The Darkness II – updated hands-on preview

Just last week we saw new areas and powers in The Darkness II, reported by Nathan Irvine as he toured through Gamescom. This week, at PAX Prime 2011, 2K Games opted to show the US crowd the same demo it revealed at PAX East earlier this year – well, almost the same. While the events were identical to March’s preview, a few new gameplay elements were introduced that hint at Darkness II’s improved combat.

Last time we played, you could nab an enemy with the toothy left tendril and then hurl him back at his gun-toting pals. In this updated version, grabbing a foe gives you four execution options: convert his sagging body into ammo for your guns; eat his heart and regain health; absorb his essence as a bullet shield; or use it to lessen the cool down time for your violent Darkness powers. These options must be unlocked first (via points gained by head shots, kills and consuming hearts), though for the sake of the demo the health and ammo abilities were give to us for free.The idea behind these powers address a nagging point of the first game – once the impact of those gruesome executions was gone, there was little reason to take the time to do so. Now, grabbing dudes serves a gameplay purpose, be it healing, protecting or empowering Jackie in other ways that haven’t been revealed.

One more power was dropped in our laps – a massive black hole that sucks in all the enemies in a given space. In the original game, this was a power you could trigger over and over again, and made the last third of the game fairly easy. In Darkness II, you must keep an eye out for certain enemies who radiate a glowing red “evil aura” that Jackie can exploit; if you spot one, the tendrils can rip that heart out and toss it into the fray, triggering said black hole. A more tactical use of a power that was once possible to spam… perhaps it’s less empowering, but it’s definitely a strategic alteration that’ll make the gunplay more thoughtful.

Pretty much everything else was the same – there’s a dude who wants to steal the Darkness from Jackie, but the latter still can’t bring himself to let it go. New slashing powers let you rip enemies limb from limb, the new cel-shaded aesthetic distinguishes it from the previous game and, as we’ve seen today, new combat mechanics should make this a more immersive “I am the Darkness” experience. Hit up our earlier preview for the full scoop on those details, and look for Darkness II in February 2012.

Aug 27, 2011

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