When I was a much younger man (and actually still to this day, as it happens) I was a big fan of the musical stylings of the popular beat combo Faith No More. Now, you may be sat in your comfy armchair, wondering what my taste in music has to do with games in general, but rest assured that there is a link.
The subject of my Looking Back this time around is a game that I enjoyed a great deal early in my Xbox 360 career – a game called The Darkness. Fancy coming with me on a trip down memory lane to the murky world of guns, gore and great big monsters as we remember what made this game great all the way back in 2007?
First of all, I’ll clear up any confusion about that opening. The link between Faith No More and The Darkness is simply this: the lead singer of Faith No More, a gentleman by the name of Mike Patton, also did the voice for The Darkness. This was the first time I knowingly came across someone from a different genre delivering voice to a video game, and it blew my tiny mind at the time. Of course, now that Nathan Fillion seems to have found a place in every game ever (although his turn as Cayde-6 in Destiny will never be bettered, in my humble opinion), it is less remarkable. But we are talking about something from fifteen years ago, so give me a break!
Right, onto the actual game itself. The story found in The Darkness was very good indeed, featuring a wise guy by the name of Jackie Estacado who acts as the narrator for the events that are about to unfold. Jackie’s “uncle” targets Jackie for assassination on his 21st birthday; perhaps that’s not the best present ever, eh? Luckily, Jackie’s family bloodline has an ancient demonic force called The Darkness in it, and it comes to Jackie’s rescue, violently and bloodily getting rid of his assailants.
With these new powers, Jackie goes after his Uncle Paulie, and with the inevitable escalation, Jackie’s childhood home – an orphanage – is destroyed, and his girlfriend, Jenny, is murdered right in front him, while The Darkness actually restrains him from interfering. From here it just gets weirder, but in case there are folk out there who have still not played the game (where have you been for the last fifteen years?) then I shall say no more about the story.
The Darkness is presented as a first person shooter, albeit with a supernatural twist. Graphically the game is still good today, with decent level layouts and fairly neat graphics. As part of these articles I always go back and play the games to make sure the rose tinted glasses are not too strong, and in this case I was pleasantly surprised how well a game from 2007 is holding up today. Mike Patton as the Darkness is perfectly cast too, and Kirk Acevedo, who did the voice of Jackie, works wonders. All in all, if you like your shooters bloody and violent, and are over eighteen, this is a game I would recommend in a heartbeat.
Despite being predominantly an FPS, there are some good little twists that help raise this above average. The Darkness – and the powers that it gives Jackie – are the main difference. As you go through the game and the Darkness gets stronger, you gain new abilities for it. These range from your own little task force of imps, called Darklings, that can run around and harass enemies, through using tentacles to do various things, right up to creating a black hole that can suck nearby objects and enemies into it. The tentacles are pretty cool as well, being able to sneak about and take out enemies from a distance, break down walls and impale nearby enemies. Oh yeah, and the Darkness can get stronger by eating enemies’ heads. I told you it was gory!
Another interesting mechanic was found in the ambient light; if it was too bright, the Darkness couldn’t come out to play, so planning your route through the shadows, and even shooting out inconvenient lights would make progress through the game smoother. The actual gunplay was pretty good as well, especially when Jackie finds the Darkness guns, dual wielded firearms that use darkness energy when fired – needless to say they are a lot more powerful than the regular guns on offer.
Chasing bad guys through New York, undertaking side missions by talking to NPCs and bringing demon based justice to all and sundry are in a day’s work for The Darkness. But there are nice moments to savour as well, including a very romantic achievement to obtain. See, at a certain point in the game, you can sit down to watch a film with Jenny. If you stay put and watch the film (it is To Kill a Mockingbird, and practically the whole film can be watched, alongside other programs such as Flash Gordon) until Jenny falls asleep, you will unlock an achievement. Nicer than that, it feels like a genuinely intimate moment between two people and I have yet to find a nicer way to earn some Xbox Gamerscore in a game.
So, Mike Patton as a demon, guns, gore and violence – what more could you want from a video game? Did you guys out there play The Darkness when it launched, or have my words moved you to give it a try? Luckily, both this game and its follow up from 2012 – the imaginatively named The Darkness 2 – are backwards compatible on newer systems, so there’s never been a better time to lose yourself to The Darkness. Let me know your memories in the comments!
You can grab The Darkness from the Xbox Store and play it on Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S. You should too.