When one thinks of the greatest examples of online shooters released in the last half-decade, The Darkness isn't the first title that leaps to mind.
Released in 2007, Starbreeze's FPS certainly contained a multiplayer mode, but it wasn't highlighted by reviewers as a reason to pick it up. Most of the attention centred around the rather intriguing campaign, which saw gothic-tinged mobster Jackie Estacado become infested by a demonic spirit just as he declared war on his Mafioso family.
The multiplayer was reported as an afterthought; it was by turns as laggy, sparse and slightly interesting, but mostly it was an optional extra. In fact, Starbreeze could probably have gotten away with including no multiplayer at all, the first time around.
Oh, how times have changed! These days, online modes are practically the reason an FPS is developed to begin with. Shooters are now expected to ship with a short single-player campaign and a beefed-up multiplayer as the industry standard.
Unless a game's online mode is able to make inroads into the marketshare dominated by the Gears, the CODs, the Battlefields and the Halos of this world, the prevailing wisdom is that they shouldn't get into the ring to begin with. It's probably for this reason that Starbreeze has opted for a co-op rather than competitive experience for Vendettas - the Darkness II's online mode.
Vendettas offers players a choice between two experiences: Campaign and Hit List. The latter in this instance is reportedly a drop-in/drop-out mode in which players can play missions from the co-op Campaign, and a set of unlockable missions, some of which require two players to beat. We say 'reportedly' because at the preview event CVG attended, a technical mishap meant that the multiplayer experience was completely off the table, and we had to play everything solo.
While this means that we weren't able to find out what the Campaign mode was like when tackled with others, we can report that it seems perfectly serviceable as a solo experience. So that's good news, at least, for anyone out there who has absolutely no friends at all.
The co-op Campaign involves four colourful protagonists toting magical weapons, who have to track down artefacts containing the ethereal creature's essence. Players have a choice of Inugami, a Katana-wielding street samurai, Shoshanna, an ex-Mossad operative with a powerful sawn-off, J.P. Dumond, a former doctor turned Voodoo Priest, and Jimmy Wilson, a blunt Glaswegian with a very sharp axe.
Each of their main weapons is powered by The Darkness, which makes them suitably demonic in appearance and incredibly lethal when used as directed. Each member of the team also has a secondary power, which the player can activate by hitting the Y button once the meter on the screen is filled; Wilson can conjure up Darkling minions to attack foes, while Shoshanna has unlimited ammunition for brief periods of time.