“Remember, a powerful enemy now festers within you.”
The player takes the role of Jackie Estacado (voiced by Kirk Acevedo), with the story presented as a future-narrative on the present events observed by the player. On the eve of his 21st birthday, Jackie is targeted for assassination by “Uncle” Paulie Franchetti, a New York Mafia boss, following a failed task to retrieve money for the latter. While hiding in a cemetery bathroom, the Darkness (voiced by Mike Patton), an ancient demonic force that has inhabited his family for several generations, awakens within Jackie and slaughters the remaining mobsters, with the benefit of Jackie becoming the possessor of seemingly unholy demonic abilities that work only in the dark.
Using these powers, Jackie proceeds to destroy Paulie’s business by killing his biggest drug peddler, Dutch Oven Harry, and burning down the slaughterhouse where he stores his money. In retribution, Paulie and his main enforcer, Captain Eddie Shrote of the New York City Police Department, kidnap Jackie’s girlfriend Jenny Romano (voiced by Lauren Ambrose). They take her to the orphanage where Jackie and Jenny grew up and murder her in front of a powerless Jackie, who is unable to save Jenny due to the Darkness deliberately restraining him.
The game includes a range of modern-day weapons as well as the powers of the Darkness. The Darkness powers include summoning four imp-like creatures called “Darklings” that can attack foes, using “Dark” tentacles to impale foes or break down walls, using “Creeping Dark” tendrils that sneak along floors, walls and ceilings to take out foes from a distance, and creating a black hole that sucks anything nearby into it. The Darkness powers cannot be used in a well-lit area but can be used in darker areas and under total darkness; the player is able to shoot out lights to help increase the amount of dark energy available. Additionally, by letting the Darkness consume the hearts of the victims of the attacks, the player can further increase the effects of the Darkness powers.
Over the course of the game, Estacado comes into possession of Darkness guns that are more powerful than conventional weapons but consume Darkness energy in order to fire. The Darkness guns are dual wielded.
The game has several levels based on New York City locales that players visit multiple times. A subway system allows the player to move between areas. While the main plot is primarily linear, requiring the player to visit each area in a certain order, the player can undertake side missions by speaking with non-player characters that wander the subway stations. Completing sub-missions earns the player a “collectible” phone number which can then be used at any phone to unlock additional game media; collectibles can also be found scattered throughout the level.
The game was made in 2007, which is a long time ago in the gaming world. Games have advanced a lot since then, even if you’re just talking visually. But, even so I think The Darkness is a great game and looks pretty good for when it was made, the facial models are superb. I really enjoyed the storyline, I felt for Jackie and Jenny’s death made me tear up – like Jackie I wanted more than anything to see them together again. The gameplay worked well but was a little clunky at times – for instance, when you used creeping dark – and often it was a little difficult to navigate or understand where you were supposed to go. Although the power of The Darkness made you feel awesome, being able to cut people down and eat their hearts with little effort.
In summary, I’d say that the game wouldn’t be that good if it didn’t have Jackie but more importantly, The Darkness itself. The voice of The Darkness adds a whole new tone to each segment and when it takes full hold of Jackie you really want to fight against it. My favourite part of the game was the first time you visit the Otherworld, I struggled with it at first but once I’d completed the area I felt such a sense of achievement. Also, I really liked seeing the flashbacks of Jackie and Jenny at the orphanage, it was sorrowful, but it gave you an insight into Jackie’s character and made you feel even more sympathy for him.