There are some particularly fantastic fights to be had for sure, such as a scene in a restaurant-turned-murder-scene when a van full of S.W.A.T. burst through one wall while regular cops storm the front door and a hail of bullets smash the windows and bar to pieces. It's all gloriously rendered in what looks like a modified version of the Doom 3 engine (unsurprising given the lighting capabilities of the engine) and it only gets better when Jackie steps into the mix.
While players can tackle battles like this with just their firearms, or just their darkness powers – with weapons on the triggers, powers on the bumper buttons – it's much more interesting to mix the two together. We had lots of fun spawning a Darkling and ordering him to cover the door while we mowed down S.W.A.T. teams with a hail of close-up pistol fire.
Moving outside presented us with a bit of a problem though – the car park was heavily illuminated with car headlights and streetlamps. Still, man can create nothing but opportunities they say, so with that philosophy in mind we quickly shot out the offending bulbs and dashed in for some close-up violence. Given the game's focus on light/dark, it's very handy that every light in the game can be shot out and it helps the environment feel much more interactive and fun to navigate.
We better warn some of the more sensitive readers right now about the mature content in The Darkness too. Not only does the game allow players to use execution moves by pressing both triggers when close to the enemy, but there's also a lot of swearing and exploration of issues like suicide and corruption. It's never gratuitous though, and the game uses all these elements within a reasonable and acceptable context without upsetting our fragile minds. Violent and rude this is, Manhunt 2 this is not.
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The execution moves are especially worthy of mention and there's a fantastic range to choose from, ranging from the pistol-in-mouth finisher to the kneecap-shot-and-gangsta-style-put-down. The latter of which is a macabre office favourite thanks to the humiliation factor of a young office worker putting down Italian mobsters in pseudo-rapper fashion.
360 degrees of Darkness
Of course, since the game is on Xbox 360, it wouldn't be complete without a massive selection of collectibles and achievements to unlock. The achievements are awarded for the usual things, such devouring the hearts of enemies or following side quests to help out strangers in the subway, which functions as a hub for exploration and is really a very nice addition to the game design.
Unlockables meanwhile appear as telephone numbers scattered throughout the game. Some are hidden in the usual hiding places, while others are awarded for following specific paths or game styles such as killing or protecting civilians. These telephone numbers can then be used at phone booths to unlock concept art and whole comics from the series' roots. Handy for catching up on backstory and abandoned storylines.
The fact that almost anybody in the game can be killed at any point comes in as a minor gameplay element and allows multiple solutions to problems. For example, one early part of the game sees Jackie infiltrating a drug den in an effort to burn his Uncle's plans. The door is guarded and you need a password, which can be talked out of the tramp in the alley outside so that players can get in to unleash carnage the usual way.
Or, it's possible to let itchy trigger fingers take over and do what we did, shooting through the door to kill the guard. Unfortunately, this leaves the door locked up tight. So, we summoned a Darkling on the other side of the door, who quickly let us in and waited obediently for us while we considered the tactics. Go in guns blazing? Sending in the darkling to tenderise the meat isn't an option unless we shoot out the lights one by one, eating up ammo. There has to be another way...
One bullet into the generator shuts off the lights for the whole building, leaving the Darkling free to roam. Whipping out The Darkness tentacles illuminates the outlines of walls and furniture with a cool and oddly creepy golden pulse and suddenly we can see exactly where the mobsters are hiding and can execute each of them and devour their hearts one by one. Multiple solutions like this are an excellent way to impress us and to add replayability to the game.