- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 12, 2012

Jackie Estacado’s plunge into demonic insanity returns in The Darkness II: Limited Edition (2K Games and Digital Extremes, rated M for mature, reviewed for Xbox 360, $59.99).

Adapted from Top Cow Productions’ popular supernatural horror comic-book series, this first-person shooter taps into a player’s excessively violent side as he sets out on a path of retribution and madness that ultimately may lead to the devil’s doorstep.

Story: From the game website — It’s been two years since Jackie used his power to kill the men responsible for his girlfriend’s murder. He’s been unable to shake the memory of Jenny’s death since bottling up the Darkness and now it wants out. A botched attempt on Jackie’s life opens the door for the Darkness to reemerge and sets Jackie on a brutal and personal journey as he unravels the mystery behind the attack and the motives of the Darkness.

Play the role: Through a story written by legendary comic-book scribe Paul Jenkins (Incredible Hulk, Hellblazer and Wolverine), a player is Jackie, the Don of the Franchetti crime family, as he harnesses the obscene powers of his demon soul.

That means the return of a pair of razor-toothed demon-headed serpents that hang out over each of Jackie’s shoulders. When in the shadows, he can take advantage of the demons and a little funny fellow named a Darkling who even stars in a few of his own missions.

The Brotherhood meets Jackie Estacado's friends in the video game The Darkness II.
The Brotherhood meets Jackie Estacado’s friends in the video game The Darkness ... more >

Beware, however, of any light source and destroy it whenever possible. It will drain our twisted hero’s powers and disorient him as the voices of evil cry out in pain.

The 19-chapter story clocks in at around five hours worth of action and finds a player out to learn the true fate of Jenny and to stop the Brotherhood — a secret society led by the facially disfigured Victor Valente that wants to steal the Darkness from him and use it for their own evil purpose.

A player finds himself in a plot mixing a gratuitous blood feast with moments of genuine psychological drama while in locations such as an Italian restaurant, a New York City subway, a mafioso’s mansion, a brothel, a cemetery, a deserted carnival grounds and a mental asylum.

Get to the action: It’s a Darkness hunger satiated only through violent, rampant destruction with help from the new quad-wielding control scheme. It offers players the ability to easily manipulate the demon-headed tentacles to grab items or attack while firing two weapons simultaneously.

A player will discover firepower (from ornate pistols to assault rifles to shotguns) and ammo scattered around the terrain and near fallen foes as he takes down teleporting goons, whip-wielding thugs, shielded lackeys, lamp-pointing lunkheads and bosses that seldom challenge skills.

Memorable moments (in no particular order): Riding in a cart through a carnival horror house that looks as if it was conceived by Clive Barker; the creative use of propane tanks, fan blades and car doors; watching the Darkling drive a truck through a gate and cause a massive explosion; any encounter with Vinny or Jimmy the Grape; cut scenes of Jackie dressed in black doing his best imitation of Criss Angel; walking to a funeral in the rain.

Violent encounters: Playing this game might finally buy me a ticket to the dark realms for reveling in its excessive, gratuitous, riddled-with-profanity bloodlust.

Players are encouraged to rip the hearts out of victims and have Jackie’s tethered demon heads eat them to not only regain health, but also to collect essence to buy ghastly upgrades.

A variety of methods is also used by the snakes to kill off enemies in their reach, not limited to ripping out the spines and skull from their torso, popping though their midsection like an “Alien” chestburster and splitting humans in half like a wishbone.

Suffice to report, this level of grotesque continues with the upgrades bought through a talent tree.

Story Continues →