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First look at The Darkness II

When it comes to the crowded first-person shooter genre, you need to have a few tricks up your sleeve in order to stand out. Some developers load the game up with new and interesting weapons, while others will add augmentations to the way you see the game. If those aren’t available, sometimes the game will rely on the setting and storyline to make you form a connection with the characters, and sometimes the developer will toss buckets of insane violence and gore at you.

In order to make The Darkness II stand apart, 2K Games decided to do just that. All of that.

The sequel to the 2007 hit, the sequel returns players to the graphic novel-inspired world of Jackie Estacado, who has risen through the ranks of the mafia and taken on the role of a Boss in the criminal underworld. Jackie has pushed down the Darkness within him, and for two years, he has been dealing with the trauma it inflicted on him during the first game.

Things are going well for Jackie. He has money, power, women, and the world is his oyster. At least until he is wounded and taken captive by a grotesquely disfigured man that wants the Darkness for himself. Jackie is not one to share, and as his life is threatened, the Darkness returns.

The game is designed with a noire look that is meant to give the impression of a graphic novel. 2K spent a lot of time on the look of the game, and immediately you can see that it was time well spent, as each section feels original and lush. The section demoed at GDC was brief, but there is no reason to believe that the game won’t look amazing when it is finished. Comic writer Paul Jenkins–who wrote several issues of the comic series and co-wrote the first game–returns as a consultant to help with the story, so the game should retain the comic book feel it is aiming for. But while the story will remain true to the source material, the game will feature a totally original story.

But the real selling point will be what 2K is calling “quad wielding”, which will allow gamers to control four offensive weapons at the same time. Using the four shoulder buttons, the primary triggers will be used to dual-wield firearms, where the second buttons will control the Darkness’ tentacles. The left tentacle will be for grabbing people and items—which can be thrown or used as a shield—while the right tentacle will be for slashing enemies. The four buttons together should offer up huge gameplay opportunities.

The setting will also play into the game. Besides the ability to grab items, the light will also have a physical effect on you. Your vision will begin to blur as light becomes blinding, and a ringing will accompany the brightness. Once you shoot out the closest lights, your vision and audio will return to normal.

The game is also ultra-violent, with bodies being slashed apart, and people dying in horrific ways. It teeters on being over-the-top, but stops just short of it. Instead it is just bloody. Critics of violent video games will hate this title, but gaming fans will love the splatterfest.

So with The Darkness II, you have a new attack in the quad-wielding, augmented settings thanks to the light sensitivity and noire look, an original story and setting designed to feel like a graphic novel, and it is also helped to life by a comic book writer. Oh, and there is lots and lots of gore.

Look for The Darkness II on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 towards the end of the year.