The Darkness II: hands-on preview

Even though it was just revealed a few weeks ago, The Darkness II is already far enough to have a playable demo on the PAX East showfloor. The hands-on session directly mimics the events we saw and detailed here, so this preview will focus on the actual controls and how the game's heart-chomping tendrils affect the action.

Above: A bloody mess (in a good way)

As in the first game, Jackie Estacado relies more on his Darkness powers than uzis, shotguns and revolvers. Sure, traditional firearms play a big part, but you need to use them in constant conjunction with your various demonic ablities. In the Xbox 360 version on display, tapping LB lunges your left tendril out at an enemy or object; from there you can either toss the payload back at other enemies (including launching poles, fans and mailboxes like projectiles) or, if it's a person, hold LB and perform a gruesome execution. And then, in true Darkness fashion, hold LB over their fallen body to consume the heart. In the first game, hearts fed into your Darkness level, which opened up new abilities - something like that is in part two, but 2K didn't elaborate in this demo.

Above: The executions are varied and remarkably vicious

My only concern with the grabbling/throwing arm is how close dropped guns are to fallen bodies. When you down a bad guy, he usually drops his weapon; if you want, you can reach out with the left arm to snag the gun and pull it to you (a la Dead Space's telekinesis). Problem is, the body is a much larger target than the gun, so I kept snatching up corpses instead of valuable ammo. It wasn't a major issue, but it did recur. The game isn't out until this fall though, so that's the exact kind of thing that could be tweaked before release. Not hung up on this, just happened to notice it.

The RB Darkness arm is for striking and slashing. Tapping it performs a simple attack, but if you hold down RB and flick the right analog stick you bust out a contextual swing that can snap wires and crush baddies with one blow. And that's where Darkness II starts to stand out from the glut of FPSes - using both arms at the same time. When you're reloading a pistol, you can still slam a dude with the right arm and impale someone else to the wall with the left, so you're almost never at a point where you can't attack. It really conveys the sense of power and lethality you'd expect while toting around a gore-hungry monster.

Your only real weakness is the light, which immediately banishes the Darkness entity. While in the light, your vision is blurred and powers are unavailable, so you also quickly learn to avoid or destroy light sources. This is a holdover from the first game, but with new emphasis on direct action, expect to seek out the (literal) darkness more often.

Above: Yeah that guy's dead

During the GDC demo, 2K kept mentioning Darkness II's comic-like visuals. At the time, the TV was far enough away that those details didn't quite register. Now, having stood in front of the game, I can see what they mean - it's essentially like Borderlands, with thick lines surrounding otherwise normal-looking people and objects. It's a departure from the first game's hyper-gritty, nearly photorealistic take on New York (and its many subways), but it's still a good look. Have to see how it's used throughout the game's environments and cutscenes to decide if it benefits the experience or is essentially just a filter.

The original game is insanely cheap at this point, so if you passed on it (many did), check it out in preparation. The first has its issues (lots of backtracking, slow character movement etc) but the Darkness powers and storytelling are damn good even by today's standards. So far, part two's tackled both of those problems, so I'm definitely looking forward to more.

March 12, 2011


PAX 2010


  • Revanjd - March 15, 2011 3:16 a.m.

    If they make as good as the first one, I'll be happy!
  • cart00n - March 14, 2011 10:22 p.m.

    The Darkness was a truly moving experience for me, despite its few flaws. I certainly hope this story is just as good.
  • foxyexplosion - March 13, 2011 6:32 p.m.

    This game looks sick Ima head out and pick up the first to see if the story is worth it
  • Felixthecat - March 13, 2011 2:39 p.m.

    Or you could just refresh the reCaptcha to get a new one... Anyway, didn't play the original, don't really want to play the original, but looking forward to this regardless. It sounds pretty awesome.
  • rufnux - March 13, 2011 12:49 p.m.

    @Asspills: Time for you to learn how reCaptcha's work: reCaptcha uses two words, one that is genuine and that is false. If a word has uninterpretable letters or signs that you normally can't write with a normal keyboard, that word is usually false. Also, if the word has any signs on it at all, it's also false (I.e *.,^`\%#"! etc). On the false word you can write anything you want, but you have to write the real one as is. The reason behind this (if I remember correctly) is so reCaptcha learns new words all the time. When a reCaptcha is unintelligible, and you write what you think it says, reCaptcha might use the word that you wrote in a future reCaptcha. After a while you will become very good at spotting "false" reCaptchas, and it will become a breeze. There is a more extensive guide out there somewhere, but what I just wrote pretty much covers it without going in to too much details. Writing things like "LOL OMG MY CAPTCHA IS CRAZY WTF HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO WRITE A PENTAGON OMGLOLZORZ" only makes you look stupid for not realizing the obvious. Hope this helps. "Fighting ignorance, one day at a time" - rufnux
  • hllywd212 - March 13, 2011 7:25 a.m.

    I missed the first due to it not coming out on PC. With the sequel due for the PC I guess I'll have to troll youtube for all the story bits of the first game.
  • batman5273 - March 13, 2011 5:49 a.m.

    I was lucky enough to sit in with the two developers and have them explain the game to me. I was impressed on how pretty the visuals were. I asked what other powers the Darkess would have in this game but he wouldn't release it to me, becasue I asked about the black holes and such. I wil definately play this game when it comes out.
  • ManiacalET - March 13, 2011 3:53 a.m.

    Yes, "play it!" = 3 words On topic, I loved the concept of The Darkness but didn't have a next-gen console when it was released. I need to play it but I could never find the time. Maybe now I'll make the time with the sequel being released...
  • 04whim - March 13, 2011 2:37 a.m.

    I'll sum it up in 3 words for ya, Yeager. "Play it!" Looking forward to this :) Though the comic book style does look a little weird... Worked for Ultimate Spider-Man though
  • asspills - March 13, 2011 2:35 a.m.

    Also, dicks.
  • asspills - March 13, 2011 2:33 a.m.

    As the resident expert of typo editing forensics. I can safely say that the name Borderlands, was never ever spelled "Borderlines" originally, -and not at any point in time. and that both Edgecutt and Rufnux are absolutely insane and should be shunned and/or killed by fire. I'd prefer if the fire killed them instead of just shunning them. Also my reCAPTCHA starts off with a square. HOW DO I TYPE IN A SQUARE?! So pumped for the sequel to one of my favorite flawed games, btw.
  • Yeager1122 - March 13, 2011 2:20 a.m.

    This keeps making me want to play the first but ive read mixed things on it.
  • GamesRadarBrettElston - March 13, 2011 12:37 a.m.

    BORDERLINES? Where'd you guys see that? I clearly see BorderLANDS up there. Never mind the fact I could have corrected it since you pointed it out!
  • rufnux - March 13, 2011 12:08 a.m.

    Man I LOOVE Borderlines. Anyways, no fan of the comic book look. Never, ever have I played a game that used that kind of art and looked good. Well, maybe killer7, but that's it. @gamefreakl1996: Welcome to the party, too bad everybody all-ready left.
  • Edgecutt - March 12, 2011 11:16 p.m.

    Wait did you call it Borderlines?
  • gamefreakl1996 - March 12, 2011 11:08 p.m.

    O_O I JUST BEAT THE DARKNESS TODAY I almost foamed at the mouth when I saw this! I just beat it like, 5 hours ago, and my first thought was "Theres no way to theres gonna be a sequel to this" I can't wait!

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