To call “The Darkness II” just another sequel would be a mistake. First of all, it’s taking a violent new approach that Tow Cow Productions and the developers of the first game wish they dreamed of, featuring decapitations with car doors and plenty of heart-ripping high times. Second, it has a gripping new storyline, one that’s sure to keep players interested for hours at a time. And finally, it’s being handled by a different development team. The creators of the original game, Starbreeze, have stepped aside, and Digital Extremes has taken their place.
So no, the sequel isn’t slacking or lacking, judging by what we’ve seen from our previous hands-on demo. But just to get some further reassurance, we sat with Creative Director Sheldon Carter to get an inside look as to what changes Digital Extremes will bring to the franchise, as well as what other kinds of demonic goodies players can look forward to seeing next February, when the game ships for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
CBR News: Sheldon, did Digital Extremes take a look at what Starbreeze did for the original game and think, “Now what can we do better with ‘The Darkness II?'”
Sheldon Carter: We loved the first game, so it was pretty cool when we got the project. For us, we thought, “What do we want to hold on to so tightly in that game?” We loved the narrative focus, because ,well, narrative-focus shooters, there’s just not a lot of them out there. The way Starbreeze told their story was something we really wanted to do. So we hired the same writer [Paul Jenkins]. Our highest goal in the game is in concern of the story. So we were really trying to match or exceed them there.
In terms of the rest of “The Darkness II,” we decided that we wanted to put that through our de-grinder and see all of the stuff we could improve on. We felt like the shooting was decent, but we could make that better. We felt that the demon arms and the way they worked, we liked that, but we could make them a bigger part of the game experience. That’s where we came up with quad-wielding — where you can use grabs and slashes with the arms while using two guns at the same time — kind of pile-on powers.
In the demo we played, we saw something with the car door. You could grab it and use it as a shield and shoot through the window…
And throw it at somebody’s head!
As a player, you start going through the game, and you get visual cues for things that might be useful to you, using the demon arm. A good example is that car; great, I’m gonna grab the door as a shield. There’s also another thing with a parking meter. Grab it and pull it out of the ground, and you’ve got a javelin. You can throw it at a guy — well, wait, two guys — and impale them both with the meter, spearing them to the wall. So the environment becomes a part of your arsenal. You feed that into the powers; there are certain powers for throwing things, certain powers that channel the Darkness powers through your guns. There’s lots of different ways where you can make each area into a combat recipe.
It looks like this game nails the same dramatic tone as the first. For instance, you’re dining in a restaurant with two blondes and, all of a sudden, all hell breaks loose. Jackie basically has to fight for his life to get out of there.
Actually, what’s interesting about that scene is that Jackie has been suppressing the Darkness for two years following the events of the first game. He wasn’t happy with what happened, and he has an antagonistic relationship with the Darkness. So through that whole firefight, the Darkness is laughing and saying, “Release me, or you’re done,” right? So ultimately, at the end of that sequence, Jackie is forced to decide between dying and releasing the Darkness. We actually present that twist to the player. The first level of the game, you get that opportunity. And once you do release it, you get into this psychological game where its voice is in your head, talking to you, and you’ve got Jackie pushing back and stuff. So it’s that antagonistic relationship right from the get-go between the two.
That’s interesting. From what we saw in the trailer, some other guy wants the Darkness, but it’s not that easy to let go of, is it?
Yeah, this game is all about Jackie having these tough choices to make. We alluded to Jenny being back in the trailer we showed, and so there’s some element of Jackie that’s kind of fighting between how he tries to forget her, how she fits back in the story, what’s her role, etc. You’ve got an enemy that wants the Darkness, but he’s gone after Jackie’s whole mob family. His aunt Sarah, Jimmy from the first game, Jackie loves them, and as the don of the family, he has to take care of them. So while this person, Victor, is trying to take the Darkness from you, he’s also hurting your family. So you don’t want the Darkness, but you have to use it against these guys. There are definitely some complex scenarios for Jackie.
Look for “The Darkness II,” from Top Cow Productions and Digital Extremes, in stores early next year.