Combining a Mafia-themed shooter with a story of demonic possession may not be everyone’s idea of a good time, and while the two sometimes make incongruous bedfellows, this very odd couple combined to great effect in 2007’s sleeper hit, The Darkness. Indeed, perhaps the biggest mystery is why it took five years for a sequel.
The action begins two years after the events of the first game. Our anti-hero, Jackie Estacado, a 21-year-old mobster whose body happens to be the host for the ancient and powerful evil of the title, is the target in a mob-style hit, while hanging out at his favourite restaurant. It transpires that Jackie has managed to keep The Darkness under control since he used it to take out the bad guys who murdered his true love, Jenny, but no sooner have we rejoined Jackie’s story, than he has to let the lid off and release his demonic ally (voiced by Faith No More’s Mike Patton) once more. What this means, for anyone who hasn’t played the original, is that alongside the ability to dual-wield pistols or aim a shotgun, Jackie also has a series of demonic tentacles with which to grab enemies, before ripping them apart in a number of gruesome execution styles (the 18s rating is there for a reason) and devouring their hearts to replenish energy: family friendly, this is most certainly not.
The unique weapon system, allowing you to combine shooter and demon attacks, is what made the first game such a welcome surprise, and the combo works extremely well again in this second run-out. It’s also refreshing to play a real bad-ass, like a hybrid of Tony Soprano and Freddy Krueger, instead of the usual saintly hero. The ability to upgrade your weapons and talents is also welcome, and some of the special moves are tremendous fun to try out.
The story itself is pretty gripping, as Jackie is beset by flashbacks and hallucinations which lead him to believe that Jenny could be still alive, and the voice-acting, while a little hammy, is good fun, aside from the ridiculous Cockney accent sported by the Darkling, Jackie’s monkey-like flunkey who provides assistance as you shoot and munch your way through legions of bad guys. However, for a game that took five years to create, the campaign mode is surprisingly short, and the graphics are a little disappointing on the cut-scenes.
Devilishly good fun, but all too brief.