Let’s be honest, how many times have we heard a developer say “our multiplayer experience is something totally new” or use the phrase “it’s not tacked on”, seriously how many? Probably more than you can count on all your fingers and toes combined. It was with that mindset that I went into our demo for the The Darkness II’s Vendettas co-op mode. What I left with though, was a completely different outlook.
You see the thing about multiplayer is that there’s a special balance that needs to take place in order to make it really work. Throwing in a cheap competitive mode is the easy route to but what do player’s even get from that? Usually, your competitive multiplayer folks are already playing [insert generic military shooter here], and aren’t really looking to deviate from that.
Some games try to go the co-op route but they rarely, if ever, seem to get it right. For starters, developers usually take the easy road and have you plow through the game’s main narrative with a friend. Which sounds good in theory, but in practice when your friend’s arguing over his mic with a roommate or significant other, you quickly realize that’s its usually not the best way to experience a game’s story. Too often this kind of co-op actually pulls you out of the of immersion that the game is trying to create.
The team behind The Darkness II at Digital Extremes have decided to go the road less traveled by creating a co-op experience that’s meant to be enjoyed with your buddies. In this mode the game’s story will run parallel to the events you’ll experience as Jackie Estacado in the single player campaign. The major differences being that you obviously won’t be playing as Jackie and that it will be much lighter in the story department, even though the action is just as heavy. Dark comedy action would probably be the best way to describe the writing style and overall tone.
The best part of the developers taking the emphasis off of the story here, is that you’ll never feel like you’ve really missed anything. While there is some narrative sprinkled in to keep you engaged, for the most part you and a buddy or buddies can focus on just tearing through some enemies. And I really mean tear through.
The mode consists of four unique characters, all of which have their own special abilities and secondary weapons. You have Inugami, who uses an ancient sword known as the Kusanagi. The Kusanagi has the ability to cause destruction, and it’s owner bears the burden of the ten thousand innocent deaths the sword carries. He needs to rid (or cleanse) the sword in order to reverse the curse. Can you guess how this happens?
Next we have Shoshanna. She’s an isreali CIA operative, who wields the dark essence fused Arm of the Night (think double barrel of fun). Her power is the ability of gun channeling.
Then there’s Jimmy Wilson, an angry Scotsman in a drunken lumberjack’s body. Jimmy’s weapon of choice is a dark essence fused hand axe. He’s also quite possibly the scariest looking ginger in all of gaming. Jimmy’s power allows him to unleash some not-so-nice little darklings.
Finally we have Doctor J.P. DuMond, a witch doctor from the south. DuMond carries his “box of tricks” along with a staff he calls the midnight stick. While the midnight stick can be quite the tool to bend bodies in half (seriously), the “box of tricks” actually creates a black hole of sorts, that when thrown towards enemies will suck them in and spit them out in a not so pleasant form. In other words, DuMond is a total badass.
At the beginning of each level, you’ll be able to load up on extras by trading in the aura points that you’ve collected in previous levels in exchange for goodies and talents. So how do you collect said aura? The game awards players for everything they do. Whether its kills, style of kills, or actions in the game (pulling levers, switches, blowing up generators) it all adds up to more aura points.
Even sticking together with your partner(s) as you take down the baddies will help you earn more points. You’ll notice that when you look at your teammate’s location, they’re surrounded by a halo of sorts. And as long as you’re standing in that circle of darkness death with them, you’ll both receive bonuses as you massacre enemies.
The game’s AI was pretty agressive and certainly wont allow for your inner Rambo to come out running and gunning. Up to four players can enjoy the co-op goodness, but unfortunately that AI doesn’t scale to the number of players. At first that may seem like a bummer but when you see the kill combos that you can pull off with your friends, which you probably couldn’t pull off if there were too many enemies, it may be worth it in the long run. Remember the emphasis here was for players to have a good time with it.
We’ve been checking out The Darkness II ever since PAX East earlier this year. Every single time we got a chance to see it, the game has been looking better and better. Now the addition of mulitplayer co-op is just a cherry on top of all of that. Make sure to keep your eyes on this one in February 2012.