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Game Review: ‘The Darkness II’

Some of you may be thinking, “What is The Darkness?” Well, by most standards the darkness is what you’re plunged into when you turn the lights out. In terms of this critique, however, it’s the name of a video game series available for the PC, Xbox 360 and the PS3, based on a comic book I’ve never read nor heard of before I picked up The Darkness II from Redbox. 

Before I begin this week’s rant, let me make something clear: I didn’t play the first game, mostly because I had heard almost nothing about it; and two, the little bit that I did hear about it was pretty negative. 

So just keep in mind that I’m examining this game from an everyman’s perspective, not from that of a fan or even someone who’s familiar with the series in any way. No, I did not read the comics to gain a better connection to the game. Why, you ask? Because I doubt I could care less about it even if I tried.

Plot and Characters

Fortunately for me, there’s an option to have a quick synopsis of the first game sputtered at you from a guy called Johnny Powell, a man suffering from a severe case of the jitters. His constant stammers and paranoia comes off as the type of conspiracy shut-in that thinks someone at the Pentagon is watching him take a shower. Of course in his case it’s because of his previous experience with the Darkness, so it’s forgivable.

Anyway, Johnny explains that the Darkness existed as an evil entity before the creation of the Universe. This is presumably an interpretation of the verse from Genesis that says that God’s voice came out from the darkness and said “Let there be light.”

According to Johnny, the Darkness wasn’t very happy about God creating a universe without talking to it first, so it decided to get back at Him by attacking his creations with suffering whenever it got the chance by infecting one person of power and influence at a time and using him as a vessel with which to spread said misery. At present, it happens to be dwelling in one Jackie Estcado, a mafia hit man who has apparently become the boss since the events of the last game.

It seems Jackie became infected with the darkness at some point in the last game and has since decided to bury it inside himself and promising never to let it out again. But of course he does, otherwise there wouldn’t be much of a game here. 

Side bar: the fact that I remember peoples’ names is a huge tic in the game’s favor, because most games these days can’t hold my attention long enough to remember much of anything about them.

The game starts out with Jackie sitting in a dark room rambling about how the host doesn’t control the Darkness but that it’s the other way around blah blah blah. From there it transitions to a sequence in which Jackie is at a restaurant that I presume is owned by the mafia.

The restaurant subsequently falls under attack by some dudes that I assume Jackie has never encountered before because the next several cut scenes include various renditions of “who the hell were those pricks?” 

So Jackie is battered to within an inch of his life, at which point he is no longer able to hold the Darkness back and lets it loose in a flurry of blood and gore that would put the Doom series to shame (I’ll explain what that means in the next section).

After Jackie remains his powers from the Darkness, he is joined by an imp-like creature that is some sort of offshoot of the Darkness. He stands about two feet tall and possesses a strange British accent and occasionally makes some wacky dialogue or urinates on red piles of Jell-O that used to be bodies in a spirited but somewhat annoying attempt at comic relief. Also, judging by the dialogue, I’m guessing he was present in the last game. 

Jackie then embarks on a journey to track down his attackers and figure out what they want. On the way he will be forced to face his inner demons and square off several times with raging insanity as the Darkness attempts to exert full control over him.

Another side note: this is game is rated “Mature,” though I really wish they would change it to Adult because there’s nothing mature about brutally ripping your fellow mans’ limbs off in pursuit of personal interests and everyone in the game dropping F-bombs like there’s a Black Friday sale on them.


Not something a normally talk about because good graphics are now a standard instead of a selling point for games, but I thought it was worth mentioning that the game is drawn in cell-shade, and it actually works pretty well. 


Like I said, it’s excessively violent. Don’t get me wrong, I like all the sexy violence of gaming as much as the next guy, but there’s a certain point where it starts to get ridiculous. Tearing out a live enemy’s still-beating heart through his splintered rib cage and agonizing screams for mercy so that you can eat it would fall roughly in that area.

Allow me to explain: the Darkness manifests itself as two giant black snakes jutting out of Jackie’s shoulder blades. These snakes can be used by Jackie for melee attacks as well as picking up various objects that litter the ground and hurling them at opponents. They can also be used to grab the opponents themselves and perform a brutal execution.

Aside from that, it’s an FPS. You know how they work. The camera sits comfortably nestled in the protagonist’s skull as you run around shooting multitudes of corridor-filling thugs and hide behind three-foot walls waiting for health to regenerate. 

It has the same sort of things that just about all first-person shooters have these days: Iron Sight aim, some form of flash bang grenades, regenerating health, and the screen turns a viscous red when you’re on the verge of death making it incredibly difficult to see what the hell is going on at the time you need to be able to see the most so that you can find another three-foot wall to hide behind. 

I have to admit, though, the addition of the shoulder snake things add an interesting element to the game. Throughout the game you’ll gain “essence” for each kill you make (they’re just experience points), and the gorier the kill, the more you get. You spend these at an upgrade terminal to gain powerful abilities for Jackie. There are several to go through, from simple gun upgrades to the ability to cast groups of enemies into the darkest reaches of oblivion. 

Only two complaints this time. The first comes from the fact that the Darkness cannot be used where there is bright light. That makes sense, but the problem comes from the fact that it’s sometimes hard to tell what the game considers to be “bright light” when you’ve got twenty-plus horribly accented goons ramming a flurry of bullets up your snakes. 

I would often get into a frantic situation and end up stumbling into some light, at which point the snakes retreat into Jackie’s back and the whole screen flashes white, making it difficult to see.

Also, the enemies also know that your snakes don’t work in the light, so they often flash bright lights in your face, effectively sapping you of your powers and blinding you. You can shoot them out, but trust me, it starts to get irritating when you spend about half your playtime squinting to see what’s going on while you get wailed on by thugs. 

My other complaint is sort of an extension of the first. It’s that the boss fights get a little absurd. You’ll have to take down the boss’s nearly indestructible BS armor while at the same time holding off thugs and trying to keep from going blind. It all gets very frantic and in my case resulted in many deaths before victory could be mine. Part of this might be because I played it on hard, though, so maybe on normal it’s not so bad. 


It’s called “Vendettas.” It’s a four-player co-op campaign separate from the actual storyline. This one bases itself in dark humor rather than action-horror from what I can tell. I didn’t have time for it, so you’ll have to check somewhere else to see if it’s any good. My guess: Meh.


You know, it was actually pretty fun. I didn’t quite make it to the end, but I assume was getting pretty close because I had long since hit the big plot twist and everyone was ranting about ending things once and for all. 

I have to say, shoulder snakes make for the fun times. So remember that, Call of Duty and Halo: more arbitrary guns that do the same thing as the old ones = lame, shoulder snakes = cool. 

Investment suggestion: Rent. I got pretty close to the end in just a few days, and with no multiplayer, I can’t see the thought of playing it through on a harder difficulty making it worth $60.

The above is only my opinion. It just happens to be right.

Where to Purchase

Here’s some great local places to pick up video games: GameStop, Target, Kmart, Walmart and Best Buy.


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