The Darkness

Xbox 360

Review by Matt Paprocki

2K Games


Graphics: 9

Sound: 10

Gameplay: 7

Overall: 9


The Darkness is a step forward for video games in terms of their ability to elicit emotion from the characters, craft their own sense of style, and let the storyline guide the game play instead of the typical medium formula of game play first. That focus will likely turn the adjusted gamer off, unwilling to accept The Darkness for it's rather clunky gunfights and monotonous pacing. Developer Starbreeze has crafted a landmark regardless of gamer resistance to change.

Jackie Estacado, voiced flawlessly by Kirk Acvedo, is the main character in this comic book adaptation. Plagued by an evil entity known only as the Darkness, Estacado is tasked with taking down a local mob boss, keeping a lifelong relationship intact, and struggling to find a way out of the grasp of this pure evil.

With a stunning, involving, and brilliantly cinematic opening, The Darkness doesn't waste any time before it begins moving into heavy action. Unrelenting in its violence and gore, this first gunfight is a non-stop war on a construction site. The tutorial explaining all mechanics is logically built into this sequence without disrupting play. Past this, the pacing slows as the characters build and the action falls to the wayside.

The adrenaline pumping action can lead to an early turn off for those expecting this pace to keep up. Once free of a cemetery, the player settles into an interface involving two New York subway stations and hardly any help. At times, it can be far too difficult to figure out where the next mission location is even with the numerous signs spread throughout the game world.

With the exception of a few out of way moments, this title keeps things flowing smoothly. Missions come as the player experiences the storyline naturally, and numerous interactive cut scenes lead to a phenomenal sense of immersion. The Darkness can pride itself on making a virtual relationship seem meaningful, and doing so with an eventual purpose.

Outside of those quite, oddly peaceful moments, pure mayhem can ensue as Jackie calls for the darkness. Snarling heads appear from his back to munch on those unlucky enough to find themselves in the way, and devour the innards from the corpses to build up their strength. Taking control of the snake like darkness creature and slithering across the ground to find a victim never becomes old.

That's important, as the gunplay doesn't hold up. Targeting is loose and unnecessarily difficult. Without the darkness, Jackie is unable to withstand a few bullets before dropping dead, further leading to the necessity of the tentacle beasts. Not all situations call on or even allow for their use, and these turn out being some of the lowest points in the game.

Darklings are a secondary effect, evil little beings called up from a pit, which appears in the ground. The four different types of these creatures have specific purposes, from knocking out lights to blowing up anyone that stands in their way. Their use is unlimited as long as the darkness is out and the lights are dim. The minor control the player has over them is generally ineffective, though their intelligence is enough to handle the tighter situations.

Continuing the set of flaws is Estacado's movement, which is dictated by the scene or mission. It's understandable for the developers to slow the player down when walking through a house to talk to a family member. However, each gunfight seems to have its own speed, disorienting the player or making it nearly impossible to find cover at times. This is also in sharp contrast to the rapid-fire online multi-player which feels more like Unreal than the toned down single player.

However, even with a stack of game play issues that would destroy a lesser game, the compelling story urges the player on. Even when it takes a few trips into territory that feels out of place, the only reward the player needs is the next piece of the drama. Side quests fit in as well, connecting various characters on opposite ends of the city. Even the loading screens offer additional insight, and become some of The Darkness dialogue highlights.

It may take a few hours of play time before the player can adjust to the flow of The Darkness. A significant portion of your total playtime will be spent wandering through subways and city streets searching for the next objective. Those who can take the time to appreciate the detail and time spent crafting these locales will find the subtle touches worth their while.

These are the people who will absolutely love this game, and it's not meant for those waiting for a placeholder until the next Halo or Quake. It's a step towards finally finding the median between action and story while keeping it entertaining in terms of what the video game medium has to offer. That's enough to make this first person shooter a necessity.


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Last updated: Monday, August 20, 2007 09:50 PM