Comic book stories tend to have a habit of being shit. I haven’t read a single issue of The Darkness, because I like comic books about as much as I like Michael McIntyre’s stand up “comedy.” Reading the plot summary was more than enough proof that it doesn’t appeal to me at all.
I’ve never had any interest in sitting down and reading a proper graphic novel (or reading anything, illiterate ol’ me). Superheroes just bore me because their lives consist of angst, sadness and severe sexual frustration. Reading a book about a character that has the same traits as I do just isn’t exciting—I might as well make a comic based off of my own life, focusing on the adventures of Lameboy, whose powers render him useless at just about everything.
Starbreeze took great artistic liberties when using The Darkness as source material—throwing away all the bollocks in favor of a more realistic and therefore more exciting story. Still, not all of the game’s narrative makes sense, but when the premise is to kill the shit out of everything hostile, I couldn’t care less what the overarching storyline is.
Unlike the comics, The Darkness: the game looks really good. In the comics, main character Jackie Estacado wears a blue and yellow suit that makes him look like a rejected X-MEN character. Starbreeze altered his design quite a bit throughout game development, and the result is someone who looks a bit like me. Awesome.
Even now, almost three years removed from its release date, The Darkness is a beautiful game. But graphics aren’t everything, so how does it fair overall?
The Darkness is a first-person adventure, although it focuses heavily on shooting. I choose to classify it as an adventure game because its emphasis is less on individual levels and more on larger locations within a game world. It feels rather realistic at times, to the point where “unparalleled realism” is a suitable descriptor.
I won’t go into much more detail—if you’re after a game that makes you think, and makes you kill mafioso, it’s the best shooter your money can buy. Moving on, briskly now!
This game isn’t the easiest ever made. The hardest part of the game is the first major gunfight. When you’re playing in Hard mode, it’s even worse, as you might expect. This is before Jackie obtains his Darkness powers—or rather, before he gets a massive health boost.
Why they chose this area for the demo, we’ll never quite understand.
On occasion, just one well-aimed shot will make Jackie Estacado fall limp to the floor—which is very annoying but understandable, because it seems videogames have made us forget that bullets bloody hurt.
No matter how many times Jackie ragdolls to the floor, you can always restart from the last checkpoint. The upshot is that you have as many attempts as you want, or rather, as many as you need. This makes the difficulty slightly forgiving, which is the major difference between “challenging” and “torture.”
Once the Darkness presents itself to you, though, difficulty is no longer a major factor. From this point forward, the game becomes truly compelling.
When you unlock your first few abilities, you also unlock Creeping Dark. It’s a horrendously overpowered move that you’ll find yourself relying on throughout the game. It involves controlling a snake-like tentacle creature and ripping throats open, Aliens style.
As long as you find Jackie a nice, dark place to rest, then you can unleash Creeping Dark and kick some Mafia ass (and rip out their throats, tear out their hearts and—om nom nom, indeed).
Why a dark place? Well, because the Darkness feeds off of darkness—and during combat, it’s a good idea to shoot out the lights, because when you’re in the dark, you get your massive health boost, and you can recharge your Darkness powers.
The soundtrack and use of audio are heavily engrossing. There are people to converse with and side missions to complete, which include grabbing change from a train track before the train passes and turns you into paste.
Feeling like a high-definition Metroid Prime, The Darkness has just the right amount of combat, cutscene, conversation, and exploration. It feels rough around the edges but is impressive throughout—if Starbreeze keeps this up, they might make their way to the top of my “Favourite Game Developers” list.
Now easy to accrue from bargain bins worldwide, The Darkness is just that. A bargain, not a bin. But maybe it is a bin—a bin of great ideas, a “bin there, done that” kind of game that throws nice new interesting ideas into a tired old genre and forms a lacking but somehow strong narrative.
If you have not yet played The Darkness, the question is just this: why? Today, drop the Big Mac and pick up The Darkness. Just as filling, you may find.