The Darkness Xbox 360 Review

May 30, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews & Features, Xbox 360, Xbox

There are plenty of horror games on the market, but few that allow you to play as the horror itself. However, the Darkness (based on the Top Cow comic of the same name) gives you control of Jackie Estacado, a guy with tentacles protruding from his back as well as the ability to control the demonic darklings, pretty much the definition of a horror then is our friend Jackie.

On his 21st birthday (in his younger years young Jackie must have had one hell of a paper round as he looks and sounds about 35) Jackie inherits the power of the titular darkness, but this certainly isn’t met with excitement for him in the way that it is when Peter Parker initially gets his arachnid powers in the Spiderman movie, as it turns out the darkness has its own agenda. Since, the story is easily one of the games’ highlights, that’s all we’ll say on the matter.

The games intense opening set piece is deserving of a mention, here you’re in the back of a speeding car, involved in a high speed car chase. Things smash, people die and you’re introduced to the games beautiful visuals, it’s like the opening moments of a big budget action film (hell there’s even credits) and whilst interaction is largely limited to just moving the camera about, it’s still the perfect way to win the interest of gamers right from the off.

Once you leave the vehicle, you’ll be partaking in generic shootouts, marvelling at the lovely smoke that comes from the barrels of your guns and getting a display of the adequate, but rather unremarkable AI. Whilst the gunplay has plenty of strong points (particularly the nasty execution moves) it isn’t until you get your dark powers that the real fun starts.

The darkness habitats Jackie early on in the game. But initially, your powers are limited to just the creeping dark, an ability that allows you to control a tentacle directly as it slivers along the ground like a snake, perhaps mainly intended to take care of unaware enemies, but just as effective in a firefight, such is the slow reactions of the opposition. With this ability, you’re also able to reach areas that are otherwise impassable by Jackie himself.

As you advance through the game devouring the hearts of killed enemies (we hate to sound macabre, but what the hell, this is huge amounts of fun, especially when the two tentacles squabble over a single heart) new powers will become available. The demon arm can lift objects, destroy lights and impale enemies. The darkness guns can permanently dead the undead and the mighty black hole sucks your hapless enemies into a vortex, which comes in useful for clearing a room. Finally there’s the Darklings, these little scamps can be summoned through portals, found throughout the game and can carry out a variety of things from simply killing enemies to extinguishing lights, shame they’re a bit on the stupid side though. If you’re anything like us, you’ll still summon them though, if only to hear their witty comments and see them urinating over corpses.

Although, there are more effective methods than others, the potential is there to play The Darkness in a variety of ways. If you so wish, you can take out unaware enemies with the creeping dark, cause havoc with the black hole or just simply play the game as a good old fashioned shooter.

Quieter moments are spent in the subway, which acts as a hub. Here you can unlock things (comics and artwork etc) and take on the occasional side mission. It has to be said that this is the only area, where there’s any real life, as the city streets outside here are mostly desolate, not exactly what we want from this new generation.

Your initial visit to hell (don’t worry read on, no spoilers here, our lips are sealed) is another unsuccessful point of the game. The atmosphere is great, but wandering around and getting lost is terribly frustrating and easily the single player aspects biggest flaw. Towards the end of the game, you’ll revisit here, but breathe a sigh of relief as the second time around, things are much less confusing and far more enjoyable.

The Darkness is a stunning looking game and one of the best displays of graphical might yet seen this generation. Lighting and texture work are both lovely and the characters look so real that you may very well begin to think of them as living breathing people. A pleasing touch is the fact that there are no real loading screens as such. Well there is, but not in the traditional sense. Loading is masked with cut scenes, often featuring Jackie speaking his thoughts on the current situation. It’s certainly an improvement over watching a boring old loading bar and reading patronising tips. We want more of this goodness developer people.

Like just about every FPS under the sun in this age, The Darkness features online multiplayer. This is enjoyable and it’s a nice touch that you can play as a darkling and scale along rooftops, what isn’t so nice is the serious lag issues that the game all too often suffers from. Even when proceedings are smooth, it may be enjoyable enough, but there’s better online shooters available.

But throwaway multiplayer aside, as a single player game, The Darkness offers a dark, mature storyline and gameplay, which allows you to play the game in whatever way you see fit. The Darkness powers themselves offer a satisfying change to just simply shooting guys in the noggin. Ultimately the Darkness deserves better than to be just left in the dark, buy it.