Why The Darkness Is The Best Game (You’ve Never Played) | A Retrospective

Why The Darkness Is The Best Game (You've Never Played) | A Retrospective

Find out why The Darkness still slaps over 15 years later…

As a kid, did you ever pick up a game purely on a whim? Most of the time it would be some jank shovelware, enticing you in with deceivingly good cover art or endorsements from publications you’d never heard of (sidenote, any publishers who want a UDS quote on their game box, hit us up). But every now and then you’d discover a real hidden gem. That was my experience with The Darkness. Overlooked by many upon its release, this game has since become a cult classic for those in the know. And let me tell you, if you haven’t indulged in its dark allure yet, you’re missing out on a genuinely underrated gem.

Let’s take a look at the story, the gameplay and whether it’s still worth checking out in 2023.

The Darkness gameplay screenshot

The Darkness is ostensibly a first person shooter, but dig beneath the surface and it’s so much more. It’s a tale of love, loss, and unspeakable powers. You step into the shoes of Jackie Estacado, a mob hitman who inherits an ancient and malevolent force on his 21st birthday. This titular ‘Darkness’ isn’t just a plot point, it’s the crux of the gameplay, influencing every decision and battle.

While the supernatural elements might be what entices you in, it’s the heart-rending relationship between Jackie and his girlfriend Jenny that will stick with you long after playing. The game deftly blends moments of vulnerability and tenderness amidst its violent backdrop, something not commonly found in FPS titles of its time.

The first time the tendrils of the Darkness writhed out from Jackie, coiling around enemies and eviscerating them with glee, my 15 year old edgelord brain got the biggest hit of serotonin since I tried my first Red Bull. This was a power trip unlike any I had experienced.

But it wasn’t just about visceral combat. The Darkness enabled unique strategies, allowing you to eviscerate lights (since your power thrives in the dark), summon darklings to aid in combat, and even use ‘Creeping Dark’ to send out a tendril to stealthily take out foes or access out-of-reach areas.

In an era where open-world experiences were just beginning to flourish on console, The Darkness took a commendable step forward. It’s easy to categorise the game as merely a first-person shooter with a supernatural twist, but that would be doing a disservice to its exploratory elements.

The game’s interpretation of New York City might not be as vast as some of the sprawling open worlds we’ve come to know today, but it’s dense, dripping with atmosphere, and meticulously crafted. The streets are alive, bustling with pedestrians, vehicles, and the general hum of urban life. It’s a dark, rain-soaked metropolis that’s both brooding and captivating.

One standout feature of the game’s open-world mechanics is the subway system. Not just a mere backdrop, the subways act as a hub, connecting various parts of the city. You can genuinely board trains, plan your routes, and use them to navigate the concrete jungle above, giving you a real sense of immersion.

The Darkness gameplay screenshot 2

While the central narrative is gripping, The Darkness offers various side quests and opportunities to interact with its inhabitants. From eavesdropping on overheard conversations that flesh out the lore to helping out the distressed citizens of New York, these interactions lend depth to the game. They make the world feel lived-in, providing layers of backstory that might otherwise be missed. I remember trying random numbers in the subway payphone, getting a giddy rush when I accidentally stumbled across an audio Easter egg.

The Darkness may have a linear storyline, but the game often gives players the freedom to choose how they approach objectives. Whether you utilise the shadows for a stealthy approach, go in guns blazing, or employ your supernatural powers creatively, the game adapts, making every player’s experience unique.

But is it still worth playing now? I mean at this point it’d be pretty weird if I said no.

Few games have captured the gritty ambiance of New York’s underworld like The Darkness. The rain-soaked streets, the moody lighting, and the impeccably designed subway system immerse you in a world that feels lived-in.

This is all augmented by Mike Patton’s voiceover work as the Darkness, which is nothing short of spine-chilling. The Faith No More frontman’s whispered temptations and guttural screams lend a surreal quality to the game that elevates it above standard shooter fare.

Among the sea of military shooters and space epics of its time, The Darkness stands apart with its story-driven approach. It’s a testament to the art of video game storytelling.

The Darkness Gameplay screenshot 3

In my countless hours with The Darkness, the game consistently surprised me with its mix of poignant narrative beats and brutal combat sequences. It pushed the boundaries of what was expected in a shooter, creating a game that was as thoughtful as it was thrilling.

It’s a rarity in today’s gaming scene to stumble upon something as singular and distinctive as The Darkness. It’s a blend of horror, drama, and action that deserves its place in the pantheon of gaming classics. So, if you’re looking to rekindle that sense of discovery, or simply in the mood for a game that offers something different from the norm, give The Darkness a go. It’s an experience that remains unparalleled to this day.

But have you played The Darkness before, or are you going to check it out now? Please let me know in the comments below, I’d really love to read your thoughts. And while you’re down there, don’t forget to subscribe for more videos on all things gaming, including a look at that one time Iron Maiden made a video game. Trust us, it’s a thing that happened. But until then my name is Tom, this has been UDS and we’ll see you next time.

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Tom Baker

I like Star Wars, heavy metal and BBQ Pringles.

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