The Many Ways To Kill In The Darkness II

The Darkness II is a grisly video game.

The bad guys nail the lead character's hands to a board. The good guy spikes people in the head with parking meters. One day, the mother of one of the game's creators looked at her son's e-mail inbox and noticed her son would be gathering with his co-workers to conduct a "corpse desecration meeting."


The son won't be showing the mom the finished game.

Apparently, the little goblin buddy who helps our ultra-violent protagonist through The Darkness II and does all the corpse desecrating doesn't just urinate on dead bad guys. He does worse stuff, stuff mom shouldn't see.

The Darkness II is the newly-revealed sequel to 2007's The Darkness, both based on, though not directly adapted from, a comic book of the same name. The star is a man named Jackie Estacado who gains the vicious Darkness power that is primarily manifested as two writhing, sharp-toothed snakes-as-arms with which Jackie can spare his victims a bullet and instead provide them with a tentacle punch through the chest.

The first game, from Starbreeze Studios, was grim. It surrounded some tender moments between Jackie and his doomed girlfriend with heaps of ultra-violence. The fall-slated sequel, in development by Dark Sector studio Digital Extremes. brightens the first game's palette with lots of blood.


The new game starts with Jackie as a crime boss. This sequel is told entirely from a first person perspective, its developers told me during a recent demo of the game. Jackie's success is expressed as he walks through a restaurant and people turn to gawk. He sits at a special table where two attractive women with low-cut dresses are waiting for him. They greet him, flirtatiously. And then one is shot through the head.

That restaurant bit was about as calm as it got during the several-minute demo I saw of the game last week in San Francisco. The game, played live in front of me, oscillated between scenes of Jackie being tortured and scenes of what happened before and after his interrogation. In the former scenes, Jackie was mostly the first-person witness to his hands being nailed to boards, an audience to threats from a man who wants to seize Darkness powers from him. In the latter, Jackie is the first-person vengeful perpetrator of gruesome death.


Seconds after the woman in the restaurant got shot in the head, a car barreled into the establishment. Jackie, under attack, was knocked off his feet and mangled. He was dragged away by friend, conscious enough to shoot his gun at the streams of machine-gun-armed bad guys storming in. The sequence briefly rendered The Darkness II as on on-rails shooter, played from the seat of a crime boss' pants. A bad guy (or in this game's context, maybe just a Worse Guy) tossed a Molotov cocktail into the kitchen. Jackie lost. Back to the torture scenes.


The torturer's problem was that Jackie can only surrender the Darkness powers voluntarily. The torturer hoped to encourage Jackie's volunteerism by doing horrible things to Jackie and his loved ones. But such is the fate of verbose villains that their supposedly-restrained victims un-restrain themselves and kill their henchmen. The baddest guy got away.

Soon after escape, Jackie had his Darkness powers. As in the first game, they are tentacle demon arms that appear in the periphery of the game's first-person view, but only in darkness. Enter a brightly-lit room in The Darkness games, and you have to shoot out the lights to get the arms working. I was shown the Darkness powers at work in city streets and in Manhattan subway tunnels. Used most brutally, one tentacle could suspend a bad guy, the other tear him to bits. One could punch through a man's chest or slash him apart. One special kill, nicknamed the Anaconda, coils a tentacle arm around the bad guy, then impales him.


One of the game's developers assured me that Jackie has good reason to be so vicious. The plot will explain it.


I didn't see Jackie's motivation, but I did see Jackie's new pal. In the first game, Jackie could summon little goblin for fighting support and to solve puzzles. In the new game, Jackie has just one goblin pal, a gleeful miscreant called the Darkling who performs the aforementioned corpse desecration.The relationship between Jackie and this critter will develop throughout the game, I'm told. He's the sidekick, the black comedy relief.

The demon arms are the real star of The Darkness II, of course, and your appetite for pretending to have some will affect your appetite for the whole game. One arm grabs. One slashes. A demon arm can impale a man with a parking meter or slice him with a car door. Sound like a good time?


At one point in the demo I saw of The Darkness II, a man is held by the demon arms and split apart at the legs. The developers call it the Wishbone move. It reveals a cross section of the man's guts. The move was much-loved by another reporter who saw the game with me. He laughed heartily at the Wishbone. Are you that guy? Then The Darkness II is for you. It will be out this fall for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.

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