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THE DARKNESS (8.5/10.0)

Game Review by: Mike Kurnat

Platforms: Xbox 360 & PS3
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Starbreeze
Resolution: 720p, Widescreen, 1080p, 480p, 1080i
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1
Release: 062607
ESRB: M for mature.
"...this game was a blast; there are a lot of extras to unlock and accomplishments, or achievements for the 360, to check off."
From the developer of the critically acclaimed The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay comes another first person action adventure game that mixes a strong story with fast paced gameplay.  You star as Jackie Estacado, a New York mob hit-man who starts to manifest The Darkness, basically a parasite that helps guard Jackie and imbues some impressive dark power while messing with his head.  Jackie finds himself on the defense after a money exchange goes bad and his Uncle Paulie wants Jackie’s blood as repayment. 

The game is obviously set in New York and it has a sandbox feel to it to a much lesser extent of the GTAs and Spider-man games.  You can for the most part go to whichever section of the town you want at anytime, but there are only about ten different locals you can visit which narrows the scope of the world.  However, you also spend sometime in another realm that plays off of nightmares of war veterans and gives us some twisted moments that will stick with you beyond the game.

On the gameplay side of things, the game runs very smooth and the action is very intuitive.  The shoulder buttons do most of the work with the L2 and R2 buttons fire you guns, L1 manifesting The Darkness giving you the chance to use the enhancements in power and R1 lets you do the Dark Power of your choice.  There are four dark powers that you gain throughout the game including Dark Guns and the chance to create black holes.  The black hole is by far the most powerful weapon in you arsenal and actually hurts the pace of the game. If you get into any kind of trouble, just throw a black hole out there and you’re good to go.  You end up relying too much on that one power and it comes off cheap.  A key element of the game is creating darkness.  You have to shoot out lights in your area so The Darkness can feed on the…well, darkness.  As The Darkness feeds, you can do more of your dark powers for a longer period of time.  Also, you have the power to summon Darklings, little gremlin dudes that have one of four different abilities.  You can summon one to hack and slash, one to shoot up the place, one that is a Kamikaze and another one that takes out all the lights in the room.  They are very helpful once you get them to go where you want them.

The highlights of this game are the overall presentation and the quality of the fire fights.  The story pours off the screen with Jackie giving you bits and pieces of the story during load screens and interacting with other characters.  Jackie becomes a very likable character with his little side stories during load sequences and because of his motivations.  Jackie’s main motivation is getting back at his Uncle for killing his girlfriend.  You can really feel Jackie’s torture with the loss of his girlfriend and you as a player really want to help him get what he wants.  His other motivation is to honor his Mafioso heritage and do what he thinks is right by the old guard of the New York mob.  The narrative his backed by above average voice acting and animations.

For the firefights, you will be double wielding hand-guns, blasting people with shotguns and spraying bullets with Ak-47s.  The game is very graphic and bullets leave their marks on their targets with great detail.  The game also gives you the chance to execute your enemies in a variety of different ways when you get up close, all of them brutal. 

This game does have its faults.  I already addressed the pacing problems with the overly powerful black hole, so let’s talk about the graphical hiccups.  First let me say that the game is beautiful but there are some flickering problems and some character models just lose pieces of themselves while they move.  For example, I’ll be talking to a guy in the subway and he’ll turn his head and the collar on his shirt will just disappear for a second.  It’s distracting, but not that big of a deal.  Also, the multiplayer aspects of the game are flat out weak and feel like an afterthought at best. 

Making my way through this game was a blast; there are a lot of extras to unlock and accomplishments, or achievements for the 360, to check off.  Also the game is loaded with bonus content including some full comic books from the Top Cow universe including Magdalena, Witchblade and of course Darkness books.  Pick this one up and make it to the end.  By the end you are extremely powerful and you feel that power.

THE DARKNESS © 2007 Top Cow Comics.
All Rights Reserved

Review © 2007 Alternate Reality, Inc.


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