If you like a dark, story driven game with an abundance of blood and gore, is this ever one for you. Based on the popular comic book series by Top Cow, The Darkness follows the story of mafia hitman Jackie Estacado who was adopted by the don of a crime family. On his 21st birthday, Jackie finds himself possessed by The Darkness, a demonic entity that gives him supernatural powers. And not a moment too soon either, because as it turns out, Jackie was trying to escape from the mob and a hit has been put out on him by the don himself. The good news is that with these new powers, Jackie will be able to take control of the crime family his uncle Paulie controls, if he learns how to control The Darkness itself.
The story behind The Darkness is written by Paul Jenkins, the original writer for the comic book series that was launched in 1996 and has been adopted for the game with minor changes to suit the format. Set in New York, the game follows the first person action format and allows players to use traditional weaponry as well as the supernatural powers that The Darkness offers. What we've seen was a very early build and with limited playability, but it's already looking to be quite solid and promising. The story is dark and intense for fans of the comic book series or story driven games, and although it is linear in progression, it is also open in terms of how each objective is accomplished. Players are presented with the problem, but given an array of choices as to how to solve it.
On top of this, The Darkness features demons with spawn points that can be activated throughout the levels to help Jackie solve problems and accomplish his goals. Jackie also has varying manifestations of The Darkness, each with their own special abilities that can be activated; however, The Darkness itself is fueled by a lack of light, so to retain enough energy to manifest these beings, Jackie must remain in the dark as much as possible. Developed by Starbreeze, The Darkness uses an internally developed engine which is looking very good at this point. Another rarity featured in this game is motion capture on the voice recordings, and although it looks a little rough right now, it is a visible improvement over traditional methods of face animation during speech scenes, and should turn out to be a definite plus for this game.
Instead of using a HUD like almost every other first person game out there, The Darkness uses visual cues to alert the player to his or her current situation and status. This system, however simple it seems, appears to work really well. For example, when shot a player will see the screen go somewhat blurry as the character takes damage. Other visual cues include the color of the demons eyes, which signify the type of demon currently manifested. However, the practicality of this is mainly speculation and theory at this point, as it remains to be seen as to how this system will play out after a few hours of game time. One must wonder whether or not these will turn out to be obvious enough and whether or not they will convey enough information. If they do, then the developers have made a great choice in this matter as this system brings the player further into the game by eliminating the interface elements that are not a part of the environment.
The multiplayer aspects of The Darkness are largely unknown right now, but we do know that there will be some sort of a deathmatch mode where players can go head to head. In this mode, players can choose between a member of the mob and a darkling. The former of these two is slower, but can take more damage, while the latter is faster and also has the ability to climb walls. The other capabilities of both are not exactly known, but what is known is that players will be able to switch between both forms on the fly. The Darkness will also feature other typical multiplayer modes, as well as new ones and will be capable of online gameplay.
Although the rating is still pending, we can pretty much guarantee that the darkness is going to be given a Mature rating by the ESRB. This game is very gory, make no mistake about it. Featuring not only blood, but other internals of the human anatomy as well, the visuals here are quite obvious and definitely are not for everyone. However, for those who enjoy this sort of thing (myself included), The Darkness will not disappoint in the aspect. I had to ask for our friend at 2K Games to prove to me the flexibility of this title, which involved picking up a corpse with a manifestation of The Darkness and holding it above a table saw. The rest of the details will be left to your own imagination, but if you are a fan of the comic book series, or if you like dark, gritty, story-driven games, then look forward to this one. It's expected to hit stores in the spring of 2007.