The Darkness II earns mature rating with vivid fatality attacks
The Darkness II (2K; PS3, Windows, Xbox 360; rated mature)
Based on the comic, about a New York mobster inflicted with the powers of, well, darkness, this sequel comes from London, Ontario’s Digital Extremes. And it is the best kind of video game sequel, keeping the spirit and tone of its predecessor, and introducing new elements that keep the franchise fresh and interesting.
Players become Jackie Estacado, who is now don of the Franchetti crime family. He’s kept under control the force of darkness that gives him his otherworldly powers, but frees it in order to keep himself alive during an attempt on his life. The most satisfying improvement here is the ability to wield four weapons during combat: guns in each hand and the two extra limbs that are revealed when Jackie is in the dark.
Also new to the series is a robust role-playing element. Collecting “dark essence” allows Jackie to improve skills and purchase new abilities, allowing players to fine-tune the game mechanics in ways that best fit their tastes.
The mature rating is well deserved here, as dark essence can be earned by allowing the supernatural arms to eat the hearts of the dead, and Jackie’s health can be bolstered by performing bloody—and vividly rendered—fatality attacks on enemies.
While the side missions from the first game have been abandoned for a more linear single-player campaign, The Darkness II includes a co-operative multiplayer component in the form of Vendettas. These are missions in which two to four players become members of Jackie’s crew completing tasks he’s assigned them. The assignments cleverly parallel what’s going on in the single-player story.
The script, in part from Paul Jenkins, who wrote the comic for a time, manages to hold the line between taking itself too seriously and becoming farcical. The light versus dark theme has some flair and leaves players with some choice as to how they’d like Jackie’s destiny to play out.