It?s strange to think that first person shooters can still innovate in this day and age, especially since the main perception of the genre seems to be Call of Duty and Battlefield. But 2K?s The Darkness managed to buck the trend by throwing in a lot of creepy comic book influences and some interesting gameplay mechanics. Its success has awarded it a sequel, due to be released in February - and this time around, mob boss Jackie Estacado has brought some friends with him.
The main story campaign sees the gangster, now the Don of the Franchetti family, fighting against an ancient secret organisation called The Brotherhood. These nasty chaps, led by one Victor Valente, want to take the Darkness from Estacado and harness the power for themselves. Along the way, he?ll run into a four-man vigilante group called the Vendettas who each have a bone to pick with the Brotherhood.
It?s more than just an interesting plot device however - the Vendettas storyline is also a separate co-op mode that runs parallel with Estacado?s. Each of the four playable characters rock different primary weapons, have various gameplay attributes and can perform a unique execution, but all can wield the power of the Darkness to gain the same heart-plucking moves that Jackie possesses.
Inugami is a Japanese samurai type who bears a destructive sword called the Kusanagi. It has a lot of history to it, that blade, which has allowed it to build up a large amount of dark energy over the centuries. Various executions include slicing and dicing unwitting enemies into strips of meat, and he can also summon miniature Yokai demons to swarm those around him.
Israeli Special Forces operative Shoshanna brings some gunplay flair as her special weapon is a demonic super-powerful shotgun that can be used to blow off the heads of any bad guy that comes near you. Doctor J.P. DuMond is a bit of a Baron Samedi type character - a modern-day witch doctor who has the ability to mess around with gravity and unleash killer vortexes into the wild.
My favourite has to be the ultra-stereotypical Scotsman Jimmy Wilson however. A foul-mouthed, booze-drinking Glaswegian who constantly offends and burps his way throughout the co-op levels presented to you. His weapon is the Dark Axe, which can be chucked at enemies and hack chests open for hearts. If your axe gets lodged in a wall, you can call it back and potentially kill an enemy on the return journey.
Missions in co-op play exactly as the single-player mode, with the added bonus of your mates bouncing around the screen using paranormal special moves on enemies. As you might be aware already, The Darkness II allows for ?quad wielding? of weapons - which basically means you can use your regular weapons and the Darkness powers at the same time.
The levels are structured slightly differently however, and definitely feel like they have a pattern to them. The first stage - set in a scrapyard with the objective of finding occultist Johnny Powell - is structured almost like a sectioned Horde mode. Clear the enemies in a given area, break the electric lock, survive another wave of enemies, repeat until Stage Clear. Things don?t really deviate from that in the second and third levels that I played either.
That?s not to say they weren?t fun or engaging however. Just like Jackie, each character has to be aware of light sources, which knacker your ability to use the Darkness powers and have the added bonus of blinding you. So you need to think tactically and decide how you?re going to tackle a particular section before progressing. By the third stage - where you must hunt down a mobster called Luigi who?s been caught making copies of dark relics - you run out of regular ammo quite easily and things prove to be more of a challenge.
I?m not quite sure how many stages the Vendettas mode will ultimately contain, but whether you want to take a breather from Jackie?s high-action storyline or jump into a unique side quest with friends, The Darkness II
looks like it will have you covered quite elegantly. The game is due for release on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC on 10th February.