Darkness II is so batsh*t insane that it hits both sides of the extreme scale in around ninety seconds. One moment it's all melodrama as you're stood solemnly by a shrine to your dead girlfriend, lighting a candle and confessing to your aunt that your life is meaningless. Less than two minutes later, you're tearing a mobster in half - lengthways - using two carnivorous demonic dragons that have sprouted from your shoulders.
This equation should sum it up nicely: EastEnders + Sopranos + Tom Savini + crystal meth = Darkness II
Darkness II: Story time
The original Darkness cast you as Jackie Estacado, an obscenely young Mafiosa who found himself hunted by his uncle after inheriting an ultraviolent paranormal condition. Jackie killed the hell out of everyone, and managed to quell the darkness before it completely possessed him. He's still tormented by his demons however, and struggling to come to terms with his lover Jenny's death.
Darkness II doesn't give you much room to breathe. Much like Dead Space 2, the sh*t hits the fan almost immediately with a cool set-piece, and your crew ends up dragging you through a blazing restaurant as you pick off goons with a pistol. Mortally wounded, Jackie has no choice but to call upon the darkness once more, and crack some skulls to find out who wants him dead. And things get even more complicated when Jackie starts to wonder if this is all some twisted fantasy...
Darkness II: Comic gore
As if the crazy plot wasn't enough to reveal this game's comic book roots, the attractive visual style is a dead give-away. Characters and environments have a cartoony sheen, not quite as in-your-face as Borderlands', but enough to tone down the impressively violent images.
Squeamish types should still steer clear, as you'll see mutilations galore as you tear through hordes of brainless goons. An average twenty seconds with Darkness II involves impaling a guy with a snooker cue, before unleashing a swarm of insects on his two remaining buddies. While they're occupied you blast one with a sawn-off shotgun, sending his limbs bouncing across the room, before snatching up the last one with your dragons and whipping off his head. Your gran might be slightly disturbed.
Darkness II: Murder, kill! The implementation of the darkness powers feels a lot tighter this time around. As well as slashing at enemies with the dragons, you can pick up and hurl a huge range of objects to stun or mutilate your foes. Goons can also be grabbed and executed in a handful of nasty ways, right before your eyes. It's a shame that there are so few executions, as they start to become tiresome by the end of the seven-hour story mode.
Still, you've always got your guns to fall back on. Every weapon from the humble pistol to the death-blazing Kalashnikov feels suitably deadly. Head shots are effective and fun, taking down enemies in a single hit (providing they aren't wearing armoured hats), or you can dual-wield for maximum spray. It's perfectly possible to play 90% of the game using just your shooters, although the darkness abilities are what really set Darkness II apart from the competition, and you're rewarded for gruesome kills with extra upgrade points.
Darkness II: That's easy!
Ahh yes, upgrades. In true RPG-lite style, you can boost a number of different abilities throughout the game, from your darkness powers to your gun prowess. You can even conjur up black holes to suck up your enemies, which never gets old.
If we're honest though, it doesn't really matter what upgrades you go for, as Darkness II is easy as hell. The baddies run straight at you or follow a very obvious pattern of hide-shoot-hide-shoot, and every downed foe gives you fresh hearts to recover your already-generous health. The only time we died on Normal mode was when we got stuck in a wall and couldn't move. Thankfully the highest difficulty offers a little more challenge.
Darkness II: Yet another corridor...
Levels also lack a little imagination, sticking close to the tried-and-tested barrage of dingy streets, rooftops, cemeteries and warehouses. A little more imagination would've been good, but the darkness powers meant we still had fun blasting our way through the generic corridors filled with stupid enemies. You also have to strategically take out light sources (as your powers only work in the dark), which adds a rudimentary level of tactics.
Special kudos goes to your impish helper, who accompanies you through most of the game. His disgusting habits, which include pissing on the mutilated remains of your foes, are an excellent bit of light relief. You can also pick him up and throw him at enemies, so he can chew on their faces.
We also enjoyed the soundtrack, which in one memorable scene includes the Tony Loc classic, 'Funky Cold Medina'. Awesome.
Darkness II: Conclusion
We had fun with Darkness II during its short campaign, despite its obvious shortcomings. It's gloriously over-the-top, dripping with gore and sardonic humour. We couldn't recommend it at full price, but shooter fans will get a kick out of it when it comes down in price.
Darkness II: System Requirements
You won't need the latest rig to run Darkness II. A Core 2 Duo with a mid-range graphics card will run the game with ease, on high detail levels.