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SummaryA beautiful, introspective poem of a game
The GoodWhen I got my copy of the Darkness for Christmas I balked. It had been out for years and for my sister to buy this for me for around $20 when I spent almost $120 on her gift felt like a slap in the face. Nevertheless I popped it in my PS3 anyway to see if it was worth playing and from that moment I spent the rest of Christmas Day immersed in Jacky Estacado's New York City.
You play Jacky Estacado who featured in the Darkness comics. On the day of his 21'st Birthday Jacky is almost killed by his Uncle (whom happens to be the Don of the Mafia family Jacky belongs to) because he feels Jacky is disrespecting him. From this moment Jacky and Paulie (his uncle) exchange blows both psychological and physical while Jacky struggles with a supernatural affliction; The Darkness. The Darkness is an entity that manifested as Jacky was fleeing Paulie's hit men. It torments Jacky, forcing him to do things while allowing him access to its hideous powers. The Darkness also functions as a powerful metaphor. Jacky doesn't want to show his Darkness to Jenny, his girlfriend and the source of much heartache and this metaphor is extended as the game continues. The Darkness itself is a hideous creature that snarls and mutters distorted threats at Jacky, it is a menacing entity, threatening to consume him completely.
There are times when playing The Darkness that you become so lost in Jacky's desperate struggle that you feel emotionally connected to him. You feel so sorry for him but at the same time you understand that he has done bad in the past. His words and emotions are so raw and so human. It's poetry of the soul, the product of an accomplished script. The most powerful example of this is in Jenny's apartment, shortly after escaping Paulie's goons. Jacky is surprised by Jenny, who offers him a birthday cake and then tells him to sit down with her. From here, a tender piano dirge plays and what you do next is up to you. If you sit with her, you experience one of the most genuine displays of emotion and romance in not only any game, but any media in general.
The story would be nothing without some solid game play to break up all of that introspection. Of course, Starbreeze does not disappoint. The shooting is precise but a degree of auto aim is present, Jacky can dual wield small weapons and points them automatically over things or around corners when you approach. It feels fluid, natural and accomplished.
Using the Darkness powers in conjunction with weapons is the key to success. You have access to a power called the Creeping Dark which you can use as a scout or Darkness Arm which is essentially a long tail which can disembowel enemies and then fling them away. You also have the option of summoning Darklings. Awesome little creatures that can be used as shock troopers, gunners or to knock out lights which impede darkness power regeneration. The Darklings are fantastically characterized, can be dressed in little costumes and spout hilarious gibberish such as "I like Penguins" when they are summoned.
In between traditional FPS section there is a subway system which acts like a hub connecting two stations together. This subway is full of people who need help and Jacky, being the old school "help out the community" style Mafia guy is just the guy to lend a hand. You unlock collectables which function as phone numbers, complete with hilarious messages (such as the emergency contact line that asks, amongst other things if the caller is being stabbed, is stabbing someone or is on fire) further extending the replay value, discussed later on.
The sound design is one of The Darkness' strongest suits. The music, which is a fantastic combination of driving Heavy Metal, haunting ambient symphonic pieces or heartbreaking piano dirges accompanies the on screen action with a precision and seamlessness like I have never seen before. It just feels perfect, nothing feels forced or out of place, it's just perfect sound design.
The Darkness comes complete with a full fledged achievement system, some solid multiplayer albeit with modes found everywhere else and extra's including videos (including the full versions of To Kill a Mockingbird, The Man with the Golden Arm and several cartoons to watch throughout the game) and concept art. These all extend the replay value of this game phenomenally.
The BadThere were points where I wanted to summon Darklings but couldn't, having to back track to summon Darklings again. This was most evident near the end of the game in the Turkish Bath House and during Jacky's trip inside the Darkness.
Some of the side quests offered by the citizens in the subway were a little vague, requiring a fair degree of trial and error to resolve.
I did notice when I was using multiple Darkness powers and there were a lot of enemies on screen the frame rate did tend to dip, however this was in frequent.