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The Darkness 2: Does a new direction cast doubt?

Hands-On with Digital Extreme's demonic sequel...

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With this new style, not only is everything far brighter but objects and enemies are clearly defined as well, which more or less eradicated the fear of the unknown during our half-hour hands-on. With a cartoon style (a loaded phrase, yes, but used purposefully) it loses some of the grit, grime and seediness that the original had as well.

We should emphasise again, though, that the visuals are going to be a matter of personal preference, anyone coming directly from the comics, for example, will feel right at home. The art style that sticks much closer to the source material than the original and really impresses in that respect.

As far as actual gameplay is concerned, there's no doubt that this is The Darkness whichever way you look at it; snappy shooting, unforgiving odds and extreme (and we mean seriously extreme) violence are all planted into the sequel with conviction.

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Moving beyond what we saw in our first preview of The Darkness 2, we carried out the majority of our violence in that familiar subway system and on the surrounding overground streets. The usual flood of sharp-shooting mobsters were there to meet us, but there were a couple of game defining mechanics also hanging around.

First of all, while Jackie's ability to summon and utilise The Darkness is still dependant on our protagonist being in... the darkness, it's now a permanent fixture. Where the original game allowed players control over when to unleash the tentacles (it's just not appropriate at the dinner table), they now flail permanently until you step into the light, at which point the screen will wash out completely while a high-pitched tone assaults your ears.

It's a way of making you feel not only vulnerable in the light without your extra arms, but uncomfortable as well. It definitely works, a little too well perhaps, since you'll never want to step under a bulb again, even if you're just walking across the street minding your own business.

More importantly, however, control over deploying the tentacles has been taken away so that the player has more control when it comes to the killing: Darkness combat now utilises all four shoulder buttons (one was taken previously as a tentacle toggle switch) for what Digital Extremes is dubbing "quad-wielding" which is essentially two guns, two tentacles and complete, uninterrupted control over all.

PAINTING THE TOWN RED
It means you can get creative with the pain, stringing together combos of death or a "symphony of death" if you continue reading from the Digital Extreme pages. It's a simple system, but there's thankfully still something of a learning curve for ultimate satisfaction.

With a shotgun in one hand, an Uzi in the other and your demonic mates Grabby and Shalshy (actual names, remember) chomping at the bit over each shoulder there are plenty of different ways to approach things.

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Shoot the first goon with the double-barrel, spread a few bullets across those four in the distance and slash another suit in half horizontally with a press of RB and a left push on the right analogue stick. Then use Grabby to wrench a car door from a taxi to shield yourself from the wave of bullets coming your way.

Get close enough and chuck the door at the next gangster before grabbing another, wrapping him up and performing an execution move - we suggest 'Spinal Tap' where the victim's spine is pulled from between his shoulder blades and yanked to pop his head off. We told you it was violent.

But this time, it's not just the mob and some dead war veterans you'll be going up against. Digital Extremes has lifted and put its own spin on The Brotherhood from The Darkness comics. They're a far better match for our hero than some tool in a tailored suit.

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