The Darkness

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The Darkness game cover art

ConsoleXbox 360, PlayStation 3
DeveloperStarbreeze Studios
Publisher2K Games
GenreFirst-person shooter, survival horror
Release Year2007 – 2008
Game Number1
Purchase (Xbox 360)Click here to purchase from Amazon.
Purchase (PS3)Click here to purchase from Amazon.

Behold, an action game with a generic title! Who wants a play!?

Yeah, I know. The Darkness doesn’t exactly scream “Game of the Year.” And to be honest, I wouldn’t nominate it for that title anyway. But would you believe me that this game is pretty much a crime drama mixed with comic book action and horror themes?

Yes, yes. I know it’s a bit of a stretch for me to refer to The Darkness as a horror game since I’m including it as part of my horror review marathon. It really doesn’t come across that way at first. But I think the horror themes and extreme violence are enough justify its placement.

First, a little background.

The Darkness Jackie Estacado comic

The Darkness is actually a comic book series by Marc Silvestri, Garth Ennis and David Wohl. It stars a 21-year old hitman named Jackie Estacado, who became the host of the Darkness. The Darkness was a powerful otherworldly entity that literally embodies darkness, giving it power over demons that thrive in it as well as other powerful abilities. However, being the host of the Darkness puts him at odds with the Angelus, the tyrannical entity that embodies light. Eventually, Jackie had to join forces with a cult leader named Sonatine in order to fight the Angelus.

While not entirely good or evil, Jackie lived by his own set of ethics and rules and followed them to a tee. He’s a selfish man who was really close to his family and friends, but would violently harm and kill his enemies. He’s also a man who REALLY enjoys sex. And if he were to get a woman pregnant, he would die.

I spent a day reading the comics. Some are fun, hyper-violent, chaotic and have a dark sense of humor. Others are… too confusing to know what the hell is going on.

So you might be wondering if The Darkness video game closely follows the comics. Short answer: no. Is one better than the other? Yes. That would be the comic, which had better plots and more interesting characters. But does that mean the game should be ignored? No. And we’re going to see why.

 

A Wanted Man

The Darkness game Jackie Estacado

The Darkness stars Jackie Estacado, an Italian-American hitman working for the Franchetti mafia in New York City. But after failing to collect money for one job on his 21st birthday, Jackie becomes a target of assassination by his own uncle, Paulie Franchetti.

Now, it should be noted that Paulie is based on Frankie Franchetti in the comic. But both have similar motivations, that they want to kill Jackie for alleged rebellion. So why the name change?

…I… have no idea.

And that’s the weird thing about this game. It doesn’t include that many characters from the comic. And when it does, it changes their personality and backstory. Why even go through this extra amount of work? Well, let’s just say that this video game is a loose adaptation. Seriously, the comic and the game are very different. You’re not going to see those badass supervillains from the comic here, which is pretty sad.

The Darkness gameplay

Shortly after Jackie surviving a car crash, an entity known as the Darkness latches onto him and grants him incredible powers. In return, Jackie must be the host of the Darkness. Despite this seemingly beneficial relationship, the Darkness is an evil and selfish entity that desires death, chaos and despair. So if there’s an opportunity to make Jackie suffer, it would take that chance just to make his life hell.

And Jackie supposedly is stuck with this creature for the rest of his life.

So you’re already kinda seeing the horror aspect here. Jackie can never live a normal life again, just as long as the Darkness still dwells within him. But as a survival horror title? I’ll give a minor spoiler: the second act of the game is where the creepy stuff begins to pop up.

The Darkness gameplay

Imagine being sent to Hell, where an eternal war between undead World War I soldiers raged. And the soldiers looked like Dr. Frankenstein’s creations.

The Darkness gameplay
I think that many stitches on the face would make me cry first.

Well… okay. The Darkness is “survival horror” in a pretty loose sense. But there is plenty of freaky shit that can bring out a bit of adrenaline. And of course, some jokes about death and mayhem—which is pretty true to the comic.

The Darkness game Jenny Romano

The story is alright for the most part. It does try to make a few weird turns here and there, though nothing particularly stands out. Using the power of the Darkness, Jackie must take out Paulie’s closest henchmen and eventually kill Paulie himself and Captain Eddie Shrote of the New York police force. Pretty standard setup.

According to Jackie himself:

Me an’ Paul never did agree about the way things were being done. Paulie took the business into selling drugs, working side by side with the cops. When I was growing up, the family had codes. We did business, we looked out for people. I believe we ought to honor those codes. Now Paulie…he’s just a parasite. Wants to bleed me dry.

The characters are fine as well. The voice acting is pretty good, which makes the game feel like an action-mobster movie at times.

There is one nice scene where you spend a moment with Jackie’s girlfriend, Jenny Romano, in her new apartment, while the two of you watch the movie version of To Kill a Mockingbird.

…Hmm. Interesting choice of movies.

It’s calm, intimate and even touching. Even though you get to know Jenny in a short time, this one visual scene makes you feel close to her. Compared to the rest of the game where it’s a lot of intense action and mayhem, this early break from the action is needed.

 

A Rush of Darkness and Adrenaline

The Darkness game Jackie Estacado

The Darkness is a standard first-person shooter, minus the usual military fare—c’mon, you’re a mobster. You begin the game with twin pistols and slowly gain more weapons as you progress.

The Darkness gameplay

However, you possess a unique edge over your enemies. As long as you stand in the shadows, the Darkness will grant you a bulletproof barrier and regenerative properties. Therefore, you need to watch out for light sources and destroy them, or else the Darkness will lose power. You can also summon these vulgar little imps called Darklings to assist you in combat. They spout funny one-liners too. Gotta love ’em.

When you kill more people, you can use the Darkness to rip out the hearts out of their cold corpses. The more hearts you consume, the stronger the Darkness becomes—meaning more abilities. Sounds fair.

The Darkness game Jackie Estacado

You can find phone numbers on the ground (or as side quest rewards) and take them to a public phone in a train station to unlock more collectibles, including the original The Darkness comics. But the icing on the cake? Many of these phone calls and voice messages are just amusing to listen to. I love how every one of these phone numbers gives a unique message. That’s just a nice touch.

In fact, you can find humor in some strange places. Some ha-ha funny moments, some dark comedy, and even some… weird… stuff…

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…Okay, that comment on the Swedes? What the fuck?

Also, that lady’s restroom shot. I wonder if that one chick thought that Jackie was a woman or something. Or she doesn’t care that some creepy long-haired guy is staring at her ass in the lady’s restroom. I dunno. I just find that so funny for some reason.

The Darkness gameplay Hell

The graphics are fine for the time, if not looking a bit low-res. Considering this is an early PS3/Xbox 360 release, this is to be expected. The cutscenes are well animated, though some character models have weird jaw movements. The environments are details, having graffiti and trash litter all over New York. The soundtrack is a mix of metal, symphonic and choir.

While The Darkness doesn’t follow its source material closely, it still manages to be a competent game on its own. It’s got cool action sequences, some great dark humor, an entertaining story and a rocking soundtrack. If that suits your fancy, then go ahead and pick up this game.

The Darkness

Price Varies
The Darkness
8.1

GAMEPLAY

8.0/10

STORY

8.5/10

GRAPHICS

8.0/10

SOUNDTRACK

8.0/10

Pros

  • The story is a standard revenge plot, though entertaining enough to take up the game without being too boring.
  • The characters are generally likable and the antagonists are easy to hate.
  • Solid voice acting and rocking soundtrack.
  • The FPS gameplay is okay, but the Darkness powers make gunfights more interesting.
  • The method of unlocking extra content is quite entertaining.
  • Decent graphics for the time.

Cons

  • The ending is a bit anti-climactic and relied too much on automated gameplay.
  • The loading times can test your patience.
  • Some of the Darkness abilities have poor control.
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