Developer(s) – Starbreeze Studios
Publisher(s) – 2K Games
Designer(s) – Jens Andersson
Producer(s) – Lars Johansson
After problems arose with development concerning publishing rights, with Majesco originally owning them before having to sell them amidst financial problems, it would have been very easy to assume at that time The Darkness would suffer as a result, most likely due to creative or artistic differences from the various different parties involved; thankfully, it doesn’t suffer to any great deal, and turned out to be a fairly enjoyable game. A linear first person shooter, it introduces some very interesting gameplay mechanics into the genre, and does pretty well to stand out among many others in turn; this is especially impressive, as at this point, the genre had dominated mainstream gaming
Graphics – 6.5/10
What I enjoyed most about the game’s conceptual design was it’s exceptionally dark tone as the player wanders round back allies and open streets of a very gritty-looking New York City. It all works extremely well to set the tone of the game, and make it highly representative of the dark directions the game’s story is taken in. What I didn’t like about it however, are the dream sequences in which the main character is placed in a World War I environment known as the Otherworld. In these sequences in particular, I found there to be much less textural detail, and ironically, looked considerably less darker than in real world sequences.
Gameplay – 7/10
At first, the game seemingly plays out like a run-of-the-mill first person shooter, with the same kinds and variety of weapons that would typically be found in any instalment of wither Medal of Honour, Battlefield or Call of Duty. As players progress, however, it becomes apparent that this title has a little more going for it than that. The player gains the ability to summon small dog-like demons in order to solve puzzles and attack enemies, as well as a pair of snake-like demons in order to reach otherwise impassable areas and see where enemies are positioned in order to gain a tactical advantage. There is also a couple of side quests involving collectible items, like most first person shooters, which adds a little bit more to it’s longevity, but it all did leave me wanting a little bit more for how much variety there is in combat.
Controls – 9/10
The only gripe I had with the game’s controls is that it can be a little bit awkward to move the snake-like demons whilst trying to move around impassable areas or detect enemy patters and positions. It can also be a little bit needless annoying, as they can only stretch to a certain distance and without warning, they can immediately retract. Otherwise, however, the game plays out like any good first person shooter should. Movement and attacking is straightforward, and it tried something different without messing with the core formula too much.
Lifespan – 6/10
The game lasts about the average length of time for a linear first person shooter to last, which is around six to seven hours. As I alluded to earlier, it would have been nice to see the developers add more things to do within it to in turn add to it’s longevity, making it stand out even further than the average first person shooter than what it already does, and therefore, it would have most definitely been held in much higher regard than what it was. For example, they could have easily expanded on the brief morality mechanics seen throughout the game.
Storyline – 6.5/10
The story of the game involves a contract killer for the Mafia named Jackie, who becomes an assassination target, along with his girlfriend Jenny, for his uncle Paulie after a failed job, and later on requires a mysterious power known as the darkness, which gains him an edge over his enemies, but has unforeseen consequences, which unfold as the game progresses. Overall, the story is reasonably immersing, and there are elements of tragedy to it, along with the fact that Jackie is portrayed quite well as an anti-hero wrestling with his perceptions of right and wrong. However, one fatal flaw I found with it is that it would have made much more sense if Paulie wasn’t Jackie’s uncle, because I personally found it unbelievable that an uncle would immediately decide to kill his nephew for losing some money, and the way this plot element was portrayed seemed nothing short of tacked on.
Originality – 7/10
I have to commend how well this game stands out amongst a genre that was already destined for commercial success throughout the seventh generation, given the launch and prior success of many other first person series, such as Half-Life, Red Faction, Halo and Call of Duty. Like BioShock, but nowhere near on the same level, it presented players with a new way of playing these kinds of games, and did well to remind them that they don’t have to be anywhere near as generic as a vast majority of FPS franchises either were at that time, or what would later become in the future.
Overall, The Darkness is a pretty enjoyable gaming experience, and I would recommend and FPS fan tries it at least once. Though flawed in several different ways in varying degrees, it made for a decent early seventh generation title that still holds up reasonably well.