The Darkness review
As dark as a French chick's armpit


The minute that you think "adaptation", you start thinking "oh great another shitty game, job well done for pointing out this game's shittyness man" straight after, and I'd smack you out, because this is actually a good adaptation. If you don't know what this game is adapted from, it's adapted from a comic book of the same name, and a fairly good one at that. You would've expected this to be a movie - I mean, if they could make movies out of Superman, Batman, Watchmen and Spiderman, why not The Darkness - but hey, I guess people have better ideas, so somebody over at Starbreeze Studios decided to purchase the license and create a game based off that comic. The end product turned out well enough, and if you approach this just expecting a game, you'll be entertained. Hell, you'll probably fall in love with this game. But if you approach this critically, ehh you won't like it as much, which makes it hard to review because you have to approach games critically, but I'll try my hardest not to be overly critical with this one.

The Darkness is about a 21-year old hitman known as Jackie Estacado who is about to get whacked by the don of the New York mafia and his uncle, Paulie. Just then, this power known as the Darkness reveals itself and he then survives Paulie's assassination attempts. From there on, Jackie has to find a way to get rid of Paulie and his personal ass kisser, a corrupt police chief known as Eddie Shrote, while finding out more about the Darkness. Now, I thought the mafia side of the story was well done, it had a couple of twists and turns here and there, and it kept itself interesting. I really got into it. It felt like a tale of revenge and keeping it real in the mob, and (I'll say it again) it got interesting. I also got interested in the Darkness part of the story, with its own twists and turns, but I just hate how there wasn't much backstory. Oh, right, Jackie inherited it from his great-great-grandfather and it's evil... whoopee! I mean, it's like you have to read the comic or something to get a better idea of it all! Yeah, the comic is good and all, its well worth reading, but if you have to read it before playing its adaptation to learn about something that's been bugging you, that's kind of screwy and a bit lazy on their part. There's a bit more to it, but as I want you to play this, I'm not going to go too in-depth. All I can say at this point is that when it gets emotional... it *bleep*ing works.

At first, the game will feel like a generic first person shooter. You start with dual-pistols and both of the triggers let you shoot. It's helpful to be a bit trigger happy because enemies in this part will come in droves and you will get killed in two seconds flat if you stick around to get shot. This holds true for a fair amount of the game, especially the last part, where you're getting ganged up by enemies and they shoot you to kingdom come, all the while you're slowly shooting at them with dual pistols or SMGs and only like 2/4 die. There usually isn't any more than 5 people at one time to shoot, unless you piss them off for a lengthy amount of time and/or you have them chasing you, which is not a good thing because they'll gun you down worse than Tupac - that's how the game tends to get.

Unfortunately, you can't quite say that the enemy AI is intelligent. They shoot at you and hunt you down, but ANYBODY can do that. Some enemies will take cover behind police cars or at the corner, but that's about as smart as they get. Reasonable, but the guys who just stand out flat out shooting you are pretty much asking to get gunned down, so you put them out of their misery and shoot them dead!

After a bit into the first level, you gain a darkness power. You'd think it'd be a weak one, but this one is actually useful in certain situations. This is known as the crawling dark, which crawls along the ground and can go through small holes, and if it meets with an enemy, just press the right trigger and watch it eat his heart! Though after a certain distance, it comes right back to you, so don't screw around...easier said than done though, because it doesn't turn fluently, it jerks around when turning, and it's even jerkier when going up walls, causing frustration. Goddamn I hate controlling that at times!

The other darkness powers are much better thankfully. Whether it be impaling somebody with tentacles, shooting them with a special sort of gun or opening up a black hole, the Darkness is a lethal force to be dealt with... Or, at least that's how it seems if the guns weren't as powerful. While they could never replace crawling dark's frustrating control yet useful stealthiness or the cheapness that is the black hole, they can replace the power quite easily, because pumping a lot of lead their way will kill them with ease.

If there's one darkness power that gets useful, it has to be the Darklings. When in darkness mode, you'll see these tentacles on the ground. Hold down the right bumper and press one of the four buttons on screen to summon a Darkling. They'll either latch onto enemies and rip them apart, shoot them down, explode or zap them to hell and back depending on which Darkling you summon. Now, earlier on, they aren't much, as your guns are more than enough to take out anybody that gets in your way, but later on (3rd chapter, to be accurate), these little guys are almost required, as you'll probably have your hands full with baddies in front, while the ones behind you gun you down, and you're dead. The Darklings at least have reliable AI, so don't hesitate in using them when you know you're getting your ass handed to you on a silver platter.

Now, I know what you're thinking - What is the weakness of the Darkness? You'd be happy to know that yes, there is a weakness indeed, and it should be a fairly obvious one - light! If you're standing under a lit lamp post or any lit lightbulb for that matter, the Darkness will eventually retreat back inside you, so you have to shoot the bulbs to make it dark again. Within the darkness, your power will regenerate. In other words, the phrase "oicwatudidthar" actually means something beyond an internet meme. But if you want to get far, you better start eating hearts. Kill somebody, then have the Darkness eat that person's heart. The more hearts, the more powerful it becomes. And as it becomes more powerful, you can use powers more often, and eventually, get more powers.

Sounds great and all, but what if in the heat of battle, you're gunned down without any back up? Just run and gun, right? Well, maybe. Depends where you can hide. If it's about 20 steps away, you're screwed, you gotta unleash the black hole or just take a dive, because Jackie moves so goddamn slow, I'm about to reach into the screen and smack him around! I'm like "hurry up you big nosed slow man!" and then I get shot down and killed.

And let's talk about getting killed, because it's a fairly weird sort of death sequence. Of course, you drop to the ground, then it changes to some weird and shocking pictures that are being zoomed in, all the while some creepy voice is saying stuff like "You and I are eternal" or something along those lines, trying to freak you out. Then it really gets to you. It's a psychological horror game! As opposed to shock treatment in the form of bloodsoaked mobsters, you get psychological-themed stuff such as shocking pictures of past events and... Well, anything psychological that would scare any human being. And all I can say is this... BADASS! Even dying seems cool as hell... at first! You have to admit, though, the Darkness sounds pretty damn cool. Well, meet the vocalist of Faith No More, Mike Patton, aka the voice of the Darkness. No vocal effects were used, he used his own voice for this, and I think he does a pretty damn impressive job of sounding creepy like the Darkness should. Oh by the way, listen to Faith No More right now dammit!

You liked that? Well, guess what? Loading screens are likable too! Instead of some blank screen with a bar going left to right, you have Jackie talking about either what's happening such as "that scumbag Paulie, I knew he'd be hiding here", or just something like "anybody who says the back of a subway train is dangerous has never rode in a taxi, going the wrong way at 90 mph with a driver who doesn't speak a lick of English; my friend, crazy Abdul". I really like this, as it actually keeps your interest (provided you haven't heard some of these millions of times) and beats the hell out of a generic NOW LOADING screen any day. I wish more games would incorporate this, especially the ones with longer load times. What makes them seem better is the fact that Jackie's voice acting, while absolutely nothing compared to the Darkness's, is good. He doesn't try hard to be a mobster stereotype, but rather, just a 90's man who joined the mob! A believable performance, and probably one of my favorite voices in video games.

Know what, though? The voice acting overall is fairly well done. The Darklings, Jackie's supporters and aunt, and background characters are all voiced very well and much like what you would expect out of them. I especially liked the Darklings' voice acting, making them sound like comic relief lackeys, and very believable at that. Usually, it's hard to do, but whoever did the voices of them really pulled it off. However, the mobsters weren't as good. They were above-average in performance, but sounded way too stereotypical and not all that convincing and the awesome factor is lost there too. Oh well, can't win them all, eh?

However, the one thing that stands out when it comes to audio - outside of Mike Patton - has to be the soundtrack. Whether it be some quiet ambient sort of stuff when you're just walking around or some guitar riffs during some shootings, it all fits in well and just sounds pretty damn good. Also fairly memorable, as there are a few tracks used at one time. Normally, I'd get annoyed and say "geez it's repetitive", and to be frank, it is repetitive at times, I must admit, but I don't know... This is a pretty damn good soundtrack. And it gets much better if you actually pay attention to the TVs beyond the ones required for missions - a fair amount of the channels have music clips from bands such as The Duskfall. golistentoemnowgamerfans

But what is a kickass audio department without some sweet visuals? The Darkness is easily one of the better looking games of 2007, with some very realistic looking designs and textures. You could almost compare this to a game such as Bioshock, with its gritty textures and amazing character model designs. Almost. I mean, the lighting effects look very realistic and everything else looks kickass and all, but the Darklings...did they just get lazy at this part? I don't know, they just don't seem to have the same sort of textures that the other characters do. But otherwise, the graphics are pretty damn amazing!

Sorry to say, though...The Darkness isn't all that long of a game, spanning at 8 hours long. There are multiple difficulty levels and a lot of achievements to achieve, such as beating the game on normal and difficult, as well as getting all the collectibles scattered around New York and killing people certain ways. Now, just in single player alone, you can get maybe 400 or 500 out of 1000 achievement points, so if you want to squeeze life out of this, try out the multiplayer - oh, that reminds me!

As I said a while ago, this is a first person shooter, so here's a section most would want to know about - multiplayer. I have NOTHING against this style of multiplayer, I find it fun, however, THIS IS NOT HALO OR PERFECT DARK! I'm sorry, but it's like Starbreeze took Bungie's/Rare's multiplayer coding and put in parts of this game to cover it up! Normally, I wouldn't care, but this has very little to do with THIS game! Aside from occasionally turning into a Darkling, this is generic! Come on! Granted that its fun... ugh.. But hey, if you want to squeeze life out of this game, go ahead, give the multiplayer a shot. You'll need to if you want to get 1000/1000 achievement points, since about half of the achievements are in the multiplayer mode!

Last but certainly not least, the game glitches. Yes, there are some glitches within the game. The only glitches I've encountered have to be this annoying one where it freezes on you. Yes, it freezes. Pain in the ass, especially when you're far into a chapter, but the last time you saved was aaaaaages ago when you entered that place you're in about 20 minutes ago. It freezes, you have to restart the console and get back at that place you were just at. I swear, I'd give this game a higher score if this glitch was fixed. Grr...

In summary:

Gameplay: 3.5
While the shooting is executed finely with a decent variety of guns (mostly rifles, though), the other part of the game - darkness powers - felt half-assed at best. Unless you plan on one-upping some at the corner with somewhat awkward controls, spamming some powers towards the end of the game or in short bursts during a couple of chapters, they are nothing more than inferior alternatives to shooting with rifles, SMGs and pistols! But the glitches....RAGE!

Controls: 3.5
Eh, the controls let you jump, shoot and switch stuff finely, but the aiming sensitivity isn't too good, and you move a little too slow too. Oh, and crawling dark? *bleep* it.

Story: 4
Think of a mobster story where a few are tired of the way the don is running things with corruption and such, but with dark powers added in to mix it up somehow. The darkness itself could've been elaborated on more as the parts involving it directly were brief and rushed, but the mobster part was fairly well done and it actually tugs at your heartstrings at points.

Graphics: 4.5
Some things (like the Darklings) are missing some textures, but other than that, graphics are standard 360 affair - fairly realistic and nice to look at. The lighting effects work quite well.

Sound: 4.5
Damn that soundtrack is good. A nice variety of calm and adrenaline-pumping, used at the right times, and it all sounds pretty damn awesome too. Sound effects make sense to what's happening, like gun shots and such. Voice acting is done fairly well...well, except the mobsters, who left a lot to be desired.

Lastability: 3.5
The story mode for The Darkness will last a short while, with only 5 chapters to play through and only 2 worthy difficulty modes to play through, but it's satisfying enough for an action game. Achievements and a generic FPS multiplayer can keep you going if you want to squeeze some life out of this game.

Funfactor: 4
Some parts of the game where you shoot heaps of people up at once gets pretty fun, while some parts where you have to control the creeping dark power get very tedious, and everything else is middle of the road.

Bottom line:
The Darkness is not for the average nitpicker, but more or less for somebody (whether they be casual or hardcore gamers) who wants to have some fun, or for fans of the comic this is based off. In other words, aside from the freeze glitch, Jackie's slowness and crawling dark's controls, The Darkness is a fairly good game to play and I'd recommend this to anybody who isn't a nitpicker.

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