Games People Like Me Play: The Darkness

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So I’ve been chewing my way through a new game called The Darkness. Trailer below:

The concept is quite an appealing mash-up (sorry for using what has become a journalistic cliche, but it is): A young mafia thug, upon being whacked by his own uncle, discovers that he’s not just a young mafia thug, he’s a young mafia thug who harbors a horrible demonic superbeing within him. Which boils down to when you hit the left bumper on your XBox 360 controller, two snaky, toothy glowing heads appear athwart your left and right shoulders. These auxiliary heads are very fond of biting the faces off people, also devouring their hearts with an eager lip-smacking snap. You can also become a skittering dark-being yourself — capable of crawling through air ducts, kinda thing — and summoning other dark-critters, who do incredibly cruel things to anybody you don’t like.

I’ve gotten very spoiled by the advances in first-person shooter technology, to the point where if I’m in a game like this one that only allows me to jump (in this case it’s a feeble little hop) and crouch and switch between a few different weapons, and climb the occasional ladder, I start to feel a little physically constrained — basically Gears and Halo have spoiled me horribly. So there are aspects of the Darkness’s gameplay that feel a bit basic.

But there’s a great deal of noir-Goth charm to the Darkness, too, and some decent writing and voice acting, and enormous amounts of cruelty undiluted by any pretext of social responsibility or political correctness. (The conceit is sort of that the people you’re killing are mostly gangsters anyway, so it’s OK to devour their hearts and not feel bad about it. But I think I noshed on some innocent cops along the way too.) All in all, I’m going to stick with it for now. At least until I sate my unholy bloodlust. It’s worth it for the expressions on the faces of the redshirt gangsters — it’s as if they think they’re in a mafia game, and they’re just going to get shot. And then you whip out those extra heads, and they look so disappointed.