Let me admit something off the bat right now - FPS gaming on the consoles has never been a favourite of mine. After playing FPS's heavily on the PC for
years, I could never get past the controls and general rigidity associated with console FPS games in comparison to the PC. I knew that if I really gave a
console FPS a fair go I'd probably get used to the controls in time and warm up to the idea slightly, but to be honest, I never really found a FPS on the
console that eitherdidn't have a PC
port which was
better, or if it was console exclusive, wasn't replaceable for a better recently released PC FPS anyway. That is until I got my hands on 2KGames' latest
release, The Darkness.
Heading up to its release this past week, there had been a reasonable degree of pre-release media such as trailers for The Darkness showcasing
the gameplay and the in-game abilities, and while I knew based off of these trailers and videos alone the game was going to offer something slightly
different than what the FPS genre is typically used to, I had no idea it was going to be this unique, and not only in its premise and concept,
but its actually execution too. Simply put, despite
some noticeable short comings, every FPS fan needs to play this game.
The Darkness, on the surface, appears to be like any other FPS - the human controlled character, Jackie Estacado, is a newly turned 21 year
old New York City Mafia hitman, who somehow manages to piss off the resident Don who, paired with some crooked cops, puts out a hit on you, and you're
left fighting for your life, forging allies on your way to making things right again. It's a story we've seen before, but where The Darkness
separates itself is with its second unrelated yet
intertwined storyline - on your 21st birthday, Jackie is possessed by an evil force known only as 'the darkness'. With this possession comes unrivaled
power for Jackie in his mission, and boy is that an understatement.
Being based on the reasonably popular comics books of the same name, The Darkness won't be a brand new concept for everyone, but for the FPS genre
in general,it's a type of premise we're
not used to seeing. Your character, Jackie, is not the underdog in this story per se. Like other FPS's, he may be a sole force up against what is basically
an entire army, but 'the darkness' has given Jackie so much power, it's really nothing more than a bloodbath - for them, that is.
After an interesting opening sequence on your way to a routine hit, the game doesn't take very long to get into the action because at the start there
isn't really any storyline to speak of - as you progress, events start to develop, and the game starts to take shape. This is pretty much how the entire game
is played from start to finish - you never really know where you'll end up next in regards to your mafia connections, and 'the darkness' possession side of
things is similar in that when it does reveal
itself, its power increases as you progress, as does knowledge of its purpose and origin.
So what is 'the darkness', exactly? Basically, as far as the gameplay is concerned, 'the darkness' is a mode you can enter during the game that allows you
to tap into your new found powers of pure evil. To enter this mode, you hit the left button/bumper, and sure enough, from your body a few tentacles
with demon heads emerge. Once in this mode, Jackie is more or less invincible - he can take damage, but 'the darknness' takes most of the impact,
consuming its darkness energy in the process,
which you simply replenish by standing in dark areas. Due to the extremely minimalist interface during gameplay, there is no easy way to determine your
current darkness energy level, but it replenishes very quickly and fades away when you are in well lit areas, so when you're in 'the darkness' mode, it's a
good idea to stay as far away from light as possible.
'The darkness' can do much more than just take damage however, it also has four distinct powers which shape the entire gameplay. While the game features
usual gun play from dual handguns to shotguns and assault weapons accessible in both normal and darkness modes, what you can do with
your possession far outweighs the simplistic nature of gun fights. At the beginning of the game, you will be given access to a power known as the 'creeping
dark', and out of the four this is actually probably the coolest, so
it was a good game design decision to have it appear very early in the game. This power allows you to control one of your 'demon heads' attached to your body
like it was a snake, allowing you to go into air ducts, through gaps in gates and doors, and basically anywhere else it can fit. You can kill enemies and
collect items such as ammo, guns and hidden objects with this demon head, but it too consumes your darkness energy so the more powerful you become, the
longer (and further) you can use it.
The 'creeping dark' really is a very cool element to this game and can totally dictate how you play. While it can be a nuisance to control at times since
it seems to want to travel along any surface it can often screwing up your camera angle, once you get the hang of it you might find yourself killing
more baddies this way than with guns, but it's totally up to you - there are only a few points in the game where using the 'creeping dark' is absolutely
vital, and these are usually for opening doors or
destroying locks. Perhaps the game should have put a larger emphasis on this power as it is generally far more useful than the other three darkness powers
that come later in the game - which are two weapons in the 'black hole' and 'darkness powered guns', and the ability to use a tentacle to pick up
or attack things (such as street lights to create dark areas) with a power known as 'demon arm'.