Saturday, February 18, 2012

Examining The Darkness II Demo

Over the past couple of weeks I have been assaulted from all sides of the Internet by an ad for The Darkness II.  Under most circumstances, I wouldn’t have paid this game any attention since I normally doze off during those thirty second ads before videos, but this time was a bit different.  My roommate had noticed this game and said he thought it looked cool.  I asked him what kind of game it was and, of course, he couldn’t tell me.  The trailer forwarded in those brief ads contains no gameplay, so it’s hard to tell what you’re getting into.  Out of curiosity I downloaded the demo (yeah, just the demo.  I’m a poor college student) to see what all the fuss was about.

Begin Story Spoilers!  YAY!
Let’s get something out of the way: I have never played the original.  Nor have I read any of the comics the Internet tells me exist.  As a result, this will be my first exposure at all to the material.  We start off, though, with our main character being crucified in a dark windowless room.  Some evil guy with a deformed face keeps yelling about The Darkness, which our hero apparently has.  This underground organization seems to really want The Darkness, whatever that may be, and are ready to torture it out of you.
This guy really wants The Darkness. 
Probably to rule/destroy the world.
After this sequence, we end up in a high-class restaurant.  You still can’t control the character at this point, only look around with the camera.  The patrons are doing…stuff, I guess.  Some of them wave, others don’t notice you.  After a long walk you end up at a table with two prostitutes.  Alright, I suppose that’s unfair.  It’s more likely that they’re strippers.  At this point, I admit, I was wondering when I was going to get to, you know, play.
Then the wall explodes and you’re thrown to the floor.  Upon closer inspection, your leg has been burned to a crisp and gang members are trying to kill you.  Because of the aforementioned leg, you can’t move around, so a guy drags you through the restaurant as you fight off waves of thugs.  For the most part, this is the story on display in the demo.  There is an additional tidbit about the main character’s girlfriend, which I can’t seem to remember.  Oh, and then there’s the demon living in him.
This setup seems fine enough.  I don’t remember anyone’s names, but that’s really not a big deal.  The game made up for it later.
End Story Spoilers!  YAY!
The gameplay is fun.  Sure, the first person shooting is on prominent display and works just fine.  I found myself thinking, though “guns? HA! Why should I use those when I have giant demon-eels coming out of my shoulders?”  Here’s how they work: the rather basic enemies can be stunned by a variety of things, shooting them, throwing dumpsters at them, and once they're stunned you can grab them and rip them in half (or reenact the chest burster scene from Alien).  In the demo, I never found myself under any real threat, I would charge into gunfire without a second thought.  I was free to take out my frustrations on the enemies like they were punching bags filled with ketchup.
Oh, this is going to be pleasant.
In fact, because of the above, I can’t offer much information about the guns in the game.  I know you can dual wield, but that you can’t iron sight aim while you do so.  As a result, your accuracy drops dramatically when you dual wield.  It’s as if picking up that second weapon makes your character go blind in one eye.  Maybe it has its uses, but one never came up during the course of the demo.
The demon-eels work much like any telekinesis mechanic in other games.  You can use them to pick up enemies and objects to hurl across the room.  They are also your means of gaining health after an upgrade.  Their only real weakness is that they cannot be used while you are in the light.  Not only that, but if you are under a light, your vision will be quite impaired.  So, ok, they do have one major downfall.
Somehow, duel wielding guns seems lame
next to the demon tentacles.
To sum up, The Darkness II is a first person shooter with the addition of some impressive abilities.  I found the demo to be quite enjoyable but have a strange feeling that the actual game could get a bit repetitive at times.  It would take some creative enemy design later on to keep the game both interesting and challenging.  Also, the game is incredibly linear.  This is not a problem of itself, but those looking for more exploration may be a bit disappointed.  The entire opening sequence in the restaurant is a rail-shooting sequence, linear gameplay made manifest.
I think of it this way:  a demo is a chance for a developer to show you only the parts of a game they think are best.  The parts they think will draw you in.  If you think the demo is lackluster, chances are the game has some parts that are much worse.  Give the demo a try.  It’s free (duh) and quite fun.
The Darkness II, by Digital Extremes and 2K Games
Images from Google

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