|System: X360, PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Starbreeze||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: 2K Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 25, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-8||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Adam Brown
July 6, 2007 - Almost every child and even many adults claim to be afraid of the dark. While this is understandable, it is not actually the darkness that people fear but what the darkness contains. The same logic can be applied to The Darkness for the Xbox 360 and PS3. People may be apprehensive as to whether the game is any good or not but this Darkness' contents are nothing to fear.
The first thing you will notice about this game are its graphics. There is no doubt about it, this game is beautiful. The environments are all very gritty and have a realistic and dark feel. Character models are also fairly impressive. Most characters in the game look realistic but some have an odd mannequin like look that detracts slightly from their appearances. Unfortunately, this also applies to the game's main character. Jackie Estacado's hair moves unrealistically and he often looks like he just got done having a Botox injection. Even so, at times when Jackie was speaking directly to the camera, his face adequately conveyed a good sense of emotion.
The ability for the game's characters to be able to display their emotions is essential to making the game's storyline that much more gripping. The storyline in The Darkness grabs you from the opening scene and doesn't let you go until the credits are rolling. It is a dark tale that follows Jackie after his 21st birthday, when he discovers his mysterious darkness powers after a job for his uncle Paulie goes bad. Paulie then decides that Jackie is a traitor and begins to do his best to knock off his nephew. In this tale of revenge and redemption, you become very involved with the characters and environments that Jackie is exposed to. Each of the game's various characters has a unique personality that further endears them to the player. By the end of the game, you will likely find yourself caring about many of the character's well being.
Caring about the game's characters is even further aided by this game's incredible voice acting talent. The two characters that you will spend the most time listening to in this game are The Darkness and the main character Jackie Estacado. The Darkness is voiced by Mike Patton (Faith No More, Peeping Tom) who does a great job of sounding evil and creepy throughout the game. Kirk Acevedo (Oz, Band of Brothers), who really seems to understand his character, superbly voices Jackie Estacado. I believe that Kirk was a perfect choice to voice this compelling character. Not only is the voice acting well done but the game's soundtrack is very good as well. No matter what is going on during the gameplay, the music fits the action perfectly. If you are in a gunfight trying to stay alive, the music will consist of loud adrenaline-pumping rock that will keep you in the action. At other times in the game, the somber mood is further conveyed with slower, more emotional music that is sure to pluck at the player's heartstrings.
As previously mentioned, Jackie discovers on his 21st birthday that an entity known as The Darkness that resides in his body. The Darkness torments Jackie but it also bestows him with Darkness powers. These are what really make this game unique among first-person shooters. Giant black tentacle like serpents protrude from Jackie that will allow him to whip enemies, move objects, and even slither up walls and through vents to attack enemies and open doors. Add to that the ability to summon black holes and darklings that will quickly dispatch your foes and Jackie becomes an evil one-man army. To make the Darkness emerge from Jackie you will use the left bumper and then to utilize your selected power all you need to do is press the right bumper. All of Jackie's powers are incredibly useful but sometimes it is disorienting and difficult to control the creeping darkness. This is when you get to slither around as a darkness tentacle while dispatching foes and hitting switches. While using this power you will often need to climb walls and squeeze through tiny vents which can often times be almost vomit inducing. The only trick is that to use his plethora of super human powers Jackie must also remain in the darkness to charge up their power. Luckily, Jackie can shoot out just about every light in the game to create his own darkness even if you can't find anywhere dark to hide while regaining these powers.
The darklings in the game, while useful, feel very out of place. There are four different types of darklings, each with a useful ability. Unfortunately though, once summoned, these darklings begin to act in a very irritating and juvenile fashion. In a game that tries to deliver a dark and serious storyline, why would you include characters that randomly pee on enemy corpses and constantly make incoherent jokes about communists? I'm not sure that there is a good answer for this question considering that their antics really detract from an otherwise compelling gameplay experience. The best thing to do is to try and ignore them while making use of their abilities and go on about your business enjoying the rest of the game.
While the single player game is great, it can be completed in less than ten hours, perhaps a few more if you unlock all of the game's bonus content. It then falls upon the game's online multiplayer aspect to keep gamers coming back for more. The Darkness' multiplayer experience includes the modes that you would expect like deathmatch and capture the flag. What makes these modes unique is the ability to transform between human and darkling forms while playing. While in darkling form, you can't use weapons and you are easier to kill but you move a little bit quicker than a human does. While this is an interesting concept, the execution isn't quite there. While playing, it seems like way too much of a disadvantage to chance changing into the darkling form. In most of the matches that I played, I rarely saw players take darkling form for fear that a human opponent would just easily pick them off. If this form changing had been better balanced, I think that it could have been a very interesting variation on the standard first-person shooter's multiplayer offerings.
All in all, the Darkness is a great game. I don't think this game should be missed by anyone who is old enough to play this very mature title. The single player campaign is a completely enjoyable experience and the multiplayer action is competent enough to offer many more hours of fun to this title. The Darkness is truly a brilliant ray of light during this otherwise abysmal summer gaming drought.
CCC Freelance Writer