I was thoroughly impressed by Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay when it came out a couple of years back (look into the 360/PS3 remake if you missed it), which made a similar game from the same developer an extremely tempting prospect. If this is anything to go by I’ll be very keen to see Starbreeze’s next title, as well.
The Darkness is similar to Riddick in that it’s a licenced FPS with a story-driven adventure to tell, all with superb presentation and a real vicious streak. Riddick could be brutal but didn’t take its PEGI 16-rating too far; The Darkness pushes what we can expect from an 18-rated game and really makes me wonder what exactly was going on in Manhunt 2. Aside from the gunplay and all that that entails, you’ll commonly be eviscerating people or tearing their faces off, and then for the final humiliation there’s a dedicated button to devour their heart. Wait until you see what the grinning fellas to the sides of this post do with said organ. All this, and lots of dirty language. This game might prove what I said about violence needing context.
The presentation bears mentioning again, because it’s at least as good as it was in Riddick. Aurally I can’t really find fault with the great voice acting (can’t imagine it’s hard to do Italian-American), but if I was being picky I’m not the biggest fan of the thrash metal that occasionally fades in during action. I have to drown it out with the sounds of death.
The game is very strong graphically, with only the occasional texture that doesn’t hold up too well and that common shimmery shadow problem on face blighting things. Overall they’ve done an incredible job depicting the grimy underbelly of New York while keeping faithful to the comic’s style (my preorder came with a copy as a bonus, and there are a few issues in the game as unlockables), and although I can’t really go any further without pushing into spoiler territory, suffice it to say that certain parts are among the most unsettling gaming sequences I’ve ever played.
My biggest complaint is that the aiming takes some getting used to, as it doesn’t really feel as responsive as it might be at first. It’s workable once you get used to it and, to be fair, certain other weapons take precedent over guns most of the time. It’s certainly not a flaw that’s going to ruin the game because the AI isn’t really all that clever. I doubt you’ll be that impressed with the game if Riddick didn’t do it for you but if you missed out on that one or liked it as much as I did The Darkness is well worth a look. Hopefully this is indicative of an upturn in the quality of games this year.