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The Darkness 2 preview: Murderous multi-tasking


Those of you who finished The Darkness will remember the end scene, in which [spoiler alert!] protagonist Jackie Estacado unleashed all of his rage and the full power of The Darkness, murdering a mansion full of goons. The only problem was that we didn't get to play it -- we had to just watch.

"At the end, you see Jackie going nuts with the demon arms, but you can't play that," Digital Extremes project director Sheldon Carter lamented about the first game, "and that's what I wanted to play. So that's what we're doing for the second game."

Watching a guided demo at GDC, the developer's mission was clear: Jackie is far more aggressive and powerful in the sequel.

Gallery: The Darkness 2 (GDC 2011) | 4 Photos

Jackie starts out pretty strong in The Darkness 2. It's been two years since the first game and Jackie's now the don of the Estacado crime family. During his ascension, he must have learned a thing or two about The Darkness, because he's got two tendrils at his disposal at all times -- the left is for grabbing and the right is for slicing -- and seems to be comfortable wielding them.

Using the left trigger, Jackie can grab items (and enemies) in the environment and use them as weapons or cover, but the slicing works in a more unique way. By holding in the right trigger, players can flick the right thumbstick to slice dynamically for some gruesome attacks. Enemies can be split horizontally and vertically, or you can start with their arms first -- The Darkness 2 not only ramps up Jackie's abilities, but also the gore factor.

We weren't super fond of getting lost in subway transitions and you saw in the demo that we blew up the subway, kinda metaphorically.- Sheldon Carter

One of the demo's better parts saw Jackie ripping off a car door and using it as mobile cover, shooting through the window frame of the door while dual-wielding Colt pistols. Using these skills, it's clear that Jackie is now more adept at handling larger groups of enemies. And if this demo was any indication, Jackie will be ambushed regularly throughout the game.

I witnessed one such encounter as the Digital Extremes guide headed down into the subway -- uh-oh. One of the major criticisms of the first game was its subway, which could easily become a maze. "We weren't super fond of getting lost in subway transitions," said Carter, "and you saw in the demo that we blew up the subway, kinda metaphorically." Indeed!

The subway scene in the demo was full of explosions and about a dozen goons, which Jackie picked apart with a mix of guns -- he was dual-wielding an SMG and pistol -- and his demon arms. It was utter chaos to watch, and I wondered if this quad-wielding would be a bit too unwieldy in practice. I can't make that call until they let press pick up the controller later in the year.

"Jackie's the don now, so he has a limo driver," Carter pointed out. "He's not a low-level thug any more who has to pick his way through New York. He knows where he has to go, and he can go there whenever he wants." Carter implied that as the story develops, Jackie won't have to wander around the subway system to find his way to his destination.

The demo itself was a bit on the shorter side, but it adequately conveyed how gameplay has changed in the sequel. It's a far more physical experience, as tendrils can freely lop off limbs and cut through enemies like a ginsu knife through a soda can. After seeing it in motion for the first time, it appears The Darkness 2's bodycount will be significantly higher this time around, which is great for players looking for a more action-packed experience ... not so much for the hordes of henchmen without health insurance.

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