PAX East 2011: The Darkness II Hands-On Impressions

This past weekend here in Boston was PAX East and man was it fun with the amount of games to try, panels to attend and some pretty cool tabletop gaming as well. One video game in particular I enjoyed playing was The Darkness II demo which takes what was great about the first game and amps it up immensely. I also got the chance to find out more information about the game from Lead Designer Tom Galt and after playing the demo I am looking forward to it when it comes out this fall.

The Darkness II is set two years after the events of the first game with Jackie Estacado now the Don of the family. The story for this game was written mostly by Paul Jenkins, who has worked on The Darkness comic in the past, and is set within its own universe in the larger Darkness universe. Compared to the first game they made the story even darker, bloodier and lot gorier. The blood and gore comes in when you use the Darkness Arms and this time around they are even more badass to use in cutting your path through those trying to kill Jackie. During the demo you get to see perhaps the main villain that will plague Jackie throughout the game trying to get the Darkness.

In The Darkness II 2K Games revamped how Jackie fights as now you get to control two Darkness Arms at the same time and can use one gun or duel-wield guns from pistols, shotguns, uzis and others. Each Darkness Arm has a certain ability. The left is used for grabbing bad guys or objects as well as eating dead enemy hearts, while the right one can slice and smash all sorts of things. The fun part about that right arm is using the right stick to direct which way the arm swings letting you slice through torsos, lop off legs or arms and pull off a decapitation or two. Also when in close proximity to enemies you can perform executions using either the Darkness Arms or go hitman style with a gun.

The guns I got to use were pretty cool, including your standard pistol, micro uzi and pump action shotgun (don't worry...there are others in the game). What's cool about using the guns is you can switch off which hand is holding what gun, so say you have a pistol in your left but prefer it in your right so you can aim better switching is made easy. A bonus for certain weapons is with the Darkness you can do quick actions, like on the pump action shotgun after you fire you can hit a button and the Darkness Arm does a quick reload for you. With the Darkness Arms you also get to pick up objects to throw like metal rods, signs, mail boxes; you can even grab guns to give you that edge. Even as an early build the game played smoothly and the action was pretty intense with a lot more enemies to kill this time around.

Back again from the first game is the eating of enemy hearts, with that giving Jackie health back in addition to playing into a progression system that levels him up too. The progression system looks to make The Darkness more powerful and possibly give you more abilities, but that's just my guess as I couldn’t find out more. Speaking of The Darkness powers, in the first one you were able to control many different types of Darklings to do your bidding, but this time around you have one that is sort of a sidekick Darkling. This Darkling is Jackie’s guide and a bit of comic relief as he pisses on dead enemies and distracts them for you during combat; he has his own unique personality that contrasts Jackie’s. Word is the Darkling plays a key role in the story for Jackie, although no more could be said about it.

Another new addition to the game is they got rid of the subway system from the first game and made the world a more connected one. At times playing the first game you found yourself lost, at times riding the wrong train or wandering around the wrong place. The story is a lot more narrative focused that helps point you when needed and draws you into what is going on.

It's going to be a long few months waiting for The Darkness II to come out, but it's a wait well worth it. No word on whether it will have multiplayer again. If you are a fan of the comic or just a bloody good game pick up the first one and get yourself ready for the second one.