Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
By Jackie Estacado’s 21st birthday he already seems like an old man.
He’s lost friends and killed countless enemies of the family. But there’s one bright spot in his otherwise dismal life. Her name is Jenny, and near the beginning of The Darkness
Jackie visits her in her new apartment. It’s an unexpected scene, as much for what doesn’t happen as what does. Rarely does a ?rst-person shooter even let you holster your gun. Here, you can walk through Jenny’s apartment, look at the birthday cake on her kitchen table, and sit on the couch to watch To Kill a Mockingbird
. So simple, and yet the encounter spurs a genuine emotional response—one that reverberates throughout the game.
But Jenny’s presence isn’t enough to quell the storms in Jackie’s soul, particularly when a symbiotic presence called the Darkness takes control of him that same day. Video games don’t often traffic in metaphor, so perhaps it’s not surprising that this one is so blunt. But the Darkness, too, is quite a character: Voiced by the inimitable Mike Patton (Mr. Bungle, Tomahawk, Faith No More), it is a taunting, unwelcome presence. Much of the gameplay derives from using the Darkness’ snake-like tentacles to tear through gangsters and crooked cops, but the creature’s lust for destruction keeps the game from ever coming off as a mindless shooter.
In fact, as the Darkness grows stronger by feeding off of Jackie’s rage, the game takes on the grim inevitability of a Greek tragedy. The power of the Darkness grows more seductive and destructive in equal measure. It’s a strange feeling to control a character on the road to perdition rather than triumph, but it also makes for a compelling, complex gaming experience: For what does it pro?t a man if he gains the world yet loses his soul?