The Darkness 2 is built around an emphasis on dark, violent storytelling and a complex main character. The game is based on a comic book series and stands out from other games by applying that comic art style to the game itself. This upfront lack of realism makes the bloody combat easier to stomach. If the game were rendered in full graphic detail, it would easily rank as one of the bloodiest games on the market. The first time players tear open a hapless man's ribcage and rip his heart out of his still beating chest they will appreciate the game's comic style in helping them keep their lunch. By trivializing the gore, the game empowers players to feel like incredible engines of destruction without going over the top.
The story is one of the stand-out elements of the game, the main character Jackie Estacado has fully realized his demonic powers and is using them to protect his criminal syndicate and avenge his slain girlfriend. While it might be easy to despise a character with demonic limbs growing out of him, the game is careful to remind players of Jackie's tortured humanity and the true fuel of emotion behind his bloody rampages.
The combat itself also stands out from other games. Most games go as far as a dual-wielding mechanic but this one goes a step further, presenting a quad-wielding mechanic that is seamlessly blended into the control scheme. Players control both of Jackie's demonic limps, while also being able to dual-wield conventional weapons. It may be easy to make such a mechanic overly complex, causing frustrated gamers to avoid the second weapon set. This is not the case with The Darkness 2. The game also awards higher levels of experience for using combo attacks with the demonic arms as opposed to just blasting enemies with a machine gun.
The game succeeds so well mostly because it is not just a senseless arena of slaughter. The story does slow down at times to help the player enjoy its more nuanced elements and characters before ramping the action back up again. These moments of pause give the gameplay meaning.
If players manage to make their way through the intense single-player campaign, The Darkness 2 delivers at the multiplayer level as well. A series of co-op missions and optional stories will keep players working long after the final game credits roll. The enhanced difficulty of the co-op experience means it really does require the assistance of a friend, and it is not just a slapped on extension of single-player.
The Darkness 2 stands out as a game that takes many unique features in both graphical presentation and gameplay mechanics and makes them work well. This otherwise flawless presentation is marred by a lack of polish, including some serious bugs, which break an otherwise perfect gaming experience. Most players, however, should be able to overlook these minor setbacks. The limited edition of the game comes with several worthwhile add-ons, including two in-game character upgrades, a printed portrait, and digital copies of the comics that spawned the game.