It's South or the West side...
It's hard to find anyone that's been gaming for a while that doesn't have a favorite Zelda adventure game. For me personally, I'd say A Link to the Past FTW. At least I would've said that up until playing through Darksiders. Now I'm a little conflicted. This is a game that started off with a team of four people and ballooned into a major THQ project. And while more folks were added to the team as things progressed, it still maintains that made-by-gamers for gamers vibe. There is a lot of fan service here, so to speak, as these guys wear their influences on their sleeves.
As I said, this is an adventure title in the same vein as the Zelda-Metroid-Vania series, only much, much more brutal. The main protagonist, War, one of the four horsemen of thy Apocalypse, is what Link would be if he roided up, started using a gun and went Iron Maiden album cover on everyone. You've been framed for causing the end of days to arrive ahead of schedule, and have been sent back to earth to solve the mystery of just who set you up, get revenge and clear your good name.
The plot is about as compelling as a video game can get, and has more than just a hint of comic book grit. Which I would assume is due to the fact that co-creator, Joe Madererro cut his teeth at Marvel. And since everything takes place well after humanity's extinction, it's easy to focus more on the intriguing whodunnit aspects of your vendetta.
To augment the story, there's a army of voice actors that includes Mark Hamill amongst it ranks. Old Luke Skywalker takes on the role of The Watcher, an entity that helps you throughout the game, he's like that annoying fairy in Ocarina that reminds you of your objective constantly, except he sounds like the Joker from Batman: The Animated series and the more recent Arkhum Asylum game. The rest of the cast is a bit-overshadowed by his performance but it's all still head-and-shoulders better than many "celebrity voiced" games like Jericho (not to mention being a much, much better game).
Beyond the obvious and apt adventure game comparisons already made, there are a few instances of genre bending, such as a Panzer Dragoon-esque flying fight sequence that plays almost exactly like the original SEGA cult classic. Little areas like this that throw you a curve ball help to emphasize the hardcore elements, making it more than just another Devil May Cry hack and slash fest that games like this can so easily become.
Visually, everything is very dark or metal or brutal depending on what kind of music you listen to. Although I can't think of a good reason that little leaflets of newspaper would still be fluttering around cities one hundred years after humanity's destruction, I'm gonna let it slide, because it's a very small complaint in a game with a rather impressively eclectic level design. There are sewer systems and ruined buildings as you'd expect, but on top of that are lavish forests grown out of decrepit skyscrapers and desolate deserts full of giant, deadly death worms a la Dune. The generous palette of colors gives a nice contrast to the games darker overall presentation, and helps stave off what I like to call “greyscale abuse”. Even though the people are dead dead, life is still lavish a century later and looking great.
Sadly for this game, and fortunately for my love life, looks aren't everything. There are a few issues that keep it from being a superb title. Most notably the poorly mapped controls. Executing moves can feel like trying to drive a semi-truck while sexting your hot teacher. Many actions require use of multiple buttons that themselves have multiple uses. For instance, the same button is used to block and to dash and in games like this, let's face it, buttons get mashed, so the minute you hit the directional button, you're gonna run right into your opponent rather than block his attack. Aiming and using the glaive-like crossblade is probably the most frustrating of actions you'll have to perform and requires you to enter a manual aim mode that becomes a pain to deal with while trying to maneuver in combat
Fighting is still enjoyable with it's beat-em-up combo system and secondary attack skills, such as the scythe, but lacks a deeper combo system in the long run. You would think that you'd just be able to use your scythe as your main weapon as opposed to the sword, but instead each is assigned it's own button. On top of that the combo meter is very touchy. Miss one arbitrary swipe that you had no control over and it's back to x1. With the skills and abilities made available to you and the fact that this is a combat heavy adventure, you would think the controls and fighting system would be cleaner. Not that you won't have fun blasting angels with a laser gun and flying on the back of a griffin, the execution is just not quite what it could have been.
Darksiders is a title that takes a lot of bold risks and almost all of them pay off, but it's not without it's share of technical issues. While it may have the drive to run with the big dogs, it lacks the final polish that one would hope for. Nonetheless, if you're looking for something adventurous that's a little more grown-up than an elf boy in green tights, War is your man.