Summary: The Darkness II is a 1st person shooter with light rpg elements set in a modern day metropolis. I played through it on the PC and did not try the multiplayer.
The good: Solid gameplay mechanics. Cheesy but well written and fun ‘mafia crimelord with demonic powers’ storyline. Doesn’t overstay its welcome. Decent variety of powers you can acquire via a skill tree.
The bad: linear ‘combat encounter box connected by corridor, repeat’ level design. Over the top gore. Normal difficulty level too easy, particularly by the end when you’ve added a bunch of powers from the skill tree.
Graphics and sound: The Darkness II is a decent looking and sounding game that features above average voice acting. The overall visual appeal is let down a bit by it’s obvious console-first focus, with small, short, linear levels, invisible walls, mediocre textures, and occasional low poly/poorly lit skyboxes, but that makes it sound worse than it is – overall it’s a decent if unexceptional looking game.
I had good fun with The Darkness II. It was easy for me to forgive its sins (very short, repetitive, average looks) because they were outweighed by its virtues and because I only paid $7.50 for it. The game tells the story of Jackie, a mafia crimelord who’s inherited demonic powers, and follows him through a series of adventures that mostly involve him killing a bajillion rival mafia hoods. Somewhat unusually, the game also features periodic interactive cutscenes used to convey major sections of the story. I usually hate this sort of thing, but I ended up liking them more than I would have expected. That’s because they feature decent voice acting, they generally weren’t very long, and the game has an unusual story to tell. The core gameplay mechanics are the game’s greatest strength, combining well implemented but pedestrian run and gun gameplay with demonic powers Jackie can acquire over the course of his adventure. This begins with Jackie being able to sprout powerful demonic arms from his back whenever he’s in the dark. One arm can grab things and one can smash things, and the two can be combined for all kinds of violent mayhem and puzzle solving. The mayhem can get pretty gross (did…did I just grab a dude by his ankle and pull his innards out through his butt? Oh yes I did…), but if you turn your brain off and go with the combat flow, running into a room and going batshit on the collection of mafia hoods collected there trying to kill you is a blast. It gets more fun as the game progresses and you add powers – additional killing techniques for your two arms, enhancements to the ways you can use objects you pick up, the ability to disorient or damage foes from a distance (hey, I just vomited poisonous stinging gnats onto those dudes, lookit em wiggle!), enhanced power, ammo and so on for your firearms, and more.
It’s good that the mechanics are solid fun, because the game is super repetitive. New enemies are introduced as the game progresses (look out, these dudes have flashlights! That one’s got a shield you have to bash apart before you can hurt him, and so on), and the additional powers you acquire help mix things up a bit, but it’s pretty repetitive stuff – walk down corridor, maybe taking a short side jaunt to find a hidden object or two, solve some usually trivial puzzle (I can’t approach the door to the next area until I get the lights off – hrm….I know, I’ll hulk smash that nearby generator with my demon arm!) then enter a combat arena (a room – an intersection in NYC, a warehouse, the lobby of a condo, etc), figure out how to take out the opposition, then head off down a corridor to the next similarly designed encounter. It’s also good that the game is as short as it is (I completed it in under 7 hours), because by the end it was starting to wear out its welcome, and I had become so powerful that I was tearing through everything without any trouble, ultimately including the final boss.
I had enough fun with The Darkness II to recommend it to anyone who enjoys a violent, well crafted first person shooter, so long as they can get it for $10 or less.