When Swedish Developer, Starbreeze palled up with Tigon Studios and trotted out their franchise-based First Person Shooter: The Chronicles of Riddick - Escape from Butcher Bay, they set the Xbox world alight and ushered in a game that looked pretty much Next Gen before its time. Using a brand new engine and boasting both the vocal talents of Vin Diesel and his likeness the game was short but packed with adrenaline soaked action as well as sneaky stealth based gameplay.
Starbreeze are back and this time they have their claws firmly planted in Top Cow comics: The Darkness. Taking several lessons learned from Riddick, Starbreeze have pushed their engine further and added a few brand new tricks. Having played both Riddick and The Darkness (the former after the latter) I was able to see the changes first hand.
I am a huge fan of the Darkness so I was curious to see how Jackie Estacado translated into the Next Gen depths of the Xbox 360. We were promised a non-linear First Person Shooter where we could delve deeper into the seedy underbelly of New York. Of course non-linear only goes so far when you want to experience the game's story, no matter what any developer tells you. You have to have some kind of progression else you become hopelessly lost and stuck on what to do next.
The Darkness has a definite story line, you're Jackie Estacado, Mafia Hitman and (in the comic, a bit of a ladies man as well) you've just turned 21. Unfortunately for you, things are about to go to Hell in several different ways. Your Uncle Paulie, a man who has treated you like blood for most of your life, turns on you after all this time.
Fortunately Jackie is also the inheritor of a strange supernatural power, the Darkness, a power that begins to manifest on the 21st birthday of this young Hitman.
The stage is then set for Starbreeze's FPS romp through the events that surround this mysterious power. Jackie is quickly embroiled in a fight against his Uncle Paulie and certain events push him further and further into the shadowy arms of the Darkness.
You can either follow the story, via a map and journal, performing various missions that will take you closer and closer to the game's climax (probably about 10 hours without side-quests) or you can talk to various NPC's around the city and engage in simplistic missions, such as retrieving objects and a whole lot of killing.
We've seen it done before in Riddick, so it's not as special this time around. Fortunately, Jackie is endowed with the power of the Darkness, this manifests as two demonic tentacles (leftie and rightie, we call them) and a smattering of other abilities. When you are in Darkness mode you take less damage from bullets and other sources, you can scare the crap out of people and feast upon the hearts of downed enemies.
As Jackie consumes more hearts, the Darkness grows in strength and the power can manifest for longer. The power is also useless in the light, so you have to shoot or break various lights in the game (which respawn when you return to an area most of the time) drawing upon the shadow to bolster your strength.
There is a limited HUD; most of the game's indicators are built into leftie and rightie, the colour of their eyes and pattering determines what power you have selected and the length of the pattern shows how much power you have left. Some abilities drain the power and you must find darkness or shadow to recharge it.