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Darksiders 2 review: Epic, brutal, ambitious - but still comes up short

Better combat, varied platforming but spreads itself too thin...

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Weapons too are a scattershot bunch. You can wield different primaries - mostly skin-swaps of Death's customary dual scythes - and secondaries, the latter ranging from slow and powerful warhammers that deform the ground to quick-slashing gauntlets good for dizzying combos. After a few hours you'll see all the basic models, and they all stick to the same divisive art style, but each one varies in utility. No two are alike in power, and you'll come to appreciate their different effects in combat. Sadly, this is where Darksiders II consolidates its status as a middle-tier game.

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ARKHAM CITY - WITHOUT THE FINESSE

Fighting is merely fine, never dull but certainly not up to the standard set by Batman: Arkham City. It's less a case of chaining moves, each successful connection climbing in intensity, and more using the same move over and over, no real finesse or timing needed. Combat is a whirl of indecipherable flailing punctuated by flying globs of purple blood and streaky slash marks.

You'll devise a routine and stick to it. Ours? Spring into a group with the shoulders, launch and juggle an enemy with A or X, peppering them with weak pistol shots, and then finish with some Y/Triangle-based axe or claw action. Special powers disrupt the repetition, like summoning a trio of ghouls from coffins or transforming into an even more garish, 12ft Grim Reaper, but meters take an age to fill so these moments are, sadly, few and far between.

A skill tree puts more meat on RPG bones, letting you unlock moves and increase the power of ones you've got. Those ghouls, for instance, can be enchanted to draw enemy fire, or upgraded to earn you Wrath, Darksiders 2's currency. While more skilful than button-bashing, and more hectic than the majority of action games, it never feels like a pleasure. In Arkham City, you got a buzz from being locked in a room with a dozen foes. Here, you're begging for the door to open so you can duck out.

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Traversal too allows few opportunities to express yourself. It cribs off Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time's much imitated wall-running and scaffold-swinging, only less imaginatively. Leaping from monkey bar to pillar to post is fluid enough, but there's not enough variation, too little spread across too much. You'll instantly de-mystify a room by knowing exactly what to do. How can you not? You'll do it a thousand times. Run up wall, sidle a ledge then cross three beams. Although later devices like grappling hooks vary the functional platforming, it's a lean mix.

The lack of a sprint button is a constant pain...

Defeat the final boss of a dungeon - a corrupted stone guardian on a giant roller ball, a charging beetle with a soft underbelly - and you'll find a varied hub. Double the size of its predecessor, Darksiders 2 pays for its scale. The lack of a sprint button is a constant pain, and even on your horse, Despair, whom you can summon with the shoulders, exploration is slow and side quests take longer than they should. You can remedy this slightly depending on your skill tree, but it remains an issue.

The world itself is made to be gawped at from afar, not least because looming temples and mossy forests suffer jagged edges and screen tearing up close. But it feels churlish to blame Darksiders 2 for suffering the effects of six-year old hardware. Its ambition is laudable and, while it doesn't truly excel in any area - action, platforming or RPG - its lengthy campaign features a succession of engaging, well-realised moments. And, ultimately, in a barren summer free from big game releases, perhaps that's not to be sniffed at.

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The verdict

Darksiders 2 is a sweeping, brutal sequel with an incredible amount to sink your teeth into - but, like the first game, it spreads itself too thin.

  • Thousands of armour pieces and weapons to loot
  • A 30-hour story with a massive world to explore
  • Customisation and skill trees lend RPG-lite elements
  • Convoluted combat requires blind speed over finesse
  • Death moves at the speed of a Segway
  • Platforming's functional but unimaginative
7.5
Format
Xbox 360
Developer
Unknown
Publisher
THQ
Genre
Action, Adventure

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