Ugochukwu's The Darkness Review
None... absolutely Nothing...
I don't review games very often, but I make exceptions when a game is exceptionally good or incredibly bad. I also don't have money to spend on every release that looks interesting to me. So when I do buy a game, I like to do a bit of research online and make sure that I'll really enjoy it (especially at $60 per game.) Lately I've been dying to get my hands on a truly 'next-gen' FPS game and I felt like we haven't had any on the 360 yet. This probably was the result of my frustration from reading IGN every day. I got sick of hearing about all these amazing games that wouldn't come out for a really long time. I wanted something good to look forward to soon! I bet many of you can relate to this. Does 'The Darkness' deliver what I was looking for? Read on
I'll start with this, I'd followed The Darkness for quite awhile and was really impressed with all the videos and previews. Like many of you, I didn't get my hopes up because a game like this can end up being awful, gimmicky, and have bad controls to boot (true more often then not.) I considered the first reviews and reminded myself that this developer brought us the amazing Chronicles of Riddick on Xbox. In the end I decided this game was worth the money. I got the game on release day which is something I rarely do. Fortunately my instincts worked in my favor this time around. Let me tell you, I haven't enjoyed a FPS (or any genre for that matter) like this in a really long time!
I don't know what the hell IGN was thinking on their review. 7.8 on the US review is not giving the game the credit it deserves, 8.5 on the UK review is better but still doesn't do the game justice. This game is a solid 9.5 in my book.
You can read about the game's story in detail somewhere else, but I'd like to point out a few things. You should know that the story is quite a bit above average as far as video games go. I also found this game to have a really immersing feel to it. You really start to feel like your the character in the game, it's a cool feeling that I'm not used to at all. I think this has a lot to do with the fact that there is no HUD (ammo bar, health bar, etc..) on the screen most of the time. You'll only see your ammo count and selected power briefly when you switch weapons or powers. The overall realism of the characters and their animations helps a lot with this to. In the end, parts of the story are down right scary (and I'm 25) so I really wouldn't recommend this one to people under 18. Anyway, On to the game:
Finally a game that looks good enough to fit my idea of what 'next-gen' should look like! Everything looks very realistic and is filled to the max with little details. You'll notice the character models look very much like real people. Here you'll see how well the game breaks away from the usual plastic toy look and really excels in both the character models themselves and their animations. You'll see skin imperfections on their skin, subtle wrinkles on their faces, and vibrant eyes that truly look alive. To top it off the characters move in believable ways and often speak using plenty of hand gestures that help pull you into the conversation. You'll find the same quality and attention to detail in some of the demonic (ie: fictional) characters to, they all look and move exactly like what you would expect them to do if they really existed.
The fights in this game are a blast to play and it's very easy to control your character and use all of your abilities. Unlike some shooters I've seen lately where the controls and aiming feel stiff, this game has controls that are perfect and beyond satisfactory.
Also of note, the load times are pretty quick in this game. What's more is that you don't get a boring screen that shows a static image and the hated word 'Loading...'
Instead the game shows cool little videos of the main character, sometimes he tells brief and random stories and other times he discusses whats going on in the story. They grab your attention and you forget your waiting for a loading screen, before you know it your back in the game. I think more games should follow this example.
Now a bit on the game world and the 'levels.' Your placed in a representation of New York City and you'll travel around via subway to various neighborhoods. You'll then go to certain buildings to complete your main missions. There are a few side missions to which are actually fun.
The representation of New York City in the game is truly amazing. I live about 1 hour from NYC and have traveled there for many day and weekend trips. The subway stations are spitting images of the real thing down to the smallest details. I had the distinct sense that I've been in some of them before. You'll see signs with names of real stations and streets, authentic ticket booths, dirty bathrooms, pay phones, benchs, assortment of people (including bums), subway musicians and dancers, and much more. In many of the indoor environments you'll even find TV's that show long clips of real movies/shows (like To Kill a Mocking Bird) where you can change the channel a whole bunch of times and not see the same thing twice. The city streets and buildings are also very impressive and hold a sense of authenticity. While the entire game takes place at night, it isn't bothersome because the city is filled with all types of people, and the lights and neon signs that you'd find in real life light up the streets. Overall, it's just plain amazing and filled with detail like I've never seen before. Eventually you'll get to a part of the game that is very different from what you might expect, and it also looks great. All I'll say about this is that this place is terrifying. If you thought you wouldn't feel scared or uncomfortable playing this game because you get to be the bad guy, prepare to be wrong. This game is definitely not for the younger gamers!
The guns are some of the nicest I've seen in awhile and are all a blast to use. You can perform very gory executions on your enemy's whenever you get up close to them and fire. These happen automatically and are fun to watch (there are over 50 different ones so they never get boring) You'll have the ability to hold 2 pistols/revolvers or UZI's (in several combinations.) Then you have a combat shotgun, riot shotgun, M16 tactical rifle, AK47 automatic rifle, and a set of very special pistols that I won't spoil for you. There is a huge attention to detail in all the weapons. A great example is one of the pistols. Not only does it look just like a real life pistol, but you'll notice the slide action slam back and forth with each shot as a plume of smoke exits the barrel. With the revolver you'll notice that if you pull the trigger on the controller back very slowly the hammer will slowly move back as the cylinder rotates into position to prepare the shot. The round will not fire until you've pulled the hammer all the way down, if you pull it half way down and then let off of it slowly you'll see the same thing happen in reverse. Many of the guns feature these moving parts and I find it really adds to the experience.
The enemy AI is actually pretty good as well. You'll see enemys run away if they feel they don't stand a chance and find some friends. They will peek out from wall corners, and take cover behind all sorts of objects.
The whole demonic 'darkness' tentacles coming out of your back are really cool to. These can be turned on and off at the press of a button. The key is to shoot out lights and stay in the dark to keep your powers recharged and ready to use. You will not die if you go into the light but your special powers will run out of juice very quickly until you can get into a dark place to recharge. Because of this you'll often enter a building and kill all the lights before killing your enemy's. The darkness tentacles are very detailed and actually have personalities. Most notably when you eat someones heart (you'll do this a lot to improve your power) the demon's will often fight over it and play tug of war. The demon who didn't get it will even give the one who did a dirty look. To top it all off the demon tentacles can be used to perform a multitude of cool powers. These don't feel like a gimmick at all and are REALLY fun to play around with. Additionally you can summon 'darklings' at special portals which are basically minions who help you out. They are AI controlled but you can order them to move to a position with the X button. There are a few different types and they all have their own personalities. They will crack sick jokes and do twisted things to their victims (both before and after their death.) You should also know that you won't start out with the ability to use all the demon tentacle powers or to summon each type of darkling. As you work your way through the story you will get more and more of these abilities.
The multiplayer is interesting although I must admit I haven't played it to much yet. Personally I've always enjoyed single player campaigns much more then playing multiplayer against people I don't even know. I have tried it though and it is fun. While you don't get to use the darkness with its crazy tentacle powers you do get the opportunity to morph into a darkling (which you never do in single player) They are weak and can't take much damage, but they can jump insanely far and they have devastating close range attacks. In the end I'm not really the person to ask about if the multiplayer will provide countless hours of fun. However, I can tell you that this game was meant to be a single player experience first and multiplayer second.
In the end, this WAS the game I've been waiting so long for. I finally feel satisfied that I have a game that truly pushes the systems power as well as provides unique and new gameplay features. So I've really been enjoying what I consider the first truly next-gen FPS game on Xbox360. If you love FPS games and want a taste of next-gen, this is a game not to be missed. Turn off the lights, load up the Darkness, and enjoy! I hope someone has found this review helpful.