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The Darkness Review: Survival Horror FPS on PS3

by: Simon Hill ; edited by: Michael Hartman ; updated: 4/17/2012 • Leave a comment

The Darkness is a violent journey into the underworld of New York. Riding the subway around the city you run afoul of various gangsters, previously your comrades, now out to kill you. However when you develop demonic powers the odds swing back in your favour and you get to terrorise the mob.

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    The Darkness was an early release on the Playstation 3, a violent first-person shooter survival horror with high production values. It was based on the comic book series of the same name about a hitman for the mob imbued with a demonic power known as the darkness. Set in New York it was an action packed title which got mostly favourable reviews.

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    The game opens with a memorable car chase sequence as you sit in the back of a convertible tearing through the tunnel in an attempt to escape the cops. The head of your crime family, Uncle Paulie, who plucked you from the orphanage and trained you up in the ways of a gangster now thinks you are a traitor and seems to be out for blood. You take control of Jackie Estacado and your 21st birthday coincides with a plot to kill you and the development of some bizarre demonic powers. You have to try and protect your girlfriend and luckily your new found powers even the odds.

    You are armed with traditional guns which are fairly useless. The pick of the bunch are the dual pistols which you have right from the start. There are also shotguns and assault rifles but as soon as you develop your powers you won’t want to use the guns anymore at all. The combat game-play is fairly standard, you can take cover and your enemies will do the same. Your abilities transform you into an intimidating monster and you have a tentacle which can extend around corners and chew people up which is great fun to use. You can also summon imps, create black holes and later on you get darkness guns to use.

    You bump up your powers by devouring hearts and you can recharge quicker if you hide in the shadows. The various lights in the environment can be shot out to provide some soothing cover before you wade into the fodder. Your powers make the game quite easy and it is hugely satisfying to wade through the assorted gangsters munching them up with ease as they fire uselessly at your tentacles.

    The mission objectives are clear and although you can pick up tasks and perform them in various orders the game is essentially linear. You travel around the city using the subway which is a nice touch. The story is well written and the characterization really helps to draw you in. The plot takes a strange turn as you discover that your new found powers are a family curse of sorts. On the whole this is gripping stuff and engaging plot and terrific characters make up for the standard game-play.

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    The game looks impressive, the urban decay of the city is well realised with detailed textures and beautifully modelled streets. The lighting effects are great and almost every light in the game can be shot out to increase the cover for your demonic side. The characters are well designed and they have some depth of personality and quality animations. Even your evil tentacles look good and when you plunge into a victim’s chest for the heart your twin tentacles will often fight over the spoils. The environments are small and quite limited and the flashback sequences don’t have the same authentic feeling as the city streets or the subway station but for the mot part this is a good looking game. The sequences which mask the level loads feature your character sitting in the darkness and talking and they really add to the atmosphere. I also really enjoyed watching the television set balanced in a homeless guy's shopping cart which featured a news report on the carnage I had just caused. Details like this make the game really immersive.

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    The voiceover work is another major reason that the game works so well and the quality acting really brings the characters to life. You are voiced by Kirk Acevedo, the actor who played Alvarez in Oz. The Darkness is voiced by Mike Patton, lead singer of Faith No More and he really gives it everything with a rasping evil voice that will raise the hairs on the back of your neck. There are also roles voiced by Lauren Ambrose, Oscar Torres, Dwight Schultz and James Mathers amongst others. The standard is really high and this is some of the best voice acting I have encountered in a game.

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    There is an online multiplayer option but it feels very much like a tag on and clearly was not the main focus of development. They have included the usual array of modes like deathmatch, team deathmatch and capture the flag. There are also some unique options like the ability to morph into a darkling with a melee attack and the ability to run on walls and ceilings. However with so many good dedicated multiplayer first-person shooters out there you aren’t too likely to play this and it lacks the polish that makes the single player mode so engaging.

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    The Darkness was released on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 back in June 2007 which means you can pick it up in the bargain bucket now. It is well worth getting for a knock down price and will give you a few hours of tense and enjoyable horror without ever taxing your skills too seriously. The story and voice acting are unusually strong for a first-person shooter, the art is a high standard and while the gun game-play isn't the greatest the demonic darkness abilities are a great deal of fun.

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