The Darkness was a 2007 released first person shooter from Starbreeze Studios, published by 2K Games. The Darkness was originally a comic book series, following the story of Jackie Estacado. Jackie is a professional hitman working for the mafia, on the eve of his 21st birthday Jackie is targeted for assassination by the don of the mafia “Uncle” Paulie Franchetti. During these turn of events the darkness, the demonic entity that has possessed the Estacado family for several generations awakens, allowing him to slaughter his enemies and escape with his life. Along the way Paulie kidnaps his one true love Jenny Romano to use her against him; unfortunately Jenny is murdered in front of Jackie causing him to hit an emotional spiral of rage and revenge. The Darkness has an interesting plot and some fun gameplay mechanics, but lack of direction and some poor animations hurt the game overall.
The narrative of revenge has been played to death, but this origin story of why Jackie has these powers and why he wants revenge works well. The premise of a man, who has had his one and only stolen from him, is something that would hurt a lot of people and the connection between the two characters is done perfectly. The scene that will resonate with gamers the most is a simple scene where Jackie is sitting with Jenny watching TV. This scene is so basic, but the first person aspects of hugging, kissing and just hanging out with your love is something everyone can relate too. These moments are done so well, mainly due to the solid voice acting from both characters. However the rest of the voice talent does not feel so strong, sure the accents fit the games narrative well. But they lack heart, they feel bland and empty in comparison which makes you lose interest in their plights quickly.
Jackie’s Darkness powers grants him the ability to use two demonic arms, this turns what could be your typical duel-wielding first person shooter, into what is essentially a quad-wielder. This is where Darkness feels unique, being able to shoot off two guns whilst using your two demon arms feel insanely cool. These demon arms can simply attack your foes, detach to take down enemies as they slither along the ground or use their powers to bring forth Darkling’s. Darklings are imp-like creatures with abilities such as firing at enemies with their own mini-gun or blasting lights around the area to increase your strength. Light plays a big part in gameplay; lights will drain your Darkness power meaning you will eventually lose it if you do not sort out the light issue. Lights can be shoot out with guns or using your demonic arms, which adds to combat scenarios as you take out all the lights in an area leaving your enemies frightened and fearing for their lives.
Combat in The Darkness is a blast; being able to string together kills in the dark using all your Darkness abilities while you have three Darkling’s rolling along with you, feels great. Especially during the later stages of the game, you feel an unstoppable sense of power, almost indestructible as you mow down your enemies. Gameplay is played out through a mixture of real-world and otherworld style levels, the otherworld levels take place in the Realm of Darkness. These levels have a great sense of atmosphere and very cool art direction, but one of the biggest problems in The Darkness occurs in these levels the most.
The game lacks direction; the campaign is genuinely 7 hours in length. Yet I think I spent allot of time trying to find my way around the world, you are only briefly explained where events are taking place or where locations are. The fact that there is no mini-map, no marker indicating where you are supposed to go is frustrating. You feel as though the game has thrown you in the deep end without a paddle, especially when your search for your next objective leads you to watch the same loading scene, of Jackie doing something weird in a dark room over, and over, and over again.
This game certainly feels outdated, being five years old that is a fair statement to make. But even for its time the lip syncing is horrendous, characters will start speaking without their mouth moving or their mouth will keep moving when no dialogue is occurring. The other outdated factor is the graphics, the game looks bad and is a real chore to try and get through when all you are greeted with is the same boring subway tunnel, same small world hub and same underworld area. The game world itself feels dead, with empty city streets (Except for those gunning for your death) and NPC’s that barely move from the one spot. The idea of giving this game the open-world sense was lost, since the aspect is useless overall. I would have had a better time being literally thrown into missions, rather than struggle around the small, dead world with no direction whatsoever.
Collectible phone numbers are found throughout the game, ringing these up at phone booths will unlock special features like actual Darkness comics from the main menu. Side missions are also offered, which honestly is hard to realize. There are no markers indicating NPC’s have tasks for you and they will only start chatting to you if you stand near them for a handful of seconds, when you do try your hand at these missions, they feel empty and plain. There is nothing hear that begs to be played, thinking of making your way through the main story without touching the side quests? You can, you won’t miss much.
Starbreeze has been able to provide an intriguing tale of revenge with an interesting main character; you will personally want to avenge Jenny’s death and want to see “Uncle” Paulie suffer. The story does become forgotten during the otherworld segments however, which hurt the cohesion of the narrative. What will keep you around is the gameplay, the mixture of gunplay with the Darkness abilities works so well and makes this game a blast in combat. However it feels like the few lights shining out of a dark room, the directionless world makes you feel lost and frustrated. With stiff animations, poor lip syncing and some plain side missions this is one of those games you enjoy for what it is, whist dealing with the problems that ultimately hinder the experience.
- Fun gameplay
- Interesting narrative
- Jackie and Jenny’s relationship
- Lacks direction
- Bland side missions
- Poor lip syncing
- World feels empty
Jamie Briggs looks after Analog Addiction where you can find all his latest reviews, interviews and features and also like them on Facebook. Also follow his daily life on Twitter @AnalogAddiction and his videos on YouTube.