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PS3 Fanboy review: The Darkness

Starbreeze's Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay was one of those titles that you really, really should have played. The critically acclaimed game was known for its incredible graphics, atmospheric story and brutal, violent gameplay but was largely ignored by gamers who wrote it off as another cheap movie tie-in or were distracted by Half-Life 2 and Doom 3, both of which had just been released. It's a shame though, because Riddick easily held its own against both of those titles and is considered by many people to be the best FPS of 2004. And now, three years later, Starbreeze has done it again with their latest effort, The Darkness. Though only a little more than half-way through the year, The Darkness is an early runner for best FPS of 2007. A fantastic amalgamation of tight gameplay, mature storytelling and excellent graphics, the title is an absolute must-buy and is an instant classic.

Based on Top Cow's long running comic series of the same name, the story revolves around an anti-hero by the name of Jackie Estacado. Adopted by a mafia Don when a child, Jackie was raised to be the perfect hitman and enforcer for the mob. Things were going swimmingly until his 21st birthday when a strange and evil power within him called the Darkness is awoken. Older than time, this menavolent entity gives its host incredible powers and protection -- but nothing in this world is free and Jackie is about to find out what the cost of ultimate power is ...

Starting off shortly before the Darkness awakens within you, the game opens with a thrilling high-speed car chase through a crowded underground tunnel with cops chasing you. After destroying more cars than the Matrix Reloaded highway scene, you're dumped into a warehouse with a couple dozen really angry mafia guys looking to perforate you. It's a great opening and sets the atmosphere and pacing for the rest of the game.

It's atmosphere and storytelling that The Darkness really succeeds at. With a mature and intelligent script and some of the best voice acting I've ever heard in a video game, the story sucks you in and doesn't let go until well after you've finished the game. Every part of the game seems engineered to maintain and enhance the atmosphere, from the somber and reflective ramblings of Jackie during the load scenes to the phone numbers scattered around on billboards and fliers that you can actually call from any of the in-game public phones. This is video game story telling at it's very best.

Atmosphere will only go so far though, if you don't have the gameplay to back it up and luckily The Darkness delivers in spades. Though you are given the standard accruement of guns like double pistols, a shotgun, a couple rifles and more, but they're not really the focus of the gameplay. They work well and they feel good, but it's clear that the real meat of the gameplay lies in the powers that the Darkness grants you. Through the course of the game you will develop more and more supernatural powers, from little things like being able to send out a snake made out of the Darkness to explore the corridor ahead of you to more fantastical abilities like summoning a black hole to rip apart a room. And the way you gain more skills and power? Ripping out the hearts of your fallen foes and eating them. It's horrible and gruesome and awesome. In addition to the guns and the crazy Darkness powers, you can also summon Darklings, little goblin familiars who will do your bidding and chatter away behind you. Some of their dialogue is pretty funny and watching what they do to dead bodies is both horrifying and hilarious. There are four different types of Darklings and each have a special ability will make one more useful than another in certain situations, which provides a nice bit of additional strategy to the mix.

Overall, the gameplay works the best when you combine all the different methods of mayhem into one big orgy of violence and death. Sticking to just guns or just Darkness powers and you'll get a little bored and have more trouble getting through the game. For example, you could run into a room and try to pick everybody off with your M-16 or you could toss a black hole in there and suck everybody into oblivion, but thats nowhere near as fun as sending in a Darkling to shoot out all the lights while your Darkness snake slithers around to the back and picks off the snipers and you come blazing in with an automatic shotgun, ripping out hearts for energy as you go. Now THAT is just good clean American fun right there.

Graphically, the game looks fantastic and runs smooth as butter. Some sites complained about the framerate problems but I never experienced anything other than a rock solid framerate. Texture quality is quite good, especially during the loading scene monologues where you can count the hairs in his stubble and practically feel the texture of his leather jacket. Some of the environments will look a little bland, but generally there is a good bit of detail in both the textures and the geometry of the levels. There are a couple issues with the graphics though, the NPCs have a lot to say but unfortunately their mouths don't really animate to match what they're saying. It's a small problem and not something you're going to notice after 10 minutes, but something you will notice the entire game is the anti-aliasing -- or lack there of. Overall the game looks pretty smooth, but once you activate the Darkness all the surfaces in a dark room will gain a glowing sheen. It looks really cool and helps you navigate your way around a pitch black room but the entire effect suffers from pretty bad aliasing. Not PS2 level aliasing, but it's not as smooth as some games on the PS3, nor is it as smooth as the X360 version.

You can expect 10-15 hours of gameplay from The Darkness, more if you're trying to get all the hidden items and Accomplishments (the PS3 version's answer to X360 Achievements). The game itself isn't that hard due to the fact that you have all the powers of Hell behind you, but it does offer some challenge -- especially on the Hard difficulty setting. And once you're done with the single player game, you can fire up the multiplayer for some human vs Darkling chaos. It's nothing particularly amazing, but is a fun little extra to what is clearly meant to be a single player focused title.

The Darkness is an absolutely fantastic title and is a must buy for any shooter fan out there. The dark and twisting story is top notch, the game is dripping atmosphere and the exciting and visceral gameplay is a perfect balm to the Summer ennui. Highly recommended.

PS3 Fanboy Score: 9.0

Second Opinion: Andrew
The Darkness is a prime example of great storytelling in video games. Little touches make the game an even more worthwhile experience, from the detailed atmospheric conversation, to the monologues that play during load screens. The incredible variety of video content, extras, and achievements should all be applauded. Although the controls aren't rock-solid, and some of the game mechanics aren't very polished, The Darkness stands out as an excellent game that should satiate any PS3 gamer's need for a solid adventure.

Third Opinion: Peter
The PS3 has been in dire need of a few stellar titles to flesh out its library and happily, The Darkness arrives with welcome arms. The Darkness offers a rich, and intricately weaved storyline, filled to the brim with interesting characters and spectacularly creepy locales. The audio alone is worth the price of admission, proving that narrative-driven action games can come alive with impeccable, authentic voice-acting and a well-written script. Although the jaggies tend to become a bit more noticeable in darker-lit area and in-between bouts of intense gun play, they hardly deter from the exceptional production values of the game, or its overall enjoyment from beginning to end. For PS3 owners looking for an exceptional single-player experience, The Darkness delivers in spades.

Gallery: The Darkness

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Reader Comments

(Page 1)

1. The main problem with this game is he doesn't run. Its like your moving at a snails pace the entire time.

Posted at 7:08PM on Jul 3rd 2007 by Kris

2. The 360 version also has motion blur for quick turns. The PS3 does not. And I noticed huge drops in the framerate in the initial car chase and later levels here & there. The aliasing is also annoying.

Posted at 7:12PM on Jul 3rd 2007 by commariodore128

3. Here's to hoping a patch is released to address some of these issues.

Posted at 7:27PM on Jul 3rd 2007 by Cagalli

4. What resolutions does this thing output at? Someone here said the box said 1080p. I think the output resolution is something worth mentioning in a review.

Posted at 7:30PM on Jul 3rd 2007 by Stef Geiger

5. I agree with Andrew, The Darkness has some clunky controls and some of the game mechanics don't feel too deep and could have been flushed out way more. Plus some abilities such as the Darkness guns and the ability to go through vents and stuff I found myself rarely using. I thought the game wasn't what it was hyped up to be but still a solid shooter.

Posted at 7:36PM on Jul 3rd 2007 by ChaosKnight

6. The controls weren't quite as smooth as they could have been at some points, and it definitely feels like Jackie strolls everywhere he goes. At the same time though, the parts where you go into a building to clear it out and you have to make use of all your powers and keep in mind where you aren't only clear of gunfire, but also lights; it definitely has a lot of points that work really well. There are a couple of genuinely shocking, surprising moments as well, which I obviously don't want to ruin.
The production on this game is what puts it ahead of many others for me. The voice acting, the music, the little touch of the TVs playing movies/cartoons and such... and especially the wealth of extra content. This thing feels more like a full fledged Hollywood production in some ways, and it definitely creates a deep, engrossing world for you to slowly pick apart with your guns and powers. There were plenty of times where I just stopped and looked around at the world that Starbreeze created for this title, and was just flat out impressed with the attention they paid to the details. Add to that the fact that it looks at least as good as the 360 version overall (aliasing issues aside some people online have said slightly better) and it's a great title, well worth picking up if you are a fan of FPS games, and especially of titles driven by actual characters and story.

Posted at 7:57PM on Jul 3rd 2007 by mccomber

7. Some of you MIGHT be in the lower stance, thus causing you to walk slowly. On the 360 version you click the left stick down to run faster, not sure how on the PS3 version, probably the same. Anyway, the autoaim can be lifesaver at times, and just annoying at others. Also the "Creeping Dark" is hard to control WTF it keeps clinging to the wrong surfaces and it's really disorienting! The game's event triggers are linear, but you can often stray from the set course, go into a room or area of the map and nothing will happen, but then if you return to the invisible linear path (the way the developers WANT you to play the game) then all of a sudden there are enemies waiting for you in that room or area! Again WTF! It's really odd!

Posted at 11:37PM on Jul 3rd 2007 by Tom

8. @4 Stef

The box confirms support for 480p, 720p, 1080i and 1080p. I played the entire game at 1080p and like mccomber's statements, it is a beauty to behold - a game to pause and revel in the amazing world Starbreeze created for its players. Great game, all around.


Posted at 11:40PM on Jul 3rd 2007 by Peter Vrabel

9. Just picked it up today based on many positive reviews, I opted for the PS3 version over the 360 after I watched them side by side at Best Buy. PS3 seems crisper. Anyway, great game so far, love the atmosphere and the voice acting is great. Anyone with a lean towards darker material will love it. Thanks for the review!!!

Posted at 1:18AM on Jul 4th 2007 by a.j.

10. @ #2

"The aliasing is also annoying"


Posted at 1:42AM on Jul 4th 2007 by hater06

11. So how does this compare to R:FOM?

Posted at 6:10AM on Jul 4th 2007 by T H

12. RFOM is the definitive FPS on PS3 at the moment but I'd defy anyone not to have as much fun playing this. I dont enjoy FOM since the update. No offence but as a Brit ive come to believe in my own stereotyping of the yankie form of play. The language has taken a turn for the worse. Every kill is followed by an expletive and all the Americans do is snipe, fire laarks or hedgehog grenades. I'd gladly go back to how it was before. Less laggy and more enjoyable.

So it was a breath of fresh air when this arrived thru my letter box. I havent had this much fun playing ANY FPS since Timesplitters 2 and Black.

Online is fun and hectic (shapeshifer mode being my forte) and offline the story, controls, graphics and gameplay are awesome. Im really drawn into the story, especially when it takes a very weird twist about 3 levels in.

1080p is astounding quality and I have no issues with framerate or the speed at which Jackie moves.

I think a lot of us have got used to RFOM and expect all FPS's to follow suit. I gotta admit, after going back to TS2 I began to wonder what all the fuss was about. Its way faster and more fun and lets face it, no one to shout at you after you've got shot. Yanks forget they had the game a few months before us. I hate elitism and they display it in abundance. Shame really cos there are a few really cool Americans out that but the majority spoil it.

Anyway The Darkness is every respect. People need to stop being picky and realise that not every FPS is the same. The Darkness is in a league of its own.

Extraordinary and it gets a well deserved 9/10 from me. It lost a mark as there's no offline multiplayer, and my partner and I love to play FPS's together. All in all tho, a great game.

Posted at 8:14AM on Jul 4th 2007 by Mike

13. I thought this was a game review, not a political statement. By your accunts I'd assume brits were snobby and rude, but that would be generalizing.

Posted at 2:33PM on Jul 4th 2007 by racerbasi

14. I just finished The Darkness the other day and I really enjoyed playing through it.

I'm really surprised to hear that you didn't use the darkness guns. I used them almost exclusively after I got them, the only problem is that you can't perform execution kills with them. Later in the game I found myself using the Creeping Darkness as my primary weapon. After a little bit of practice, I was very very proficient with the little bugger. Plus there seem to be dozens of collectables you can only reach with the creeping.

I think that just adds to the appeal of the game, as there are obviously a few ways to play. You can stealth kill people with the creeping dark, or use conventional weapons, or the darkness guns, or let darklings do your dirty work, but I often found the darkling pathing to be wanting. I suppose that is my biggest gripe, but it's by no means a deal breaker.

Highly recommend this game as a rent for anyone, a definite buy if you appreciate well crafted shooters .

P.S. Best experience playing the game was when I was walking around and got mugged on the lower east side near the pier entrance. Absolutely hysterical and it made my day.

Posted at 8:08PM on Jul 4th 2007 by Firewall

15. "Overall, the gameplay works the best when you combine all the different methods of mayhem into one big orgy of violence and death."-Love it, that sums the game up right there, an orgy of violence and death. The story does rival that of any game I have played in 2007, but the multiplayer is a little lacking. Absoloutely great game, and a must buy for any PS3 fan looking for a new, clean, and VIOLENT video game!

Posted at 8:44PM on Jul 4th 2007 by grass

16. I've really enjoyed it. It's a pretty unique little game. The only disturbing thing I found with it is that JACKIE'S LIPS DON'T MOVE!! All the other characters seem to have had more attention given to their performances, and the main character looks like a ventriloquist!

Posted at 8:20AM on Jul 5th 2007 by Brian Spence


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