The Darkness

A first-person shooter packed to the gills with gruesome deaths and washed-out colors, The Darkness is a far cry from the relatively sunny worlds presented in most superhero games. Its hero, Jackie Estacado, is a mafia hitman who manifests demonic powers just in time to fight against all the hired killers his paranoid former boss sends after him. He's a remorseless killer, and relies on guns just as much as he does the snakelike monsters that emerge from his back when he becomes The Darkness. And unlike Frank Castle of The Punisher, he doesn't serve any lofty ideals like justice; he just wants to survive, which means killing a lot of people who are worse than he is.

The Darkness has caught some flak from fans of the comics for the liberties it takes with the comic's origin story (and for its omission of Jackie's garish gold-and-teal costume). Even so, fans won't be disappointed by Jackie's powers, which are faithfully represented in full force. Jackie can impale and fling enemies (and, later, cars and other objects) with a fully controllable tentacle, for example, or summon goblin-like Darklings to draw enemy fire. Some abilities were made up for the game - like the giant black hole you can summon to kill everything it touches - but these nonetheless fit in well with the context of the series. And they're all a hell of a lot of fun to use.

What's more, the game brings players closer to its story and characters than most superhero games could dream of. Everything feels intensely personal, from the random conversations to the close-up gun-in-mouth executions to the guilty thrill of watching your demon-snakes tear the hearts out of dead enemies. And Jackie's soft-spoken narration goes a long way toward turning him into a likeably tragic character.

Relentlessly bloody and emotional, The Darkness is one of the most intense, compelling superhero (or is that supervillain?) adaptations we've ever played. That you can sit and watch To Kill a Mockingbird from start to finish on its in-game TVs doesn't hurt, either.

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