? Yes, it is pretty darned good.
Having finished the game I really have to say that the story was excellent and there's even room for another sequel.
In terms of gameplay, while it doesn't introduce anything new, the developers have done a good job of working with what they have and produced a varied and often engaging game.
Pros: Great art style; well-paced; interesting storyline; extensive weapon upgrades.
Cons: The game is a bit short.
The Darkness II
(2K Games/Digital Extremes)
First-person shooter for PlayStation3/ Xbox 360
PRICE: RM189 (PS3), RM179 (Xbox 360)