Flying low under the radar with the release of the first title, The Darkness brought some interesting gameplay features to the FPS genre, sporting the unique demon feel that made for a great combination of powers and gunplay. The Darkness II expands and improves upon this mould, creating an experience that will hold its own amongst the big boys of the genre.
Taking place two years after the demonic events of the original, The Darkness II puts Jaime Estacado, current Don of the Franchetti crime family, back in control of the Darkness and into a full blown mafia war. Looking infinitely better than its predecessor, it remains true to the comic book's gothic art-style, making use of a splendid cell-shaded aesthetic, and does the source material some serious justice. Though the thought of cell-shading may bring notions of family friendly and quirky designs, The Darkness II takes full advantage of the comic-esque aesthetic, with the brutality of the series bleeding through each stage.
Jaime now was the ability to "Quad Wield," giving him control over both his weapons and tendrils at the same time. Tendrils are mapped to RB and LB (R1 and L1), eviscerating all who stand in Jaime's way, and also adds finishing moves to the mix. Finishers provide for more visceral, stylized attacks where enemies are gorgeously ripped in two, or the revamped darkling that urinates acid. New and violent manners in dispatching foes is always a good decision, and The Darkness II doesn't disappoint. Having both tendrils ripping a mafioso apart while I gun down two more with my dual wielding pistols is an experience like no other, and definitely a fantastic change of pace from the droll of many other shooters.
More emphasis has been placed on the "light vs. dark" feel, as stepping into the light or failing to destroy them will leave him unable to use the Darkness, adding to the game's depth. Strategy will be key, making sure lamps and light fixtures are taken out before rushing in for the massacre. RPG elements, in the form of skill trees ("Talent Shrines"), have also been included, allowing for more variation and excitement in combat, especially the black hole. Jaime turns an enemy's heart into a void of darkness, vacuuming all in the area. The black hole suits the Darkness perfectly, and is much more faithful to the comic's overall style.
The Darkness II was a definite surprise at the show, and even more surprising that it was a ton of fun. The improvements to both gameplay and visuals, particularly the cell-shaded look, turn a pretty good game into a great one. Be sure to stay away from the light come February 7th in the U.S and the 10th in Europe.