Here at the Game Developers Conference I got my first look at The Darkness II, the sequel to the 2007 comic book game. I wasn't sure what to expect because the sequel has been handed to a different developer, but it ended up being one of the most exciting games I saw at GDC this year.
What's the Same?
The Darkness II is still a first-person shooter starring Mafioso Jackie Estacado, current host of a chaotic force known as the Darkness. When Jackie is in the light, he's your regular Wiseguy. But when he steps into shadow the Darkness emerges and you'll see two serpent heads appear onscreen. This is what makes The Darkness' gameplay unique: you can run around dual-wielding guns while using your dark tentacles to mangle and abuse enemies, giving you four weapons at your disposal all at the same time. But you'll often have to think about, avoid, or remove light sources in order to maintain your more powerful form.
Vocal virtuoso Mike Patton, of Faith No More fame, will be returning as the twisted voice of the Darkness.
Perhaps most notably, The Darkness II has a new developer. The original was developed by Starbreeze, creator of the Xbox cult favorite The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay. This sequel is being handled by Digital Extremes, developer of Dark Sector. Digital Extremes has altered the art style, going for a glossy graphic novel look.
In the first game, Jackie could deliver brutal executions to his enemies such as bashing their heads in with the butt of his gun. Now his Demon Arms can get in on the fun and finish off goons in fun, gory ways. The Anaconda execution is when a tentacle coils itself around an enemy and then bursts through his chest Alien-style. For the Wishbone, each arm grabs a bad guy's leg and then splits him in two from the crotch.
A new Demon Arm execution called The Anaconda.
Story-wise, two years have passed since the events of The Darkness. No longer just a hitman, Jackie is now the head of the Franchetti crime family. When you have power, though, someone is always going to try and take it away from you.
Very positive. The opening moments of The Darkness II are kind of amazing. Jackie awakens from a blackout to find he is literally being crucified by some jerk that wants the Darkness for himself. As his hands are nailed to the cross you see his power is being drained into some sort of ancient vase -- all from a first-person view. Through several playable flashbacks you come to learn how Jackie ended up in this predicament.
Jackie had arrived at an Italian restaurant earlier that night and received the suitably royal treatment. As he was led through the building I got a good sense of the space of the restaurant, which was busy with all sorts of chatty patrons. When Jackie arrived at his table he was greeted by two lovely ladies that he didn't at first recognize with their clothes on.
I won't spoil exactly what happens next because it's pretty shocking, but needless to say Jackie's nice evening is spoiled by an attempt on his life that leaves his leg crushed and the restaurant in flames. As one of his friends pulls Jackie to safety through the blazing wreck, players will be able to take aim and shoot down the invading mobsters. The flames are too bright for Jackie to change into his dark form, but once they reach a back alley he can transform and have his fun with the goons. It was a thrilling intro to the game and made me want to play.
The Darkness II is currently set for release later this year. Put it on your radar.