2007 promises big things for 2K Games
less glamorous sister company ? previously renowned chiefly for PC and American sports titles ? has embraced the next-gen platforms wholeheartedly, and two games in particular, both PS3/Xbox 360 efforts, are among the year?s most anticipated: Bioshock
and The Darkness
. Of the two, The Darkness
is closest to release, and we recently had a chance to visit 2K?s offices in deepest Windsor, where we got hands-on experience of the multiplayer side of The Darkness
, as well as a comprehensive demo of the single-player side of the game.
In storyline terms, there?s one hell of a lot going on in The Darkness
. It is, of course, developed by Starbreeze
, of The Chronicles of Riddick
fame - essentially a bunch of Scandinavian goths, with an impressive collection of body-piercing and gratuitous facial hair between them. But The Darkness?
main story thread takes place among the New York Mafia, with an added dash of demonic possession and several visits to the bizarre Otherworld where The Darkness, the evil power that possesses main protagonist Jackie Estecado, resides.
2K?s producer of The Darkness
, Denby Grace, fleshes out the background to the game: ?It originates from the series of comic-books from Top Cow ? it?s a first-person shooter with superhero twists. We took the story from the comic volume Resurrection
, and took the writer Paul Jenkins to Starbreeze, where he wrote a new story about the battle for supremacy in the Franchetti family.?
You play mafia hitman, Jackie Estecado, and at the start of the game it's your 21st birthday. 21sts are usually a time to celebrate, drink and fall over with friends and family. But instead, Jackie's boss, the vile Uncle Pauly, calls for his head. Couldn't be a worse 21st? Well, it gets better in that young(ish) Jack's isn't executed (yet) by his evil drug-pimping guvnor - instead he's entered by The (eponymous) Darkness. Happy, freaking birthday, ya mook.
The game proper starts with Jackie and two of his mafia chums in a convertible, heading for a building site, where Jackie must carry out Uncle Pauly?s instructions (the ones he actually knows about) and whack the foreman. At first, there?s a bit of gentle on-rails action, with the cops in pursuit, but at the building site ? essentially a tutorial stage ? the game settles down into classic fps action.
One of the first things you notice is that the AI characters you meet react in an unusually realistic way. Grace explains that there are technological reasons for that: ?We used a system called vocapping, which is similar to mocapping (motion capture), but it focuses on capturing whole scenes of data, covering interaction with environments and so on, but also movements such as reactions to being faced with guns.?
He elaborates on the voice actors: ?We wanted the cast to be good at acting, not big names. Lauren Ambrose from Six Feet Under
plays your girlfriend. Mike Patton from Faith No More voices The Darkness ? which manifests itself as a voice in Jackie?s head that taunts and teases him.?
Grace let slip a little of the game?s structure: ?The story is quite linear, but we let players choose how they want to do things. After the first few levels, you?re taken to a subway station and, from there, you?re free to go wherever you want.
To encourage exploration, there are bits of paper to collect, which earn you things like the whole back catalogue of The Darkness
comics and making-of videos. There are lots of side-missions and, if Jackie completes them, he gets new weapons.?