PAX East 11: The Darkness II Demo Impressions

By Yaris Gutierrez

March 14, 2011

The Darkness is one of those games that is incredible, but didn’t receive the reception or respect from the community that it well deserved due to the fact that it was shrouded by god knows what. For those of you have absolute no idea about what the game entails, I’ll briefly (and I mean briefly) give you some information. Ready? Protagonist Jackie Estacado is an Italian-American hitman whose body is possessed by “the Darkness” — a malevolent spirit that has lived in his family for several generations. On his twenty-first birthday he is targeted for assassination, gains these “dark” powers, survives further attempts on his life, uses his new found powers to violently, and literally, eat the heart of whoever the hell he kills, goes through a hellish experience that would cause any of us to crawl into a fetal position and weep uncontrollably, and avenges the death of his girlfriend who is murdered by the very people who were trying to kill him. Everything that can go wrong in a person’s lifetime goes wrong for this poor bastard in a matter of days. I would say he lived happily ever after, but you try living your life with little imps following you around every time it gets dark, and dark tentacles that have a thing for consuming hearts.

Four years later, and after The Darkness has evaporated from our minds, 2K announces a sequel. We here at DualShockers got a chance to get some hands-on time with The Darkness II here at PAX East and, I must say, it is truly a great experience with massive improvements and additions that will be welcoming to both new and old players of what has now become a series.

The Darkness II takes places two years after Jackie — who is now the Don of the Franchetti family — kills the men responsible for the death of his late girlfriend Jenny. After finally suppressing the The Darkness for a while, the supernatural power wants out again. Another attempt on Jackie’s life suddenly starts a full-blown mob war, which, by the way it quickly unfolds, seems orchestrated by someone on the outside. The attempt on his life resurfaces The Darkness within, which he had successfully kept botched up for so long, and sets Jackie, once again, on the road to egregious places as he tries to decrypt the reason for the attack, and the real motivations behind The Darkness itself.

The demo opened up with Jackie having his hand nailed down as, from what it seems, The Darkness is being sucked out of him by a grotesque figure who seems to want the power for himself. After a bit of dialogue, Jackie flashes back to the day his unwanted power resurfaced. He enters an upscale Italian restaurant and is escorted by someone to a table preoccupied with two statuesque women whom he quickly seems to recognize. After an exchange of flirtatious words between the three parties, the attempt on Jackie’s life commences, and the player takes control of a wounded Jackie who is being dragged to safety by a henchman as you shoot the barrage of enemies trying to kill you.

From the very beginning of The Darkness II, you will quickly notice the change in visuals. The first game surrounds the player in an ambiance of darkness and monochrome colors that presents a gritty feeling of horror, and makes the world around you seem completely lifeless and solemn, even though it is sometimes occupied with inhabitants of New York City. The Darkness II‘s facade has gone through dramatic, yet welcoming, changes which gives the world a more vivid and natural look. The hand painted textures gives the game a graphic novel appearance and feel that is easy on the eyes. I was quickly drawn in when Jackie made his stroll inside the restaurant to his dinner table. The world seemed much more livelier as conversation and music filled the room — something that I embraced in my mind since the first game had an unnatural absence of sound.

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Although you are presented with this new palette of color, it doesn’t take away from the creepy feeling that the first game is known for. Of course dark and gritty usually represents a much more “serious” approach to the feel of horror, but the overall elements that give The Darkness a “dark” feeling still exists. The substitution for more colors magnifies the intensity of everything that occurs in this world, as it should. Although your eyes will be busy ogling the newly decorated game, the familiar gameplay and raunchy dialogue will reassure you that the core dynamics that made the first game so great still exist. Jackie’s infamous dual-wielding of pistols are reintroduced — something that will briefly expose fans to a moment of nostalgia. But what makes the game even much more exciting this time around is the ability to quad-wield. Yes. Quad-wield.

In The Darkness II, players are able to dual-wield pistols, and manage the use of the dark tentacles simultaneously. The system might sound a bit convoluted and intimidating, but be assured that the developers did an amazing job in keeping the controls fluid and not congested to the point where it becomes tedious to handle. You’re able to conveniently control both your weapons and dark tentacles flawlessly without it feeling like a chore (i.e. you won’t be slamming your controller on the floor in frustration). This time around, you’re able to use the dark tentacles (darklings) to do much more than what was available in the first game. Other than bite your enemy’s face off and eat hearts like it was nobody’s business, the dark tentacles now have a wider range of things they can do. For example, you can now use them to pick up objects for both offensive and defensive purposes. On the offensive, Jackie is able to pick up objects on laying about and use them to throw at the baddies. See a pole laying around that you would like to introduce to the face of the guy shooting at you? You’re more than welcome to. Snatch up the pole, and chuck it forcefully at your enemy, impaling them on the wall. This is a useful tool when you’re trying to conserve ammo, and keeping Jackie’s hands sanitized from the germ infested things laying about in the detestable city.

On the defensive, the dark tentacles are able to pick up larger objects (a car door, for example) and use them as a shield to repel enemy attacks. The great thing about these added instruments of gameplay is that it doesn’t intrude on the player’s ability to concurrently bust a cap in someone’s ass. Once you’ve picked up an object to deflect enemy attacks, you’re able to use your guns to make Swiss cheese of people. After you’ve had enough time taking comfort behind the cozy object, you can catapult it at someone and get back to becoming a man with balls.

But one of the abilities that gave me a chubby probably had to be the executions you can now perform. Stealthily walk up behind your foe and you will be able to perform the most outrageous executions you might ever witness using your dark tentacles that contain the words “rip” and “apart.” Literally. Compared to its predecessor, The Darkness II seems a tad more disturbing in the area of killing due to the large amounts of blood and gore. It might seem a tad excessive for some, but, personally, I feel that it goes well with the climate of the game.

The Darkness II, like the prequel, will, without a doubt, satisfy your appetite for entertainment. The brief experience I had with it was more than enough to tell me that the game will deliver with regards to value and enjoyment. Although I was expecting 2K to show us something good, I wasn’t expecting it to be something that I’d be drooling over. I went with modest expectations and came out as satisfied as I could ever be with a game, considering it was a hands-on demo. It was too brief to pick up on any defects, but just about everything that my eyes and ears endured was enough to conclude that this is definitely one of the games I’ll be looking forward to get my hands on whenever the hell 2K games decides to get this out to the public.

Congratulations on giving me an inflated pork sword, 2K.

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Yaris Gutierrez

Born and raised in New York City, Yaris is one of three co-founders at DualShockers. Gaming since the inception of Nintendo in the 80's, he has grown to avidly appreciate games of every genre, maturing his preference specifically now to third-person action games, first-person shooters and JRPGs. He's a software engineer, father and husband during the day, and mildly attempts to hold onto his "hardcore gamer" title during the evenings. An attempt that he tends to fail miserably at.

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