When I had first heard about The Darkness being made into a video game, I was skeptical. The reason being that, while I did enjoy Paul Jenkins' run as the writer, and enjoyed the first seven or eight issues, I felt that it was just best to leave it alone. After all, who would really
enjoy running around in green and gold body armour while lamenting the woes of forced abstinence?
Well, maybe the Teens-4-Christ circle jerk, but I digress.
It was with a heavy heart and a grim, pouting lower lip that I began to track the development of this game. I had heard it was going to be developed by Starbreeze who, until this game, I assumed to be nothing more than a one-hit-wonder. They of course, being the ones who brought us the gritty first person action-romp known as Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher's Bay.
"So what?" I whispered into the dull recesses of my basement. I was, dare I say, not convinced by this Starbreeze Studios developer. If I was going to experience The Darkness and all of its glory on my Xbox 360, I wanted to be
the Darkness. I wanted to be the monster that frightens the little children, and most important of all, I wanted to be the only one who had this unnatural gift for bloodshed and carnage.
And it was perhaps because of this, or because of my thrice-weekly ritual sacrifice of pet llamas, that it would almost as if my prayers had been answered. The first trailer and screens of then upcoming Darkness had hit the web, rippling out into the Outer Rim of cyberspace, where I reside.
I was excited, perhaps delighted, to find that The Darkness was going to be everything I hoped it'd be. It would be dark (duh), it would be moody, and it would have a delicious atmosphere seemingly only reserved for the most polished of games. It had a story to tell, and it was going to tell it on its own terms. And on the day of July 5th, 2007, I strolled down to my local Electronics Boutique and purchased The Darkness. A slight tingling in my underpants told me I was in for everything I hoped for, and more.
And now, thankfully, with a paltry back drop piece done, I can get to reviewing this game.
The Darkness kicks off with a hybrid of both the origin story from the comic book, and Volume 2, the beginning of scribe Paul Jenkins' run. Immediately your thrown into a whirlwind as you're racing through the the underground tunnel, executing a narrow, heroic escape from the hands of death itself. Your buddies are providing the back story, slipping you tidbits of information as you grab hold of your sticks and try to maneuver around... in essence, trying to regain your bearings.
You learn that you were K.O.'ed by a big fella while in the midst of trying to collect some cash for Uncle Paulie Franchetti, the Mafia Don. I won't spoil any more, but know this; from the moment you're given the opportunity to hoist your shotgun high and cap fools into another dimension, this game brings you the goods.
For those of you wondering just what I'm rambling about, take this for example. A certain area (let's call it, The Trenches) is an almost post-apocalyptic depiction of World War 1. Everything from the trenches themselves to the unnerving, bizarre, almost Geiger inspired renditions of the German soldiers seems to scream madness at you. From the darkly twisted trees, the brown, dead grass, to the way the pistol feels in your own hands. There is no doubt in this writer's mind that from the get-go, this game delivers on every single promise. The satisfying crunch as your demon-head buddy tears through the flesh of fallen enemies to snatch a bloody, still-beating heart into its jaws is not only satisfying to see, but also a little demented. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your view), it is also over almost as soon as it began.
That could be said for the entirety of the game, however, and that's where this game falls a little flat. No matter how compelling the story (and it is compelling), and no matter the tragedies you experience and the obstacles you face, you can't help but hope there's a little something more at the end of the tunnel for Jackie Estacado. Alas, keeping within the theme of this game and within the world you're immersed, this cannot be. And the real tragedy is that, once you're done romping through the 10-15 hours this game provides, there really isn't that much left besides Multiplayer... as hollow a shell of such a concept as I have ever been privy to.
Multiplayer is, well, not very fun. Shifting from humans to the darklings is not fun. While it is not to say that like the rest of the Darkness, Multiplayer does not have its own quirky little charms, when compared to the rest of the immense ****-up that Multiplayer turned out to be, I cannot help but say that it just doesn't matter. The darklings themselves could be as charming as ever, offering up half-digested hearts and the balls of your own enemies as tribute, and it just would fall flat in comparison as to how wretched and, well, evil
But enough about that. If you're going to be buying The Darkness, I urge you to do it for the right reasons. Even if the game will only last as long as your average one night stand, you will still be left, after the experience, with a lit cigarette perched between your moist lips, your eyes blurry and dazed, and your hair tousled beyond comparison, with a quiet, meaningful smirk. You will have known that this damsel of Darkness has just rocked your world, and perhaps with a pang of regret, you will let it go to the shelves of Games You Have Conquered, never to again see the light of day now that you've had your way.
Perhaps that's for the best, because the experience just isn't as welcoming and immersive on the second play through. Perhaps the magic is gone, and perhaps, most of all, the experience would be better left locked away in a small chest in the back of your mind... where every so often, you can trot it out, compare it to the latest game you're playing, and feel that this new experience is woefully inadequate compared to.The Score
Inspiring to witness, The Darkness has little in the way of comparison as to its attractive look and atmosphere... but one does have to wonder whether or not the excessive use of shadows and lighting are to hide the fact that the game is just not as well-rendered as other titles of the day. Add to this the frequent synch problems between dialogue and the characters, and you've got yourself an itch that just can't seem to be scratched.
Fantastic voice acting and a great, memorable score provides The Darkness with complementing mood shifts and appropriate atmosphere. The bangs, the booms, and the morose and rather tragic score will more than likely leave you prowling the Internets looking for some copy of it, somewhere.
A tight, adventure/shooter, this game can provide some fun gunplay and some rather nasty looking kills. However, the style of gameplay doesn't often differentiate between prowling the city streets and the underground and shooting all of the Mafia goons in sight. Some variety would've better served this game, as sometimes it can be slightly stale in comparison to other titles of the genre.
Replay Value: C
There isn't much replay value here, lest you wish to amp the difficulty or try and collect more letters/phone numbers. I wouldn't dare the Multiplayer though.
Overall Grade (not an average): B
For the narrative, gameplay, and the beautiful audio/visuals of The Darkness, I'm officially giving it a nice, healthy rating of "B". A lot could be done to help raise its worth, but as it stands, it has good, solid gameplay and a narrative that will most likely leave you feeling downtrodden and a little morose about life at large.