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The Darkness (Xbox 360) artwork

The Darkness (Xbox 360) review

"From Studio Starbreeze(the studio who brought you The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay,)The Darkness goes where few first-person shooters go, which is actually focusing on the characters and plot. The big question is, does The Darkness succeed in drawing you into its seedy underworld, or does it fall on its face and feel just like the mediocre first-person shooters that are becoming a trend? "

From Studio Starbreeze(the studio who brought you The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay,)The Darkness goes where few first-person shooters go, which is actually focusing on the characters and plot. The big question is, does The Darkness succeed in drawing you into its seedy underworld, or does it fall on its face and feel just like the mediocre first-person shooters that are becoming a trend?

In The Darkness, you play the game as Jackie Estacado, a 21-year old mafia hit man. Jackie is set-up by his Uncle Paulie. When Jackie opens a closet, there is a bomb waiting for him. Upon the explosion he crashes out of a window and he survives. On his 21st birthday, Jackie is the newest recipient of the darkness, which has unbelievable powers. From this moment, your mission begins to extract revenge and kill your Uncle Paulie. The story is told in a very unique way. Much of the story you'll find out through Jackie talking about his past, the present, and the future. These scenes are usually short in length (1-3 minutes) but are a fascinating way to get you interested in the game. The developers do a great thing with getting the story across. Most of the plot development is done with the narrative by Jackie in a dark room, so you're always focused on Jackie and what he's saying. This way, the excellent story comes across very clearly, and I remember it perfectly after months of not playing it, which I can't say for very many games.

The Darkness has some very solid gameplay. On top of your everyday guns, you are in control of darkness powers. There are four of these powers, and you earn them as the game progresses. You can also control darklings, little minions that perform and assist various tasks. There are also four of these that you unlock throughout the game. The most fun form of combat options is easily the Darkness powers, which are simply too fascinating for their own good. One has you creep up on enemies and attack them, one impales, one is a powerful gun, and the last is an incredibly powerful black-hole. While some of them take some time to master, others (like the Black Hole) are simply just too easy to use, and can easily kill 5 enemies at a time. On top of using these powers in combat, you will also need these to get through roadblocks and get to hard-to-reach places. These powers also have a disadvantage to them, as they cannot be utilized in the light. You need to shoot out the lights to use them, which brings an exciting element to the game. On top of combat, The Darkness includes multiple side-quests, which are commonly found in RPGs, and certainly not first-person shooters, or any shooters for that matter. The game is also filled with collectibles, which are used for getting concept art, level designs and more. They either come in the form of phone numbers or letters. To unlock everything, you have to dial the numbers at a phone booth or mail the letters in a mailbox, which is an innovative way at unlocking the collectibles.

However, the gameplay has its problems. First and foremost, fighting enemies really isn't all that fun if you aren't using your darkness powers. The arsenal of guns you have are few and just not very exciting, as they're all basically the same thing. The darklings are also pretty useless. Apart from the few times you have to use them for something specific, they really are insignificant. The AI also has its problems. While it can be difficult to kill your enemies, they are almost never in cover, and are just wide open for you to slaughter. However, you will probably end up dying rather often, as the AI can be pretty tough. The AI ends up being a mixed bag of hard to kill and very predictable.

The graphics in The Darkness are solid, but they don't come without problems. The effects are beautiful, all the heart devouring, impaling and blood have never looked better. The environments are very realistic, and come across like very legitimate cities that you would see in real life. A major issue with them is that the game is just too dark. The extremely dark levels and scenery can be rather frustrating when you can’t see where you’re going. The weapons are absolutely stunning, and the darkness powers are absolutely gorgeous. While the grittiness of The Darkness does give a refreshing feel to the game, it gives it a kind of outdated feel, especially with the ugly character models. Some of the people you go up to talk to look surprisingly real, but are not appealing to look at. Overall, the graphical portion of The Darkness, while not the strongest, is certainly a high.

The audio component of The Darkness is nothing short of superb. Every single character has a voice in this game, which is something very few games can claim. While many characters that just walk around the subway are voiced by the same person, it’s still a very impressive feat. Studio Starbreeze truly went the extra mile in this aspect. The characters in the story are all voiced to a tee, and sound excellent. Mike Patton steals the show voicing the darkness inside Jackie. The darkness is an incredibly creepy and intriguing character; and I just wanted more and more of him. The gunshots are crisp and clear and the impaling and slaughtering is simply blood-curdling. The sound design and casting choices make The Darkness a winner.

Expect the game to last you around 8-10 hours, basically the typical first-person shooter length. The biggest downside to The Darkness is that the multiplayer mode is a failure of epic proportions. Multiplayer is completely broken and is overflowing with slowdowns if there are more than 4 players at once, rendering the multiplayer mode of The Darkness unplayable. In all honesty, the games focus is completely on single-player, and if you live off of multiplayer games, than avoid the Darkness. However, if you are looking for an innovative, well produced shooter that’s story you will remember, than by all means, buy The Darkness.


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Community review by Azumangaman (October 03, 2007)

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