Video Game Review

Video Game Review: Who’s the real monster in ‘The Darkness II’? Why, you are

A mob boss struggles to master a demon in this bloody shooter

April 5, 2012 

  • ‘THE DARKNESS II’

    Published by 2K

    games for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC

    $59.99

    Rated M for Mature (blood and gore, drug reference, intense violence, strong language, strong sexual content)

For two years, mob boss Jackie Estacado has suppressed the ancient, evil force that came to inhabit his body in the 2007 game “The Darkness.”

In “The Darkness II,” he lets it back out—not willingly, but to save his life from an attack by a mysterious group that wants the power of the Darkness, using the assault to force Jackie into releasing it.

And so begins a violent trip through seedy locations in rundown parts of town as well as creepy alternate worlds, as Jackie tries to track down and defeat his new enemy while wrestling with the influence of the demon possessing him.

How violent is it? Enough that even a player inured to the blood and gore common to video games may be given pause, especially when it’s in conjunction with the game’s abundance of coarse language and extremely graphic threats and insults. Some M-rated games, like those in the “Halo” series, may be all right for older teens, but not this one. “The Darkness II” is stuffed with content that’s totally inappropriate for younger players.

Jackie ruminates at one point that he’s like the monster in a horror movie, and he’s not wrong. It’s tough to sympathize much with him or want him to succeed. He’s humanized slightly by his continued grief over the dead love of his life, but when a character is a ruthless mob boss, former hit man and possessed by an ancient evil, that’s not enough to take the edge off.

There’s a pretty solid game under the M-rated coating. The Darkness manifests as a pair of snaky tentacles with razor-toothed maws and a hunger for human hearts. The one on the left grabs and throws things—such as large objects and human bodies —while the one on the right whips and smashes them. The left tentacle can shield Jackie with a car door, both can work in tandem to dispatch foes in a variety of gruesome ways, and there is a wide range of powers to purchase and upgrade. With Jackie’s hands free to wield a large firearm or two smaller ones, he’s a supernatural army of one— as long as the lights are out.

Direct light of any kind causes the Darkness to retreat back inside Jackie, leaving him vulnerable and without access to his supernatural powers until he can get away from or shoot out the light source. His enemies are wise to this weakness, some throwing flash grenades and carrying spotlights to shine on him.

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