The Darkness II is a shooter.
OK, so that seems a pretty odd statement to make: Of course The Darkness II is a shooter! But in this sequel's case, it's an important point to consider. The Darkness (the original game) had the feel of an adventure. Sure, you shot guns, but the action, the story, and the peripheral details merged to make a single, creative whole that didn't really resemble other first-person shooters. The Darkness II is a lot of fun, but it doesn't have that spark of uniqueness. Levels are remarkably linear, and the game is remarkably short. Skilled marksmen should finish the campaign in less than five hours.
6349854So many ways to kill. So little time.None
So The Darkness II isn't special, but it has one particular element that keeps it exciting: the two creepy demonic arms that sprout from your body, each with its own gnashing mouth, and each with an insatiable appetite for human hearts. The right arm is for smashing; you can whip it around with abandon, using the right stick to slash vertically or horizontally, bashing enemies, street lamps, and electrical wires. The left arm is for grabbing; you can grab car doors to use as shields and fling them at mobsters like murderous Frisbees. You can throw metal poles at your foes and impale them as if preparing a human-sized shish kebob. You can also reel in a staggered enemy, grab each leg, and tear him in half like a wishbone. A wishbone that screams.
If that sounds gross, well, it is, in a wonderful way. Take the anaconda move. With this particular left-arm maneuver, you roll your foe up like a pig in a blanket and thrust the demonic head through his chest. The demon then growls in satisfaction before unrolling and allowing the limp body to drop to the ground. As you move toward The Darkness II's conclusion, you see this move and other similarly disgusting ones rather often, and they remain shocking for a little while. The sound effects are fantastically squishy; you can practically hear the cartilage tear and the vital organs rupture. To replenish health, you hold a button and your arms feed on nearby human hearts, snatching them up with a thwack and noisily chomping on them.
The human body contains an extraordinary amount of blood.
The game's upgrade system might have you unlocking new animations, but even then, the gross-out factor can wear thin. This is in part because you can string together the same basic moves in succession, over and over, without feeling challenged. You're invulnerable during these kills, which is just as well because it would be pretty frustrating to get shot to death while waiting for your demon arms to finish some horrific dismemberment. In time, The Darkness II tries to amp up the challenge, throwing enemies at you with tough shields and introducing combatants that shine spotlights on you. All that light causes your demon arms to regress while filling your screen with so much blinding whiteness that you can barely see what's going on. But generally speaking, you can charge forward, shooting, flinging, and grabbing without worrying often about dying. As long as you shoot out any errant light sources, you won't feel much pressure on anything but the hardest difficulty.
The Darkness II does its best to provide variety. Depending on how you upgrade as you progress, you might unleash a swarm of insects at your enemies, which makes them vulnerable to a nauseating fatality. Or you might summon a mini black hole, which sucks nearby enemies into its swirling vortex. There's also your darkling, a miniature gremlin that calls you "monkey" and skitters around, leaping on bad guys and urinating on helpless corpses. Well, with the right upgrade, you can pick up your darkling and throw it on anyone that gives you trouble. Combining these moves with standard pistols and rifles can be absolutely riotous, with arms flying everywhere and enemies screaming in agony as you tear them in half.
You'd cry too if you were faced with such a vicious demise.
Nevertheless, the demon arm mechanic is expected to bear most of the burden, and central aspects of the game's action are mundane. The shooting is better than that of the first game, but then again, the original was paced and built very differently. The Darkness II typically funnels you down paths like any random shooter. Levels occasionally open up a bit, but this sequel is as linear as games come, sending out unintelligent enemies in predictable patterns so that you might exploit the forgiving snap-to aiming to mow them down. (You can thankfully turn this off.) Heck, even the levels themselves are right out of the book of shooter and horror game cliches: a subway, a warehouse, a creepy carnival, and the like. If The Darkness was an ambient action adventure, then The Darkness II is an arcade shooter. If you have any doubt about that, consider this: When you kill enemies, a pop-up appears, announcing the name of the move, along with the amount of dark essence (that is, experience) you earned. It is done sort of like 's skill shot system.
You should turn off those notifications at the first opportunity if you want to get the most out of The Darkness II. (Be sure to also turn off the annoying tutorial reminders that frequently appear, reminding you how to play the game even when you've almost finished it.) That's because there's an effective story here worth paying attention to, but the pop-ups only serve to take you out of the experience and remind you that you're just playing a game. Once again, you play as Jackie Estacado, who is now the leader of the Franchetti crime family. The story gets off to an explosive start, with an intense on-rails restaurant shoot-out that ultimately leads to the eye-opening emergence of The Darkness; that is, the hellish presence that grants Jackie his incredible powers.