The Darkness II – the game that tore me in two

Oh Jackie...

Yesterday, my review of The Darkness II went live on BeefJack. I think this is the first game in a long while that has seen me almost torn in two over how much I am a fan of all that it represents and draws upon and the mechanics that mess up the execution of a truly gripping game. PLEASE BE WARNED THERE ARE SPOILERS AHEAD. SPOILERS! However my review on Beefy has none.

The advantage the game would always have was that it could draw upon the characters, story arcs and settings of the comic books that the game it has been a sequel to. There’s a lot of play around with in the world of Jackie Estacado – a lot. And the whole Slayer Interrupted angle the writers for the game went for is absolutely amazing and really works. It’s enough to keep players guessing, and both Jackie and you realise the truth of the matter – with still a hint of doubt – at the same time.

And the flashes to Jenny are wonderful… The mob members that make up the family are really colourful and I like what they did with Johnny Powell. The Brotherhood are creepy to the right extent. The ending with Jenny in hell is sweet… basically, anything to do with story or characterisation was perfect… except for the pacing.

The pacing was waaaaaay out of whack and this was in part due to the means the game decided to make most of the progress happen – outright combat. The first game gave you the choice of stealth, outright combat or a mix and the new developers (First was made by Starbreeze Studios and this sequel was made by Digital Extremes) decided to go with combat, more combat, another dollop of combat and two stealth sections with the Darkling.

I was just perhaps more than a little disappointed with this departure from the first game and even the comics, as I said in my review:

… [I]t’s true that Jackie can go straight through the front doors, but he could also have ripped apart half the thugs in a warehouse before they even knew that there was a hit on.

That is true Jackie Estacado bad-assery right there.

And the fact that the game sees you running through waves of enemies from one area to the next really does do a disservice to the story. This is one tight narrative. I don’t want to be chucked along like a skydiver having left the god damn plane.

I want to savour the conflict, the distress and inner turmoil that eats up Jackie. And I want the option to play in a stealthy way when I choose to and not when the game makes me. And I think this lack of play styles, the fact that it doesn’t slow down, wrecks the dramatic pacing that The Darkness II could otherwise have had.

So, if a third game is made, all anyone needs to do to get higher than a 7.4/10 from me is to introduce some bloody balance and stop leaving me feeling torn in two – for I am a fan of the comics and the games and even I can see the flaws here. I hated feeling like I should love the game oh so much, despite what I was being put through.

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