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I have always been very fond of the original Darkness, while certainly not the best first person shooter out there, it had a great cast of characters and a really engaging story that was made all the more enjoyable because of that. It’s been nearly five years since the original, and the focus of first person shooters has shifted dramatically since then and creating a sequel that stays true enough to the spirit of the original while catering to modern expectations will not be an easy task.
The first thing that becomes immediately apparent when playing The Darkness 2 is the shift in art style, the original was quite impressive back in 2007 and had a real gritty look to it that complimented the dark nature of the story and the characters in it. The Darkness 2 seems to be embracing the comic much more, everything has a slight cell shaded look to it but is lacking in overall detail, the visuals are certainly unique, but aren’t as impressive as the original for its time.
Now if there’s one thing that wasn’t so great about the original game, it was the shooting, there are certainly worse shooters out there, but the gunplay felt very automated in the way that Jackie would always point guns at everyone’s head. Which as you might imagine, made the game pretty easy, especially when you had the full array of Darkness powers too. As soon as you start shooting people in the face in The Darkness 2 however, you’ll realise that this isn’t the case anymore. The gunplay feels far more modern and very responsive, the dual wielding can feel a little awkward at first, but that’s equally down to how you lose the ability to use iron sights when using a second gun as it is purely because hardly any shooters allow you to dual wield anymore.
The other significant change to the gameplay is how The Darkness is a far more active presence that it was in the first game. Apart from eating people’s hearts (which you still do in the sequel so don’t panic) and occasionally opening a black hole or using your demon arm to stab dudes, The Darkness didn’t play a huge part in combat in the first game. This is certainly not the case in The Darkness 2, apart from the fact that you seemingly cannot put the Darkness away like you could in the original, you can now use it to grab shields, throw objects at enemies and attack in horizontal and vertical motions.
Now this won’t hurt a bit. Actually, that’s a lie, this will probably hurt like hell
This doesn’t take away the ability to use firearms though and as such makes you extremely powerful and nothing in the demo was really challenging. There is also an upgrade system present in the game which is tied to how you kill the various enemies you face, it’s similar to what Bulletstorm did, but doesn’t feel anywhere near as complex or capable. Most of the “kill moves” seem to be associated with The Darkness, like grabbing a guy by each leg and ripping him in half and you always get a little bonus for eating people’s hearts, I mean there would be something wrong if that didn’t give you points right? The amount of upgrades available in the demo is small, but you certainly get the impression that you’ll be able to upgrade what abilities you happen to find yourself using while in combat.
The demo doesn’t reveal a great deal with regards to the story, all you can say for certain at this point is that there is someone who wants Jackie to surrender The Darkness to him. It’s certainly assuming prior knowledge of the previous game, so you might want to familiarise yourself with the first games story before jumping in here. My only big complaint is the lack of the original voice actor for Jackie, his performance ranks among my favourites of recent memory and his absence wouldn’t be so bad if the replacement didn’t sound so run of the mill. Fortunately, Mike Patton does return as the voice of The Darkness and as great as Jackie was in the original, the game just wouldn’t be the same without Patton’s performance. The Darkness 2 will release for both Playstation 3 and Xbox360 on February 7th and if the demo is anything to go by, will be a very strong start for 2012.