I'd seen several trailers for The Darkness a while back and it was never something I found interesting. Mobsters with demon powers? Meh. But then I saw some gameplay footage on Monday that showed something we're thinking about doing for a game at AdultSwim.com, so I ran out and picked it up the next day to see how they handled it.
I haven't finished it yet, so this isn't a formal review or anything, but this game is badass. The opening car chase scene was incredibly grabbing and did some amazing immersive things that as a writer had me literally on the edge of my couch. The realism to many of the conversations is great; in the car chase scene the two mafiosos in the front seat carry on full conversations that you really can't hear for all the shooting and crashing, but that's what so cool about it. They're not saying these things just for your benefit, which is a great step towards realistic characters and situations.
Later I watched in writerly glee as Jackie (the protagonist) visited his girlfriend. You could actually sit on the couch and watch TV with her (which earns you the Romantic Achievement) until she falls asleep on you. There is such common ground there, such human sympathy, that I actually felt guilty for finally getting up and leaving.
Even subway train riders have their own personality. You can see them walking around, throwing away trash, picking their noses...all ways in which they're in their own world, not simply existing for you to talk to them. Unfortunately that illusion is broken if you try to talk to most of them, when they say some inexplicable variation of "Are we good?" but it's impressive nonetheless.
Add to that two badass demon eels coming out of your back that do your bidding and I found the game incredibly satisfying.
It's not perfect and there are some clear holes (like why Jackie isn't the least bit surprised to find that he has demonic eels growing out of his back.) but all in all this is one of the best surprise plays of the year for me. I'm sitting here at work just wishing I was home playing it, which doesn't happen to me all that often.
Now if only the multiplayer weren't so damn laggy.