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Sliced Gaming Feature: The Darkness II Co-op Hands On

Writer: Anthony J Scarcella
Posted: 7th December 2011, 12:53pm

The easiest way to summarise The Darkness II's new co-op mode is that it's mighty similar to Valve's Left 4 Dead series. Leaving it at that though would discredit some seemingly minor, but important differences that (so far) give The Darkness II a bit more bite than the aforementioned zombie murder simulator.

As a whole, the game is presented in a cel-shaded rendering style, highly reminiscent of Borderlands (and a little bit XIII and Red Steel 2 while we're at it). Given the source material comes from a comic book series, it does capture the inherent cartoonish-ness of the entire experience. It isn't a bad thing however, far from it: instead, it just makes it that much more satisfying. Rather than the palette drained monotones of Gears of War and its ilk, The Darkness II is a lurid explosion of colours, festooned with ridiculous amounts of blood. Oh yes.

One thing about the visual presentation did bother me, although it's not a deal breaker. Standing under any kind of external light source (a street lamp, a light fixture in a warehouse) results in the screen turning mostly white and hazy. In more recent years, this kind of visual adjustment usually correlates with an indicator of the player's health or abilities. For instance, in Left 4 Dead, its an incredibly quick method of determining whether you're about to cark it or not. As I ran under the lights in my hands-on time, this effect cropped up and I could not figure out what it was telling me, until I eventually realised that it was a simple effect of standing under a light. Distracting, and it affects gameplay as the view ahead becomes less than clear: is that an enemy or a curiously shaped box? Perhaps its a vein of the story, and a connection to the name of the game itself, but with the game (at least initially) sticking to an urban/industrial setting, external lights are rather plentiful and somewhat difficult to avoid at times.

The method of recovering health in the game is one of the key differentiators between it and Left 4 Dead. Rather than carry around a health kit (or simply recover health by sitting in a corner for a little while), the only way to regain health is to finish off foes for good. All 4 co-op characters wield some form of melee weapon, as well as two guns. After taking out an enemy, you need to stand over them and stab or bludgeon them in the heart to truly finish them off and regain health. In the quieter sections of the co-op mode, this isn't really a problem, but during the more tense stand-offs, it becomes rather risky: do you rush out and quickly stab one or two slain enemies to top off your health, or sit it out and defend yourself? This simple addition results in a far more frenetic experience, keeping the action heated but always with a reminder of your character's mortality. This is not a ...

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