PAX East 2011: Peering into The Darkness II

Posted on Mar 13 2011 - 10:50am by Laurie-Anne Vazquez

jackie dark 300x225 PAX East 2011: Peering into The Darkness II

I was the only girl in my press preview of The Darkness II.

I have never felt more out of place.

The developers were very nice. They were super informative, and their presentation was the cleanest I’ve ever seen, but still: they focused on the 4 other guys in the room. They got all the game deets – the art style designed to make the player feel like they were playing through a graphic novel, the “in your face” first-person action, the depth and versatility of the blood and gore. I got the occasional “okay, the girl’s still in the corner” look. It made me uncomfortable.

And then the game started.

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I saw an Alpha version of the game that nicely informed me at the beginning that the final version of the game might look nothing like what I was about to see. The game opens when Jackie Estacado – now head of the Estacado crime family – comes to from black. His hand’s being pounded into a plank, crucifixion style (blood spatters across the screen as the nail crunches through flesh and bone; if you didn’t know this game was visceral, Hello!), and some creepy-looking ugly dude with a cane attempts to persuade him to give up The Darkness. Creepy guy does this by triggering memories in Jackie – and those memories form the game.

(Note: this opening sequence, while talky, is a hell of a lot shorter than the one in the first game. Thank God.)

The first sequence is an ambush in a mob restaurant. It’s violent, bloody and visceral – all strong choices for an FPS. The Darkness II goes an extra step further by showing off strong lighting contrasts and hand-drawn backgrounds to make the player feel like they’re playing through a graphic novel. I applaud the game for trying to hew closer to the comic source material, but I’m more used to wipes, storyboarding and other kinds of transitions to simulate reading a graphic novel. This game did not translate in any way, shape or form to visual graphic novel for me.

I liked the camera, though: it was verité style, shaky and roving in a way that was almost disorienting. I give it points for (literally) shaking up the standard mid-level FPS camera.

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The level continues with The Darkness coming out to save Jackie. The demon arms are controlled with the triggers and are nastier and meaner looking this time around (they heal his half exploded leg. Graphically. Just to show you – the player – that they can heal you). They also do all kinds of special executions, everything from ripping a guy down the middle by his legs (the “wishbone,” according to the developers) to an Alien style chest-burster. The Darkness can only be activated in the dark (duh), but when you step into the light in that mode the screen changes: it’s overwhelmingly bright, sound is muted and echoed, and you’re pretty much flying blind. It was all the developers could do to encourage you to get back in the dark and use your powers.

The Darkling’s back, too, in this one. He helps you out as before, saving your butt or giving you weapons. He’s also apparently an important part of the story later on… which you’ll find out when you play ‘cause the demo didn’t get that far.

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The blood itself didn’t turn me off; I was actually happy to see it was more blue-red, like real blood, than bright cartoon red. The soundtrack, jacked up super loud in that tiny booth, amplified every crunch, shot and scream, and those sounds – combined with the first-person shaky camera – made me feel like I was being assaulted. And I wasn’t even playing.

The Darkness II comes out for the Xbox 360 in the fall. For those of you who loved the shooting/demon arm action of the first and the verite style camera, there’s more to love here.

The Darkness II first look 1 300x168 PAX East 2011: Peering into The Darkness II

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News and Culture Editor Laurie Vazquez really misses when all games were flat. Sure, she’s worked in television and veered off into film and television writing, but when she’s not whacking out scripts for contests (or, more likely, when she should be whacking them out) she fires up her beloved flat games. Take away her Nintendo, and she is a sad, sad girl. Just don’t take away her Futurama or her viola: that makes her mad.

4 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Glenn March 13, 2011 at 5:25 PM - Reply

    To summarize: Only girl at press event steps into the darkness, feels assaulted.

  2. Laurie-Anne Vazquez March 14, 2011 at 4:55 PM - Reply

    On the money, Glenn. :)

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