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July 28, 2007
The Darkness - PS3 Review
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
20/7/20072K GamesTake TwoStarbreeze Studios12-8
Media HDD Space Resolution Sound Format Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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The Darkness has some stunning visuals.
This title is exciting for a number of reasons. Firstly, it has been quite a while between drinks for good, original, Playstation 3 games. Secondly the game has been developed by Starbreeze Studios - the same developers who worked on the mighty impressive Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay some years ago. Thirdly, the game is based upon the best-selling comic book series from Top Cow Productions. Finally, the game is one of the best looking next-generation titles due out this year. So does this game live up to its potential? Read on to find out.

The story in The Darkness is very well developed - in fact it has been written in collaboration with Eisner Award winner and comic book author Paul Jenkins. At the night of his 21st birthday, the Francetti family Don, Uncle Paulie, sends out hitman Jackie Estacado on a job. The hit turns out to be a trap and Jackie finds that Paulie wants Jackie dead. Later the same night, Jackie is possessed by "The Darkness", an ancient demonic power that gives Jackie spectacular powers. The story revolves around Jackie and Paulie fighting over the future of the Francetti family, and of Jackie's search for light and love in a dark and violent world.

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A couple of darklings cause mayhem.
The Darkness is essentially a first person shooter, but with the twist in that the player will not only use traditional weapons such as dual pistols, a shotgun and a variety of machine guns but also a number of 'Darkness' powers. The game is fairly non-linear in that you can walk anywhere and go anywhere as you wish. The story is told through a series of cut scenes, and there are a couple of twists and surprises before you reach the end. Subway stations act as a hub to the various locations within the city. From these you can take trains to various parts of the city and it's a great way to cut down on the need to travel from one location to another on foot or in a car. Controls are fast and fluid and it won't take you too long to get used to controlling Jackie, the Darkness that entraps him, and the darklings which you can summon (more on those in a second).

The players' demonic powers come into play when he is placed in the shadows. Jackie will spawn two demon-like heads from his body when prompted, and this darkness power can use the Demon Arm which is a spear like claw to destroy objects or attack enemies, summon a black hole to suck objects and enemies to a painful death, or use Creeping Dark to snake his way around the level to creep up on enemies or into small places that Jackie can't reach. In order to use these power Jackie must remain in the dark or shadows where, after taking damage, the darkness will regenerate.

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Using the most basic weapon, dual pistols.
Certainly the coolest aspect of The Darkness is that the player can summon 'Darklings'. Similar to the two dogs from Ghostbusters these creatures wreak all manner of havoc in the game and offer a very cool method of taking out enemies. There are different types of Darklings too. The Berserker will attack enemies by jumping on them, the Gunner has a massive machine gun at his disposal to take down enemies, the and the Kamikaze darkling has a tendency to blow up while a fourth darkling, the Lightkiller, will attack and destroy any lights in the area!

The Darkness includes an achievements systems. As you traverse the levels you'll be able to pick up collectables. These can then be traded in by calling the phone numbers, or posting the letters to unlock special items including artwork, videos and renders. They're a nice addition to the title.

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Looks like Jackie may be in trouble here!
Multi-player is also well supported in the game and there's a host of modes including Deathmatch and CTF styled game modes. We've played a few games online now and while pretty solid the lack of a lobby area does hurt as you can't see how much lag the games have, or who's in there. We entered a couple of matches which had some pretty severe lag and had to bail out due to an inability to play effectively. The coolest feature of the online modes though is the ability to change from human form to Darkling - it definitely adds a new twist to the genre.

In terms of disappointments there are a few to report. The game does have loading as you move from one area to another. These are initially hidden by short scenes of Jackie in various poses with his guns or, on occasion, detailing the next area or mission you're about to undertake. These only last around 15-30 seconds, but they are there and possibly a little worse is that when the shorter scenes finish we then go to a loading scene. Another disappointment is the lack of 'life' out on the streets. There are next to no pedestrians which, given that much of the game takes place at night can be forgiven, but there are also no cars parked on the streets, and no movement or life in any of the buildings. It's strange because in the subway stations there are people moving around everywhere. Due to the nature of the game and needing to remain in the darkness and shadows I felt there was a little too much need to take out lights in the city in order to progress safely, it actually slows down the gameplay too much. Finally the Gunner darkling, while setting up to fire on enemies will often set up right behind Jackie causing unnecessary damage - and a few hair-pulling moments.

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Exterior visuals impress the most.
There's no denying that The Darkness is one of the best games we've seen on the PS3. The first thing that really stands out is the brilliant texturing in the game world. Walls are littered with graffiti that looks superb from far away, or close up. Character modeling is also quite stunning with superb and fluid animations. Jackie's mouth doesn't move as much as one would expect - in fact it became quite distracting when he's talking on the phone but his lips aren't moving at all - I guess that covers up for a lack of lip-synching.

At times the frame rate does struggle just a little. We were running the game at 1080p though and it's certainly not as bad as some other titles. We did also encounter the odd glitch here and there with polygon clipping issues and also the odd flicker or two. It's not a big deal, but it is there and it will distract from the action on screen - fortunately they seem to occur during the real-time cut-scenes more then in-game.

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Looks like Jackie may be in trouble here!
Sound is also extremely impressive. Naturally we are provided with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound, however it's not just the fairly aggressive use of surround sound that makes an impression but rather the quality of the audio. Kirk Acevedo voices Jackie Estacado and does a wonderful job of sounding gruff and street-wise (in fact he sounded a little like Steven Segal to us!). All the supporting cast are equally impressive however it's the voice of The Darkness that possesses Jackie that really haunts through the game, taunting you, humiliating you, and torturing you. It's deep, it's brutal, and it's wonderfully implemented in the game. Music is often rock based, but quite atmospheric and changes pace as the action heats up.

I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed The Darkness. My high hopes were met pretty well with some solid gameplay, a decent storyline and stunning visuals and audio. I would have liked to see a slightly better online multi-player setup and certainly a bit more length to the single player game but this is a title which PS3 owners can use to show off the power of their new system.

Review By: Dave Warner

Order your copy now from Gameswarehouse.
GRAPHICSTexturing and effects are superb, need more city activity.
SOUNDGreat speech, solid audio and effects given great surround treatment.
GAMEPLAYThe locations and story will keep you engrossed, solid FPS action.
VALUEAbout 12 hours to finish single player, online will add some more.
OVERALLThe Darkness has been a long time coming but the wait has been worth it. Not perfect, but still very entertaining and a great way to break the PS3 software drought.

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