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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


The Darkness  
(2K Games for Playstation 3)

By Michael Palisano

Based on the popular comic book series, The Darkness presents players with a brilliantly realized world to explore. On the surface, the game probably reminds you of a standard FPS, but its use of tentacles called darkies, its gothic atmosphere, and engrossing plot make it stand out from other games in its genre. The Darkness' presentation is beautiful with elaborate cut-scenes, fantastic voice acting and outstanding environments and special effects. There's definitely a lot to love about this game so read on and find out why a trip through the Darkness makes for one of the most innovative titles released so far this year.

Set in a bleak underworld of violence and destruction, 2K Games' The Darkness for the Playstation 3 creates an intense and original experience that offers some unique gameplay mechanics to keep players interested throughout. For those unfamiliar with the comic series, here's a brief look at the plot. In the Darkness, you are a low level mafia hitman named Jackie Estacado who's based in New York City. On your 21st birthday, you find yourself in a bad position after a drug deal has gone sour and the members of your crime family are after you. You are surrounded and have become a prime target when out of the blue, you are suddenly possessed by an evil force known as the Darkness and its voices that haunts you throughout the game. This manifests itself as a series of living, breathing tentacles that emerge from your body that give you supernatural abilities to help you defeat your enemies. These tentacles can be used to attack foes, explore the levels and can reach places you can't otherwise find on foot which adds an interesting layer of strategy to certain areas of the game. This definitely adds a layer of strategy to the gameplay that other FPS titles lack.

For example, you may need to kill an enemy that's hiding behind a gate, but can't reach the other side. You can use your Darkness powers to release the tentacles and go through the air vents and attack them from behind, unlocking the gate and dispatching a potential foe. However, you have to perform these tasks relatively quickly since they have limited power and will retract back inside Jackie after a short period. The time they spend here can also be shortened by the presence of the light, so you have to stay out of the brighter sections, which means you have to measure the time you spend in these sections carefully. They are very much products of the night, and will gain energy when you are in the dark but will quickly lose their powers the longer you stay in the light areas. You can help to keep things dark by shooting out lights and lamps you see in each level, which increases their strength, too. This gameplay mechanic definitely helps the Darkness stand out from other FPS titles, and its implementation is fairly integral to the standard gameplay. You'll need these dark powers to get through the game since guns alone won't be enough to dispatch all the enemies you'll encounter during the game.

While it might seem like their presence makes things needlessly complex, the good news is that controlling these tentacles is fairly easy. The game's basic controls should be fairly natural for any players used to FPS titles, which makes targeting and shooting fairly easy. In order to call up your Darkness abilities, you simply press the square button to make them emerge from your body and the R1 to make them leap off you are crawl around the areas. This allows you to attack enemies from behind corners and at a safe distance. You can attack them and use their powers to throw them and other various objects around the levels as well. When you have killed one of Jackie's enemies, you can then eat their hearts to increase your strength. In addition to these tentacles, you can call on Berserkers, who are dark demons, which can go through a level and attack foes. You can control them by pointing where you want them to go and they'll automatically attack anyone standing nearby.

This remote attack system adds yet another cool dimension to the Darkness, allowing you to perform remote attacks with little risk to your own health. When your character takes too much damage, you won't have to return to the beginning of the level, and are instead returned to the latest checkpoint. Since these occur frequently during the game, you won't have to spend a lot of time backtracking. This means you can progress through the Darkness fairly quickly, though there are some areas in the game that present more of a challenge than others. The game's levels are fairly long, and there are plenty of interesting plot points and side missions along the way, though the Darkness never feels overly difficult. While many games of this genre tend to over-emphasize shooting, there's plenty of plot and story here for you to enjoy, which unfold in a series of interesting cinematic cut-scenes between levels. Since these are integrated into the main game seamlessly and overlap load screens. This approach makes for a much more cinematic and interesting title that allows you to fully immerse yourself into the story. However, the majority of the time you spend is in-game action. While many of the earlier levels have fairly easy opposition, the later levels offer more in the way of challenge with more and increasingly aggressive enemies.

Helping to involve you are the game's robust and beautiful visuals which are fantastically rendered throughout. From an aesthetic standpoint, the game's gothic environments and creature design are excellent and help to make this dark and engaging world come to life. The environments are fantastically realistic and help to bring the world of New York City to life. Its level designs mirror what you'd expect from the real world. Every thing from subways to apartments and abandoned warehouse has been designed in a way that feels authentic. Each of these large environments are richly detailed with light sourcing, shadows and light to create a believable and coherent world that helps to suspend your disbelief. The Darkness' graphics engine is also impressive in the level of detail and texture mapping on every object which helps to further cement your feeling of going through an actual world. The character and enemy animations are excellent as well and everything in the game feels like it should. The graphics engine performs admirably on the PS3 with a consistent and smooth frame rate throughout that makes for a fast-moving, smooth FPS experience. As mentioned earlier, the cut scenes are quite elaborate but the voice acting here is a cut above what you'd expect from most games and really helps to bring the characters to life. Overall, the game's slick production values and cinematic presentation make The Darkness one of the most polished and impressive looking next-generation shooters to date.

While many games have aspired to create a cinematic, immersive experience, The Darkness comes fairly close to this ideal in a number of ways. It's engaging storyline is filled with memorable characters with emotions and motivations the player can relate to. Instead of being a cardboard character you can't really identify with, Jackie is someone you can see existing in real life. This is obviously, a dark and violent game but the gore doesn't seem excessive within its context and never feels cheap like it's only there for shock value. The Darkness' plot and storyline are well-written which helps to make things fairly interesting, with above average dialogue and decent voice acting. All this production polish would mean nothing if the game wasn't enjoyable, but the Darkness plays smoothly. The game is challenging and entertaining and the disc includes some really cool special abilities that makes this FPS stand apart from the pack. Add in some nice bonus features, such as the ability to scan the original comics and you have a fairly interesting package. The Darkness is a very impressive title from a number of standpoints and is definitely one of the more adult-oriented games on the market.


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