For all of The Darkness's many achievements, multiplayer wasn't one of them. When Jackie Estacado was stomping around New York, tearing mob goons into pieces with his Darkness arms like a violent, rampaging Mr Tickle, all was right. But online things stank like month-old kippers.
It's no surprise then, that Unreal Tournament masters Digital Extremes have taken a different approach with The Darkness II. Competitive deathmatches are out and a complete secondary campaign in the form of a four-player co-op jaunt is in.
Vendettas is its name, and the team refers to it internally as a 'dark co-op comedy'. It's a mode closer to RAGE's co-op missions than Left4Dead's sprawling chapters, but the inclusion of cutscenes threads the campaign together into one monster story that's forever weaving in and out of the single-player adventure.
So for instance, when Jackie needs to speak to a man named Johnny who's been taken hostage in the core game, it's your job, in Vendettas, to free that person and bring them back safely. Both campaigns can be played independently of one another, yet it's only by sampling both that you'll uncover the full story.
The stars of the show are four new characters who possess subsets of Jackie's Darkness powers. Inugami, Shoshanna, JP DuMond and Jimmy are the stereotype-riddled cast, and as well as carrying different weapons they each have unique passive powers (such as faster sprinting, quicker reloads or extra damage resistance) along with overt Darkness abilities like black hole summoning and gun-channelling.
None of them have access to the quad-wielding craziness found in the single-player campaign. But an upgrade system featuring skills that boost the powers of players who stand nearby means there are still plenty of attacking options open to you if you play as a team.
There's nothing wrong with being alone in The Darkness, but with extra players Vendettas really comes alive. Even though difficulty settings have yet to be balanced, blasting our way through construction yards, underground parking lots and more is, well, a blast. Especially as finding the prizes warps hulking monsters in for frantic scrabbles of survival.
Communication is key. Lone wolves are soon gunned down and need to be revived before bleeding out, but the abundance of lamps and floodlights (extinguished by blowing up nearby generators) curbs hasty progression. Oddly there are no real rewards for people who take the time to hit lights or revive others.
Darkness essence is doled out for killing and executing but not helping others. If Digital Extremes finds a way to reward selfless players as well, the Darkness II could well boast two killer campaigns for the price of one. matthew pellett
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