At our last day here in Leipzig we got a chance to check out Bioshock and The Darkness behind closed doors. It all took a little longer than expected but it was more than worth our time. The guys at Starbreeze Studios (no, not Vin Diesel) were friendly enough to show us the E3 demo and a new demo for their upcoming comic based game The Darkness. Irrational gave us a run through on Bioshock but you can read all about that in a later post.
The Darkness is based on a comic written by Paul Jenkins about Jackie Estacado, a young hitman in a mafia syndicate. On his 21st birthday Jackie is possessed by a dark power conveniently called â€˜the Darknessâ€™. Your goal in the game is to gain full control of your new powers to get back at the godfather of your mobster family. This godfather, called Uncle Paulie, is a man who is â€˜universally despisedâ€™. Youâ€™ll see why in the openings sequence.
The big feature that sets The Darkness apart from other first person shooters are the powers youâ€™ll gain throughout the game. Youâ€™ll get big tentacles growing from some place on your body. Theyâ€™re really huge and youâ€™ll be able to control them to quite an extend. You can use them for regular melee attack, you can use them to throw around big objects like police cars and you can use them separately. Think of the outer-body stuff in Prey, you can crawl through tight tunnels and bite of enemy heads while your body is standing still. This was definitely the most impressive power you get but thereâ€™s more. You can summon little creates called â€˜Darklingsâ€™. You can give those critters simple orders (attack, move) and theyâ€™ll help you out while facing enemies. The best part was when we saw one of the Darklings use a pneumatic drill on a police officer. The final power we saw was the ability to spawn a big black hole sucking up everything in the room. You arenâ€™t able to use your powers at any given time though. Youâ€™ll have to stand in the dark to absorb â€˜darknessâ€™ which fades away when you step out of the shadow again. This brings a tactical element with it as you have to shoot lights to create dark areas to hide in.
Speaking of lighting, they are using a next-gen version of the Riddick engine which looks pretty good. Thereâ€™s full dynamic lighting and everything casts shadows. The biggest part of the game is set in New York City but there are some levels set in the Darkness realm but those werenâ€™t available yet. The whole atmosphere was pretty gritty which worked great for the setting. It could get pretty repetitive after a while but we canâ€™t be sure yet.
Starbreeze is also investing a great amount of time and effort into making the game as immersive as possible. They are trying to get rid of the whole HUD system, as they did in Chronicles of Riddick, and theyâ€™re even trying to remove the main menu in your first session. They want you to go straight into the openings sequence without any interference the first time you start the game. Theyâ€™re not sure if that would be possible with the regulations Microsoft and Sony have, youâ€™re obligated to display the ESRB rating at start up for instance, but it would be awesome if they actually managed to pull it off. Another thing theyâ€™re doing to keep you from having to stop your gameplay are little TV screens that are scattered in the world which will display the cutscenes. When thereâ€™s a certain event happening youâ€™ll just have to look at the TV screen and youâ€™ll get the info you need. If youâ€™re bored with a certain cutscene you can just change the channel (or get a Darkling to change it for you) and youâ€™ll be able to watch classic stuff like Nosferatu or Popeye.
It was quite nice to be the thing that scares the rest for once, every move had a pretty sadistic touch to it. And donâ€™t be concerned that it might get too easy, there are a lot of enemies on screen and the guy who demoed the game for us managed to die once even though he was an experienced player.
A multiplayer mode is in the works, the Starbreeze guys admitted that they were playing it daily back home, but the details were a bit vague. The only thing we could get out of them was that thereâ€™s going to be a mode where you play as a Darkling and youâ€™ll be able to crawl on walls and ceilings like you could in the Alien vs Predator series on PC.
The Darkness is being developed for Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 and is set for a release in the first quarter of 2007.