After two disappointing games in my last blog this one should be much more positive! Having enjoyed both of the original games I'd got high hopes for both of the following games and they've entertained me no end.
First up - The Darkness II. The original game was one that took my by complete surprise with its excellent mix of gunplay and close quarter combat with the demon arms. The sequel follows on indirectly from the first game but with a major graphical shift to a completely different look. I was a tad dubious about this but after playing the game for 10 minutes all my fears were put aside as the new look is brilliant. I haven't played many games with this graphic style so it was a much needed change for me after the previous few games I've played. The game is generally pretty colourful and apart from the odd 'brown/grey' indoor scene, the colours are pretty bold and make for a lively game world.
I decided to play the Hitlist and Vendetta missions before the main campaign. I'd had a look at the achievements and these are contained to 250 fairly easy points so thought I'd get my head round the game doing this before getting into the main game with more varied achievements. I think this was my first mistake on this game. The Hitlist missions are not very good and are really just made up of the 'clear this area of bad guys' type which were pretty dull. As a first impression of the game I got bored quickly. Luckily there aren't that many of them so was able to move onto the Vendettas campaign fairly quickly. The four characters have wildly differing abilities and that's where I made my second and last mistake. I picked the guy with the sword and about halfway through the game just got a bit too hard to continue with this character. I decided to take the plunge and restart with Shoshanna and her insanely powerful shotgun that made light work of most enemies. Whilst the story was inconsequential in this mode, there was plenty of enjoyment to be had.
I'd already spent more time on the game than I'd thought I would. I was expecting a 6-7 hour campaign so was surprised there are almost two games in one. By this point I was really hoping the main campaign would impress me even more and I wasn't let down by it. It even starts great with the cut scene explaining what happened on the previous game which was scripted and acted really well. It's been a few years since I played the original so didn't go in with any major expectations which I think made it better to be surprised all over again by its quality.
It took me a while to get into the story but by the end I was totally engrossed in it. I actually questioned a number of times which is the actual reality - Jackie as a psych patient or Jackie with the darkness powers. Although the game is obviously leading you down the darkness route, it really doesn't let on which is the truth. It's not even a particularly new story mechanic but it was just done so well that it's now one of my favourite game storylines from recent memory.
The gameplay itself played second fiddle to the story which for me is a complete turnaround from most games. The guns are pretty standard fare and don't offer anything new you can't find elsewhere. They are useful for the entire game so I'm pleased you get the option to play using just guns if you want, or you can turn to the darkness in an hour of need. The one thing of note for me regarding the demon arms is the way it offers a different take on health. I'm pretty tired of the regenerative health format we see in almost all games now. It doesn't add much of a sense of urgency to dispatch enemies and gone is the desperate struggle to get to the next health pack. This game offers a happy medium in that it your health regenerates to a degree but you need to harvest the hearts of downed enemies to gain health more quickly. This is a great change to the current gaming standard and means that hiding behind a wall no longer resets you back to full health which has never made much sense to me. Games these days actively want you to slow the pace down by taking the time out to regain health whereas The Darkness keeps up a fairly frantic pace throughout.
I've given the game an 8.5 which is a happy medium for me as it's pretty linear but just how I like it. In hindsight I think I could even bump it up to a 9.0 but for the few moments of annoying with the secondary missions I think an 8.5 is about right.
After The Darkness I knew I was in for another great gaming experience with Dead Space 2. It had a lot to live up to with the original being one of, if not my favourite game of the 360 era.
It's been a good few years since I played the original but I still remember it fondly so I was able to come into this one fairly freshly. The sequel seemed to be pretty similar to the original but for me that's not a bad thing. Everything about the game was brilliant and I can't fault it in the slightest. I actually think I've been a bit harsh only giving it 9.0 but that feels about right.
Starting with the game play, it picked up pretty much where the original did similar enemies, similar weapons, and a similar albeit it a more progressed storyline. The story in this was pretty good with the visions Isaac kept having and also with woman he comes across in the 'real' world. It didn't detract from the gameplay but I never wanted to skip a cut scene (not that you could?) which is always a good sign.
The visuals were pretty standard for a second generation game in a series and although nothing was outstanding, the dismembering has always been done well, both visually and mechanically. The locations weren't anything out of the ordinary but the space sections were done well. Getting to fly around in the suit was a welcome break from the gloomy corridors and generally dark interiors. The darkness was fine for most of the game but at some points it just got so dark I couldn't really see what was going on.
The range of enemies from memory didn't evolve much from the first game. I don't remember the weird bomb babies but they were definitely creepy! Was one short on the achievement for them so that was a tad annoying. The range of weapons seemed pretty similar as well but as I love the plasma cutter so much I didn't need any other guns. The plasma cutter was all I used on the original to get the achievement and I barely strayed from it this time.
The puzzles were few and far between and consisted mostly of moving this item from here to there, or simple panel puzzles to find the right coloured light to open a door but they were the only times in the game where I wasn't frantically awaiting an enemy! I did find the little vent quite funny as they just didn't fit the game. Doing one of the puzzles and going between vents really reminded me of The Crystal Maze which always made me smile when I went through one.
I do hope Dead Space 3 isn't as bad as I've heard. It got a fairly decent review on Gamespot so am not expecting a bad game but it doesn't look to have the atmosphere and sense of constant danger/fear that the first two had.
Next up for me are Crysis 2 and F.E.A.R. 2 which are both middle of the road games I'm expecting. I haven't played either of the originals so have nothing to compare them to but am hoping to be pleasantly surprised!