The Darkness II – Review (PS3)

I didn’t play the original Darkness game, though I heard mainly positive things about it. It happened to come along at a time when I was snowed under with other games and it was one of the titles to get left behind.

There were some questions regarding the sequel as it was handed to a different developer (Digital Extremes) and people were wondering whether they could capture the spirit of the first game and comic book series.

Jackie Estacado is once again the main character of the game and following the events of the previous title he now finds himself as ‘Don’ of the Franchetti family. The Darkness II is set two years after the last game and Jackie has been doing a great job of keeping the ‘Darkness’ (a hugely powerful supernatural presence) under wraps.

As the game kicks off, with a wonderful opening sequence, Jackie finds himself close to death and releases the Darkness once more – dealing devastating damage to his enemies and allowing him to recover quickly from his injuries. From there on out you’ll guide Jackie through various scrapes and even make some choices that can affect the outcome of the game.

The Darkness II plays like your average first person shooter… right up until the moment your release the Darkness. The power manifests itself as two demon snake-like tentacles. Controlled with L2 and R2 (L2 to grab an enemy, R2 to swipe an attack at them) this means you have twice as much firepower as usual and can hand out some serious beatings to the onslaught of enemy thugs.

Although it sounds like a lot to concentrate on, it soon becomes second nature to grab an enemy with the Darkness and use one of the face buttons to rip him in half, all the while shooting at other enemies using R1. Pressing a face button while an enemy is grabbed will activate an execution animation which, depending on the button, will net you a health bonus, more ammo or a piece of the enemy as a shield 🙂 While the animations are limited I personally didn’t tire of them at all.

This could be down to the fantastic cell shaded art style which gives everything a great sense of sharpness. The Darkness II looks amazing and manages to keep things running smoothly, even at particularily hectic moments.

The story is well told and I think one of the more interesting campaigns I’ve played so far this year. I really liked the characters and while the end of the game wasn’t exactly a massive surprise it made sure you’ll be hooked for a third title if they make one.

One of my few complaints was that in the final third it felt like the game ran out of ideas. The steady stream of new, different enemies gave way to just more of the same enemies. One particular fire fight went on for far too long simply because the game was hurling enemies at me left, right and centre – not in a challenging way, in a frustrating way.

Unfortunately it slightly soured the overall experience for me as I felt, in the end, the game was probably an hour or so longer than it needed to be. Cut a few of those elongated fire fights out and the campaign would’ve been nearly perfect.

I could go into more detail regarding the story but I don’t want to give anything away for those yet to play it. Needless to say it does some very interesting things and makes you question exactly what Jackie is doing.

The Darkness II is a hidden gem in the game releases of 2012, I’d recommend you unleash your inner darkness and give this one a shot.

Rating: 8/10

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Gravity Rush – Review (PS Vita)

I wasn’t entirely convinced that Gravity Rush would be for me. It looked a bit too much like an RPG – running round town talking to people to get missions etc – and those games aren’t usually my cup of tea.

But I decided to give it a shot following some positive reviews out of Japan (where the game launched first) and I wasn’t disappointed.

Telling the story of a girl called Kat who wakes up having lost her memory (yes it’s a cliched plot device but stay with me) you discover you have the ability to shift gravity so that you can float, fly and essentially walk on any surface in the world.

Soon enough Kat finds herself helping the citizens of Heksville and trying to unlock her past. Graphically the game looks gorgeous, it’s cell-shaded design showing off some wonderful art work. Kat herself moves fluidly and despite a few issues with the camera when in tight spots I had a great time exploring Heksville and checking out some beautiful skylines.

The mechanic for manipulating gravity is well handled: a tap of R makes Kat float on the spot and you simply aim the right stick where you want to go and press R again to fly there. You can combine this with the attack button to do some real damage to the Nevi.

Nevi monsters are the main bad guys in the game, a series of weird looking alien-type creatures that Kat has to defeat. There are big boss battles but you will spend a lot of your time fighting the Nevi. Only on the odd occasion did I feel that these were used simply to stretch out a gameplay sequence. For the most part when a bunch of them were thrown at me it felt like an appropriate force of resistance.

I enjoyed the story and felt like the game was challenging without being overly punishing. The gravity mechanic lends the game a really different feel to most games out there.

If you have a Vita I strongly recommend checking this one out. There’s no multiplayer component so bear in mind that this is a single player game. It’s not perfect and occasionally camera problems hamper the experience but fantastic visuals and a distinct play style means Gravity Rush is worthy of your time.

Rating 8/10

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