The latest creation from Starbreeze Studios, known for The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay.
You play as Jackie Estacado, a member of the mafia who discovers on the night of his 21st birthday that not only is there a hit out on him, ordered by none other than his boss Uncle Paulie, but also he is inhabited by a mysterious curse known as "The Darkness." The story contains many twists and turns, while taking place seemingly over the course of that one night.
The game is loosely based on the comic book of the same name, though some changes have been made to make the game flow much better. It presents a great mix of plot, with a certain amount of freedom to explore the areas of New York City. Outside the subway only three sections of the city have been created, but they are incredibly detailed. If the entire game were to have taken place there, it probably would have felt much more cramped then it did. However, in two chapters of the game Jackie is transported to an area described as "No Man’s Land." It is explained several different ways, either as the Darkness' dream of you, or you inside the mind of the darkness. It is never really clear.
Basically your goal is to kill. Just when you think you've killed every one of New York's finest, and even more mafia members, be prepared to kill some more. The game is a first person shooter after all! What helps keep the game from getting stale is the various darkness powers you can use, and aforementioned darklings you can summon, four of each in fact. Honestly there was only one point in the game where I felt it necessary to really summon darklings other then when it forces you to after just finding them. But the darkness powers are very helpful; especially considering you will use a lot of your bullets shooting out lights to keep your darkness power strong. The one I found myself using the most was creeping dark, which allows you to send one of the demons who usually hangs over your shoulder slithering off to do your bidding. He can retrieve objects, bite off people's faces, and even devour their hearts afterward! The fact that you have to use these various abilities to advance through the levels of the game really does keep the game fresh.
Uncle Paulie has placed the hit on you but it is never clearly explained why. And there in lies one of the games two flaws. The story does seem to lose its way at certain points, often results in thinking "Why did I just kill those guys"? There is no better explanation than because they started shooting at you first.
The other major downfall was the fact that at certain points the game seems to be building towards something really big, only to fall flat on its face. Two moments come to mind, when the game is structured so perfectly and you are headed into what seem to be one of the moments from a video game you remember forever. Both times however, you are met only with a major letdown.
Outside all of that, technically the game works very well. The A.I. for the most part is very nicely done, but there were a couple of times when they aren't really sure why they're trying to kill you either, and are totally ill-equipped to do so in the first place. At one point I was walking down the street with both an assault rifle and my demons out, and a mugger approached and asked for my wallet. I looked around confused for a moment as if to say "are you serious"?
As far as the graphics go, The Darkness is very impressive. The character models are dead on, and the developers captured New York City, and the dark atmosphere needed for the game very well. The animations however, were very underwhelming. Emotions on characters faces were hard to tell. While the voice acting was probably the best on any game out right now, when someone was yelling, their lips were barely moving, and they honestly didn't look all that angry. Like the voice acting, the music was spot on, and always set the perfect mood. The sound effects were good, but at times didn't match the level of quality displayed in the voice acting and music.
When it comes to replay value, The Darkness can go one of two ways. The Achievements offered in the 360 version of the game provide you with a great deal of things to shoot for such as the collectables scattered throughout the game. There are 100, and after collecting them you are required to go to a pay phone and dial them, or if they're collected in the other world, a post office box to mail them. Completing each of the side quests yields another Achievement, as does attaining a certain number of kills with each darkness power. If you are someone who likes to bump up your gamer score there is a lot to bring you back after completing the game. The first time through it took me about 10 hours to complete the campaign, and I spent probably another 10-15 hours afterward replaying the game, and reloading certain chapters to get some of the Achievements.
The Darkness offers an online multiplayer mode. This, unlike the Achievements, will not keep you coming back. There are only a few online game modes which are incredibly generic. You've got your death match and your capture the flag, that's about it. It doesn't hurt that it runs insanely slow, and most games have way too much lag to even finish, let alone play continuously.
Starbreeze and 2K Games have come together to create much more than your basic first person shooter. The game of course does have its flaws, mostly with how confusing the story gets towards the end, but what really hurts the game is that it seems to always be building towards something, only to let you down. Fortunately everything the game does well makes up for it by giving you one of the best mixtures of action and plot with the end result of a truly immersive adventure that really is worth your time and effort.