February's Surprise: The Darkness II

By Lauren Alessandra on January 31, 2012, 7:19PM EDT

This year's E3 was all about the sequels. Be it Uncharted or Final Fantasy XIII, pretty much everyone had a sequel title on their radar. However, it seems as though one such sequel faded into the background. Digital Extreme's take on The Darkness franchise has been remarkably quiet in recent times and since the game is coming out in the near future, we'd figure we'd shine some light on it.

The Darkness II takes place nearly two years after the first title and although Jackie Estacado thought he had suppressed the Darkness indefinitely, he is forced to utilize the evil powers once more in order to save himself from an attack from a local mafia. However, this time it's not only the mafia that's chasing after Estacado; a group called the Brotherhood also wants Jackie's head in order to obtain control of the Darkness' power. On top of it all, Estacado is still haunted by the loss of his love. Seems like quite a wild ride this time around and the fun doesn't stop there.

Gameplay has received a bit of an upgrade as players can now wield, not one, or even two, but four different weapons at the same time. You have your standard pistols and machine guns along with the two alien like Darkness creatures which act as additional arms, making for some terrifyingly gruesome bodily harm. Two that we know of, are "Wishbone", which the player uses the Darkness "arms" to rip someone in half and then there's "Spinal Tap", which the player can perform to rip someone's spine out. For added terror, you can even throw the spine at oncoming enemies. Needless to say, this title isn't for the faint of heart, but if gore doesn't make you too squeamish, the gameplay here is fun and feels oh so gratifying.

Dark essence makes a huge presence in this game as it can be used for upgrades and abilities. By filling up ability trees Jackie can gain the ability to see through walls or stun enemies. In order to earn a great deal of dark essence, you'll need to perform some of these especially gruesome moves and the harder they are, the more you make. You can also earn essence from headshots and things like that, but where's the fun in that?

There is an online co-op mode in the Darkness II called "Vendettas" and it comes in two forms; Campaign and Hit List. Campaign follows a story that runs parallel to the single-player mode where Jackie hires a team of killers in order to find artifacts and/or rescue mobsters. You can choose from four different characters including JP DuMond, Inugami, Jimmy Wilson, and Shoshanna who all have different backgrounds, abilities, and personalities. They are equipped with weapons that are powered by The Darkness and are able to use certain abilities that the Darkness possesses like summoning Darklings. In "˜Hit List' mode, players can replay missions from the co-op campaign in a drop-in/drop-out fashion. There are a few unlockable missions you can earn. As this is the first Darkness to have co-op, it should be very interesting to see how this plays out.

One major difference from the first game is the change of developers. Digital Extremes have taken over and have moved the title into a different direction as far as art direction is concerned. Instead of a realistic, gritty look, Digital Extremes have focused heavily on the Darkness' graphic novel roots making the environments look a bit more like a "Graphic Noir" with its entirely hand-painted textures. The Darkness II has kept the original title's writer, Paul Jenkins, and the original voice actor of The Darkness, Mike Patton.

Given Digital Extremes work with Unreal Tournament and the interesting art style approach, The Darkness II should prove to be an interesting new take on the series. The new gameplay mechanics should help keep the title from feeling too familiar and hopefully with the help of Paul Jenkins, the story should prove to be just as stellar as the first. The Darkness II is out on February 7 which, believe it or not, is only a little over a week away, so if you're thinking about pre-ordering it, make sure you get it in soon.

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