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Sunday July 22, 2007 2:09 pm

The Darkness for Xbox 360 Demo Impressions

The Darkness Logo

The Darkness tries to add something entirely new to the FPS genre, and in some ways, it succeeds. In other ways, it totally fails - at least from what we’ve seen so far. In much the same way that Overlord sought to re-invigorate the, well, the Pikmin genre, The Darkness seeks to bring something new to the FPS genre by making you the bad guy. In the game, you play as a mobster, Jackie Estacado, who’s been screwed-over one time too many by his associates. Jackie dies, and he’s re-incarnated as a dark-tentacle weilding “thing” (“The Darknes”), which he can use to exact revenge on the people who messed with him.

Click the jump for the rest of our preview…

Read More | The Darkness Official Site

The idea of having an evil, tentacled monster attached to you that will do your bidding just screams “coooool”, and for the most part it is. You can use your new-found abilities in many ways - you can use powerful tentacles to lift heavy objects, or your extra-long dark dentacles to sneak around objects and bite the faces off your enemies. Yes… it’s a dark game, in all senses of the word. You feed the darkness by eating the hearts of your enemies, and you keep it alive by destroying any street lights in the level, so that you can stay wrapped in the comfort of shadows.

The graphics of the game are really impressive, pulling off some of the same tricks that made Gears look really good, including bloom lighting, some very nice bump mapping, and a camera-blur when you rotate yourself too quickly. The characters in the game look quite good, and the voice acting is really top-notch. Likewise, The Darkness does a really good job of drawing you into the game, featuring cutscenes in which you can control where you’re looking and what you do, so that you really feel like you’re part of the action, not just watching a plot point play out.

That said, The Darkness has some significant problems (at least from what we saw of the demo). The first is, by essentially requiring you to shoot out all of the lights in each level, the graphics get too dark. Textures and objects look really nice when they’re lit up, but once you make a level entirely dark, it’s kind of hard to appreciate all the artistic work that went into each scene. Granted, when you call upon the Darkness, you also gain a sort-of echolocation sense (almost like some of Samus’ visor effects from Metroid Prime) which let you “see” quite well in the dark.

The bigger problem though, had me pretty worried about the full retail version of the game. From what I played, The Darkness is easy… way too easy. It seems like the big problem the game designers ran into is that, by giving your character so many powers, it’s hard for them to set up scenarios that are actually difficult. Got a ton of guys shooting at you? Just hide behind a barrier, and send your dark tentacles out to bite their faces off. Or, you could spawn some hell-baddies from one of the “darkness wells” you find in the level. OR, you could just shoot out all the lights so they can’t see you and then use your darkness vision. With so many powers, there are a lot of cool ways to take people out, but none of them are really challenging in any way.

From what I’ve seen, the demo of The Darkness has me a bit worried about the fate of the full retail game. Hopefully the developers have found ways to come up with some interesting and challenging scenarios for their near-omnipotent protagonist. Otherwise, I fear that the game’s “fun factor” might be seriously missing.

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