It took me a while to complete The Darkness. There were just as many nights that were spent ripping NPC's hearts out of their chests as there were getting killed within seconds - not being able to get past a certain obstacle that the developers over at 2k Games had wedged in my path. My affection for Jackie Estacado had grown in tandem with the Darkness powers that gradually make themselves available to you throughout the game. His story became our story and we were both interested in reaching the final chapter.
Many FPSs rarely achieve this level of story telling. They attempt to tack on a plot in order to give the aftermath of the massacre you have just partaken in some kind of meaning. Gears of War is a good example of this: I never once felt like I was saving the world, or even trying to. I just took pleasure in annihilating everything in my path and gawped at the graphics along the way. Graphically, The Darkness is no Gears, but what it may lack in presentation, it certainly makes up for in atmosphere. Not that the Darkness' presentation is poor, but it pays more attention to physics and character animation than to whether the wallpaper actually looks as though it's peeling off when you lean up against a bullet-ridden wall in search of some cover. The rag-doll physics are well implemented and body parts splay and flail in a more than life-like fashion.
Without wanting to reveal too much of the storyline, which for me is the game, I'll say this: your journey through the subways of New York is punctuated by chance meetings with old mobsters whom all share your feelings of being sick to the back teeth of your old Uncle Paulie the Don and his relationship with Police Captain Shrote who is in cohorts with Paulie's drugs operation in this modern-day New City that you inhabit. The old-timers you bump into ask you for help along the way, do some odd jobs for them in return for some phone numbers that you can call to hear a quirky message and unlock a wide range of extras including The Darkness comics and golf outfits for your Darklings.
Darklings are your companions throughout the game. They can be summoned at any almost any juncture in a level but only when Jackie has his Darkness powers enabled. There are four types all possessing different abilities; from turning off lights - darkness gives you power so your abilities last longer - to smashing the bad-guys on the head with a golf club. The 4 Darklings can be a great help in tricky situations as they draw fire, enabling you to select from a whole arsenal of weapons that you've got stuffed under your long, black, leather trench coat.
Estecado's love for his girlfriend Jenny, is the driving force behind his actions and his thirst for revenge is unquenchable. We are constantly reminded of his undying and passionate love for her. The sympathy the game tries to evoke however, feels somewhat hollow. As we are not treated to any history of the couple, their life together, their shared experiences, I found it difficult to empathise. The drive behind the story, at least for me anyway, is the various missions handed out to you by the bearded 'Butcher' Joyce, an old friend of Jackie's and quite handy at 'disposing' of bodies. It is the various pieces of the puzzle that you collect along the way and how the dark and mysterious background of your possession unfolds that lights the way.
You are spoken to throughout the game by The Darkness itself, a black, slithering monster that inhabits you voiced by Mike Patton of Faith no More and Mr. Bungle fame. His twisted, coarse vocals add a sick and macabre tone to this thing living inside you. It hates you, you hate it. You need each other to complete your various quests although your motives could be no further apart. The hatred grows as you try and outwit one another, but the hatred you feel only brings you closer together. The power The Darkness covets, the more powerful you become and dispensing of Uncle Paulie's henchmen becomes both increasingly fun and varied. You can suck your enemies into a black-hole, stick your demon-arm through their chests and hurl them into the air. Or how about sending one of your tentacles around corners and through doorways to sneak attack enemies; ripping their larynxs out with sharpened, gnashing teeth? Or simply using your Darkness Guns to send shockwaves through your enemy? It's riveting stuff!
For all the morbid pleasure The Darkness brings, it suffers from a few niggling issues that must be addressed. Sometimes your mission doesn't update as it should and it can leave you disorientated. There have also been complaints that some of the side missions simply haven't loaded for some users, making the Achievement hunters out there somewhat disappointed at not being able to up their gamerscore. Also, some of those quests mean that Jackie has to traverse great distances in order to reach his goal and the fact that he moves excruciatingly slowly can make your journey feel like a chore.
I also took issue with your Darkling helpers: for all their abilities I found I only used them as cover rather than them actually helping me. Maybe I didn't use them correctly, but half of the time my "Lightkiller" Darkling didn't kill the lights, so I shot them out with it standing next me look rather swish if not utterly useless in a flat, tartan cap and Pringle sweater. (seriously!) I like many others, also found that for the most part, your "Creeping Dark" ability is sufficient to further your progression - enabling you to stand around corners and virtually never engage in battle. The offering of Achievements for different types of kill does offer an incentive to be creative however. In fact their are plenty of Achievements to go after making the various side-quests a slightly more rewarding experience.
Every story however, must have its end and Jackie Estacado's is no different. Like all well told tales, the final chapter left me wanting more when I put down my pad at the end of the game . Was it really the end? Will we see Jackie again? What of The Darkness? Although Estacado hated him, I rather liked Mike Patton saying weird and scary stuff in my ear for 10 hours. Have 2K Games plans for a sequel? I hope so.
8 / 10