The Darkness: Random thoughts on single player

Instead of camping outside of the Apple Store for a phone I can’t afford, I’ve been poring over The Darkness, which a lot of people have on their must-have summer game list. The top question I’ve gotten from people who have seen me on Xbox Live is: Is it worth buying. I get nervous every time the question is answered, because it feel strange putting dollar amounts on an experience. I’ll try to do my best here.

If you want some background on The Darkness, you can visit the Web site.

Lots of FPS games were made to play with friends, people who would enjoy the company of planting heated slugs right between each others’ eyes. Nothing brings people together like watching one buddy saw another in half.

However, The Darkness is one of those games that’s best enjoyed alone — lights off, headphones on. If you’re looking for a truly visceral single player experience, then the people at Starbreeze have just given us some of the the best stuff out there. Compelling characters, powerful storytelling, excellent visuals and some nifty gameplay — it’s reminiscent of Chronicles of Riddick, and further solidifies Starbreeze’s FPS gaming identity.

This is the one of the most visually enjoyable games I’ve seen since maybe Gears. I try not to stop and look around too much when I’m playing an action game, but I couldn’t really help it with this game. Three-fifths of the game takes place in New York City, and the game goes a great job of capturing that gritty — almost grimy — atmosphere the city takes after hours. The lighting is fantastic (as it should be, since it plays such a huge role in the game), and the amount of detail (such as the varied graffiti in the subway, or how the lit directory signs are just a little too bright to stare at) is staggering.

The fun carries onto the Darkness powers as well, especially when you control your demon head and have to navigate it around corners or through little cubbyholes to spy on enemies and/or kill them. Mostly kill them … painfully. The demon head will both tear out the throat (or face) of an enemy, and can also plunge into someone and rip out their heart. By the way, the game is rated M for Mature — so don’t get this for your 11-year-old. I found the demon head a little tricky to control at first, since it can literally go up, down and around walls and corners — this made the camera angle very funky at time, so I had to retract my demonic buddy and start over more than a few times.

I also thought the “demon arm” power was pretty cool, but I wish it had better functionality when it came to throwing stuff. I used it mainly to break lights and impale the occasional bad guy. The Darkness “guns” became my go-to weapons, especially the left one, which fires some kind of super-bullet that kills instantly and leaves a nice hole in the wall. My favorite power is easily the miniature black hole, which I used to take out small groups of enemies. If you conjure one up in the right spot, it almost looks like your enemies are stuck in a giant dryer at the laundromat — they just tumble around until you “detonate” the hole or your power runs out. Detonate it at the right time, and the bodies (as well as the other stuff that gets sucked in) flies all over the room.

Continue reading

Back from vacation …

Lots to catch up on …

Johnny_sue_fusion1.jpg

This is the first time I’ve seen my desk in about a week, and the first thing I see is a copy of “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” in every practical form. I took home the 360 version and put in a few hours over the weekend. Considering how horrendous the last “F4″ game was, it’s easy to say that expectations were not high.

Well … it’s definitely a lot better than the first one. I know that’s not saying much, but it at least has elements of games that I liked, such as “Marvel Ultimate Alliance.” You’ve got some decent co-op combat, a somewhat friendly control scheme and the occasional changing up of the game modes. I don’t want to spill out too much here, since I want to save some words for the actual review. So far, I’d have to say it’s a been perfectly average experience.

The one game that should be on everyone’s radar this week is “The Darkness,” which could snap me out of my FPS funk. I’ve been a little burned-out on first-person shooters, having binged on “Rainbow Six,” the beta for “Halo 3″ and then “Shadowrun.” Run-and-gun this, run-and-gun that, bunny hop, bunny hop, boom headshot — I actually started to foster ill feelings toward the genre in general. I was almost done.

Then I got to see “The Darkness” a few weeks ago at The Mondrian hotel with 2K Games. I knew it had a chance to be good, seeing how it was made by Starbreeze. But I wasn’t expecting it to look and feel the way it did in that hotel room. We discussed it at length on AGI, but I think it’s also worth mentioning that this game — along with Bioshock — could end up being unfairly overshadowed by Halo 3. Everyone likes to buy games with numbers after them, you know.

I’d love to post some of the video I’ve been sent, but it’s pretty violent, and parents probably wouldn’t be too happy with me putting up video of demon heads tearing hearts out and blood splattering everywhere. Call it a hunch. However, I can’t stop you from going to the Web site.

Then there’s Bioshock, a very creative FPS that puts you, a plane crash survivor, in the heart of an underwater utopia. This utopia was created by a guy who seems like Walt Disney from hell, and it’s filled with weirdos and creepy little girls. I got some hands on time with it not too long ago for a three-hour demonstration, and I was pretty blown away.

ferris_wheel_finished.jpg

As I said before, the world you play in is pretty twisted, but you’ve got plenty of strange firepower (and some cool chemical upgrades) that can help you survive. You’ve also got access to some special powers, such as electricity and fire. The environment can be used as a weapon — for instance, if some jerk is standing in a pool of water, you can hurl some electricity and fry the sucker. I’ll get more into it as the game gets closer to release.

After The Darkness, I’ll try to spend some time with Transformers, the game based on the Michael Bay movie coming out. We’ll see how that goes. I’ve also got the screening for “The King of Kong” this week.

The Agency. I’m in.

cassie.jpg

Agency.jpg

Sorry I haven’t posted in forever, but it’s been a busy week or so in terms of gaming. So here’s to spilling out some thoughts I’ve been carrying around.

First off, I’m liking what I see and hear about The Agency, the MMO from Sony Online Entertainment that could very well be one of the reasons I sacrifice part of the paycheck to invest in a PS3. If you know me as a gamer, you’ll probably guess that I’m not a fan of MMOs. I don’t do EverQuest, WoW, Lord of the Rings, what have you. I’ve seen enough dragons, orcs, magicians, castles and elves in movies and other games to know that I don’t want to spend chunks of my day hanging out with them. Plus, I did a story on EverQuest addiction for the Sun, and I can’t help but keep thinking of it whenever the subject of MMOs comes up.

That said, I want to get a piece of the Agency. The people of All Games Interactive snagged an interview with the developers the day the non-disclosure agreement expired, and it was one of the better interviews we’ve had since I’ve been there. Good stuff. You can hear the passion in their voices as they talk about something that could really be special. You’ll probably be underwhelmed by the screen shots, but the thing about MMOs is that there is so much more to take into account than looks. I’d rather have an OK-looking game that plays great than a sweet-looking game that moves like molasses. I don’t think I’m alone in that statement.

So, what makes The Agency special? First off, no elves or orcs to be found — this is a modern MMO that focuses on the world of espionage, with two different “spy” factions. You’ve got the mercenaries, who come in with guns blazing and leave nothing but a trail of bodies and fire in their wake. Then there are the spies, the gadget-using, fast-roping, Bond-esque operators that use stealth to get the job done. You can also set up a network of operatives, get stuff like cars airlifted to you (the game doesn’t take itself too seriously), and even make game decision in the real world — for instance, one of your operatives could be kidnapped and helo hostage, and you;d get a text message on your phone asking for ransom. You could theoretically press 1 to pay the “money,” or press 2 to let your lackey perish.

One of the foremost questions on gamers’ minds is this — do we have to subscribe to play this? Sony has long been an advocate of free online play, and the devs on AGI were somewhat noncommittal when asked this question. My thinking is this — it depends on the price. This is an experience that one can’t get on Xbox Live, so I would pay to experience a game that I can’t get anywhere else. But if the price is something like, $10 or $15 dollars per month, then I’d probably pay for a month, maybe two, and then call it a spy career. I can’t really rationalize paying $180 per year for a game I own.

Which also brings up another question — what form is this going to take? Will I be able to download it, or will I have to pick it up in the store? Would I be able to use the person I create in PS3 home?

Lots of questions to be asked, and I hope to get them answered in the near future.

I wish I had more time … I actually start my vacation tomorrow, but I still need to spill the words out about my experience with The Darkness, All-Pro 2K8 and eventually, Bioshock. Today, it’s off to the EA pre-E3 event in Los Angeles. I’ll have all that the next time I see you. ‘Til Then.

The King of Kong trailer

If you don’t know what ‘The King of Kong’ is, this trailer will help you out. If you’re a gamer, you need to see this movie when the chance arises. It’s one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen, and it proves that truth really is stranger than fiction. I had the chance to see it at a screening a few days ago, and I’ll gladly talk more about it if I get the chance to write about it for the paper. Enjoy the trailer.