326th played so far

Darkness_coverGenre: Action/First-Person Shooter
Platform: PS3/Xbox 360
Year of Release: 2007
Developer: Starbreeze Studios
Publisher: 2K Games

I’ll be honest – there are games that I’ve forgotten are on the list at all. I had that experience recently (for me) as I was setting up things in preparation for the second edition of the book. Cruise for a Corpse is one of them – I must have known it was in, as it’s on our lists, and it has the same entry in both editions, but it presence stayed a surprise.

The Darkness is another such title – a name my eye may glide past occasionally, but not one that has registered as being particularly interesting. It’s an FPS, which is a genre we need to play more of, but how far it’ll go beyond just a dark shooter remains to be seen.

I, on the other hand, had been avoiding this game since the title and the cover art gave me the incorrect expectation of this being a survival horror style shooter in the vein of Resident Evil 4. Despite being nearly a third into this project the prospect of covering games such as that still leave me with a sense of apprehension. Still, glad that this game did not live up to those negative expectations.

Our Thoughts

It’s amazing to realise how far certain genres have advanced. Deus Ex was novel in how it introduced RPG elements, with a branching narrative, character interactions and character and stat development. A couple of years later, none of these things stand out as a special feature of The Darkness. While, true, it doesn’t feature them as heavily, the amount of work put into creating a decent story is amazing when you compare it to an early game like Doom.

The story starts off simple – as part of the mafia, you need to escape an assassination after you’ve made some (not really important at this point) mistakes. While escaping and avoiding being killed, you release an entity called ‘The Darkness’, that has apparently been in your family a long time. It gives you some odd, dark powers (actually fairly reminiscent of Prototype in its style), allowing you to summon dark allies, attack with these odd tentacle-beasts, or even use them to crawl through vents and explore, mostly unseen.

It creates an interesting twist on the standard FPS mechanisms, creating some interesting new abilities that determines more heavily how you play, allowing more of a focus on stealth, but also on sending others ahead to attack and making sure you can make the right entrance for each type of enemy.

While these are the abilities you’ll notice more often during gameplay, as visible are the changes as you play. The game doesn’t take place in distinct levels that you move between, and even where in other games the areas of a game would mostly be linear, The Darkness has you moving through (fictional) New York a lot more often as you visit various neighbourhoods, going back and forth between metro stations to get to your different objectives. And while you infiltrate buildings, just as much time is spent getting, say, to your girlfriend’s apartment and spending time with her. In fact, a rarity for these kind of games, The Darkness features a real conversation system, where (RPG style) you can pick what you say to get information from those you are talking to. It’s not the most expansive, but it allows for more characterization than what you commonly see.

I want to develop slightly from the earlier point about the relationship between the main character and his girlfriend. If you remember from a post we made a month ago about classic adventure game Dragon’s Lair. In that post I expressed how annoyed I was at the representation the ditsy blonde you had been sent to rescue. Well, it was gratifying to see how far the representation of gender and relationships has advanced in the last few years. Granted I know that there are many examples of realistic female characters in the interim (Yuna from Final Fantasy X being the first that comes into my head) but due to the recency of playing this game the contrast is even greater.

Probably one of the nicer touches of the game are some of its collectables – one in particular. You can collect phone numbers and then use payphones to call them. They are for several different types of phone lines – personal numbers, normal companies or the more usual, more expensive paid lines. They’re little more than some prerecorded lines, but there are loads of them and they are funny enough, as well as adding enough flavour, that it adds some nice colour to the gameworld.

Probably the biggest criticism is that the human characters tend to look a bit off. While the game does well with its graphics, they look a bit simple at times and not nice or realistic enough for the quality the game puts in elsewhere. They make the conversations a bit more annoying than they necessarily should be, which is a bit of a waste.

Final Thoughts

The game was more fun and more interesting than I was originally expecting. While there are large shooting areas – early on, in fact, you don’t have much of a choice – the powers make enough of a change from just about anything out there that it makes the game a lot more fun to play. More important, the story, although it starts generic, is interesting enough to make you wonder what’s going on, and after the third time the Darkness speaks to you, it’s nearly guaranteed to draw you in.

  1. […] The Darkness was a surprisingly interesting shooter. It initially looked vaguely generic – another FPS with some weird weapons. When we started playing, however, it developed into something more. There was a story weaved through the game more carefully than many others, while the titular darkness gives you an interesting set of powers, playstyles and puzzles. […]