Platforms - XBox 360, PS3. Version reviewed - Xbox 360.
If you read around a bit, you’ll come across several opinions on The Darkness – and all of the sensible ones will be good. Some people merely think it’s another fine leftfield FPS from the creators of Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay. Others think it’s a storming cinematic FPS let down by a few minor shortcomings. Me? I think it’s easily the best FPS so far this year, and the best narrative-driven FPS since Half-Life 2: Episode One.
I don’t bring up the comparison without reason. If you wandered through Episode One complaining that the technology hadn’t moved on enough since Half-Life 2 and bemoaning the limitations of the AI, then you’ll likely have some reservations about The Darkness. If, however, you let the game under your skin; if you warmed to Alyx and the rag-tag rebellion; if you recognised it for the compelling, emotional experience it was and loved every single minute of the ride, then you might feel the same way about The Darkness too. In the end, it’s just one of those games. I can’t imagine anyone playing it and coming away totally unimpressed, but some of us are going to get more caught up in it than others.
To be honest, I didn’t start out thinking I would be one of them. The game’s opening sequence – a frantic car chase through a New York transit tunnel – is certainly arresting, but the hero and the initial setup left me cold. A long-haired, leather-coated Mafiosi killer, Jackie Estacado seems to be your standard-issue urban anti-hero, and his betrayal at the start of the game ticks all the gangland cliché boxes. The language seems excessively packed with profanity, and the violence seems gratuitous and overdone. The game’s major twist – his possession by the forces of “The Darkness” of the title – seems sudden and poorly explained. The early gunfights feel limp, and while Jackie’s newfound abilities to summon demonic servitors and control a vicious snakelike emissary put a cool spin on the FPS formula, there’s little to make you think you’re playing anything particularly extraordinary. Coming from the guys behind Riddick, you can’t help but feel a little disappointed