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How staying out of the light actually helped The Darkness II

The Darkness II is a great first-person shooter from Digital Extremes, but it almost got buried in the holiday gaming season.

Now playing: Watch this: Game trailer: The Darkness II

Deciding when to release a video game involves a carefully planned strategy and knowing your competition. At times it feels like a publisher is watching the cards, observing patterns, and learning when to bet.

2K Games pulled some its own crafty rescheduling when the publisher pushed back The Darkness II from its initial fall 2011 release date to February 2012. It was a smart move on 2K's part because had it been delivered on time, it may have got lost in the ether that was an already overcrowded holiday gaming season.

Now I'm not privy to the actual specifics of why it was bumped, but avoiding military-shooter-mageddon 2011 was the right play--mostly because The Darkness II is a great game that deserves its own chance to step into the light.

2K Games/Digital Extremes

I had been previewing The Darkness II for what seemed like eight months. Each time it would come to New York it would look and play incrementally better, but the final cut is well beyond anything I expected. The Darkness II is an awesome sequel that builds upon the original in almost every way all while telling a dark story that's a welcome change of pace.

The Darkness II continues the story of Jackie Estacado, a New York City wiseguy who becomes possessed by an ancient force known as The Darkness.

The original title was an ultraviolent and an occasionally shocking experience that had a specific grittiness that added to the game's eerie atmosphere. The Darkness II brings in a new developer and with it, a new art style that isn't as gory as its predecessor. Make no mistake, the blood and guts are still present in The Darkness II, but the game's graphic novel-esque aesthetic makes the brutality a bit more palatable.

2K Games/Digital Extremes

Overall presentation is great--the action is broken up nicely with the Jackie delivering monologues that work to segue chapters and summarize plot points. Controls perform well most of the time, but the game suffers at times as a result of assigning too many actions to a single button.

There are also a handful of times when I felt overwhelmed with power as the game allows Jackie to have access to an array of automatic weapons and to use his demonic tentacles for massive destruction. It's a case of too many options, but perhaps also a deliberate move to showcase just how strong Jackie has become.

It's bloody, macabre, and definitely not for kids, but The Darkness II is the great start to 2012 that any gamer could have hoped for. Delaying its release was the right move, as now there's plenty of space for The Darkness II to shine.

2K Games/Digital Extremes