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[GC2006] The Darkness hands-on

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 ‘the Darkness’. 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 ‘universally despised’. You’ll see why in the openings sequence.

The big feature that sets The Darkness apart from other first person shooters are the powers you’ll gain throughout the game. You’ll get big tentacles growing from some place on your body. They’re really huge and you’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 there’s more. You can summon little creates called ‘Darklings’. You can give those critters simple orders (attack, move) and they’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 aren’t able to use your powers at any given time though. You’ll have to stand in the dark to absorb ‘darkness’ 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. There’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 weren’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 can’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 they’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. They’re not sure if that would be possible with the regulations Microsoft and Sony have, you’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 they’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 there’s a certain event happening you’ll just have to look at the TV screen and you’ll get the info you need. If you’re bored with a certain cutscene you can just change the channel (or get a Darkling to change it for you) and you’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 don’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 there’s going to be a mode where you play as a Darkling and you’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.

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6 comments on '[GC2006] The Darkness hands-on'

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Sounds interesting, remember that game Demonik, kind of reminds me of that.

Comment by matt on 2006-08-26 23:04:38 | Reply

so when you guys so this behind closed doors, was it running on a ps3 dev or 360 dev? and what version are the screenshots from??

A 360 devkit if I recall correctly. Starbreeze already said that there won’t be a lot of graphical differences between the X360 and PS3 versions… :)

Comment by Jasonic on 2006-08-27 09:30:13 | Reply

I’m a big Darkness fan and really looking forward to this game. With Starbreeze at the helm, I’m confident It will be polished and mind blowing. Bring it!!!

NEY

Comment by Keshicus on 2007-10-30 13:15:54 | Reply

I just got the game and I’m really into it! The controls are a little tricky but you get used to them pretty quick. Awesome Game.

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