Game Music, Reviews

The Darkness II: Chilling on Your Spine (Review)

April 20, 2012 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook The Darkness II: Chilling on Your Spine (Review)on Twitter

Oh glory! From the Darkness II awakens the horror, walking among us and lingering in smoke and shadow. It will come for you, and when it finds you, it will play the most melancholy melody imaginable — then it’ll probably gut your heart, as painfully and memorably as possible.

How else do you expect the Darkness to regain its health? That’s essentially the Darkness, right? It’s not a big stretch of the imagination to fathom the Darkness as an emotionally confused character, but that feeling fizzles out over the course of playing the game. In reality, the Darkness is often a very harsh and contemptible character, and his music is only harmonious to that feeling throughout the game. The Darkness II soundtrack starts off very grim and slow. For whatever reason, I had a hunch that I would end up forgetting the main theme for The Darkness II. I tested the main theme, to see if I could remember it after playing the game. How does The Darkness II hold out to this test of a memorable melody?

Come this way and read more.

Now in the game itself, The Darkness II starts off with our main hero — Jackie Estacado — who’s a hitman with superpowers. That’s basically it. You can go into a battle, head on like Leroy Jenkins, or you can stealth up (in the dark) like Solid Snake. The objective? Beat up bad guys. I’m not going to get into the story much further than that, unless you want me to spoil the story with the track names. It’s a great game, and if you get a chance to play it, play it.

The game soundtrack mostly consists of battle music. Tons of battle music. Many of these tracks consist of various intensity levels — from stealthy, to full-on-action — all crammed into a neat package. Now, I don’t mind having several tracks with differing intensities, as I run into this a lot on game soundtracks, but sometimes it’s good to have a single track containing all the intensities harmoniously married together over the course of a piece. Composition wise, this is a very difficult task to be able to do. Music is a respectable art that deserves a proper form of composition, so I approve of what Timothy has done in The Darkness II.

Now, as I previously brought up — how does The Darkness II hold out to this test of a memorable melody? It holds out very favorably. Listening to the main theme, it’s a really lucid piece, playing tones that end up being quite ominous. But those tones are what you end up remembering. It coincides perfectly with the game. Its melody lingers, making you feel slightly uneasy. But the piece takes a turn around the end, and I took a liking to how it resolves and finishes. For one, it finishes off with flutes, kind of fluffing up the ending of a dark experience, but just a tiny bit. I liked that a lot. I was sure I wouldn’t remember this theme because its main melody is so slow. I would say there is no main melody but rather an atmosphere that sets the mood, matching perfectly with the game’s environment.

“Gateway to Hell” starts you off on your journey. Banging drums with high-intensive rhythms make for perfect music for fighting! This soundtrack is filled with a good variety of emotions as well. We have “Jenny,” which is such a sweet, simple and beautiful song. Then we have “Angelus,” which is way different, providing a good contrast from other slow and emotional songs. “Angelus” actually reminds me a lot of The Shire from Lord of the Rings. Of course, that’s until the chorus starts in. I want to say it’s a little cheesy, but it honestly fits in so perfectly with the game. It works with its harp, oboe, and everything else. And about midway through, it gets forceful, severe, and passionate. Like after walking a long road, you make a shocking revelation, then the road ends with a reiteration of the main theme. This is why”Angelus” is one of my favorite tracks here, but there is so much more.

An instance where the music isn’t implemented so well comes with “Shades of the Dark.” It’s a good, well composed piece, but it is way too intense with too much chorus and too much action where there is none on the screen. The piece is used in a section of the game where a building is burning. I mean, I understand where “Shades of the Dark” is used and why it is so intensified, but I played that area thinking, “Wow, this music really wants me to get excited about a burning building.” The chorus repeats a single phrase singing a long note followed by shorter note, like “Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa-da.” I couldn’t help but imagine the chorus singing a siren-like “Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan-ger” as I ran through the burning building.

When you take control of a Darkling, “Darkling” is the cool track that accompanies you. One of my favorite things about this track is the horn that plays briefly, sounding naughty and almost dirty. I really like it. It gives the piece some character, like you know who this theme is for; it’s that naughty, dirty midget that follows you around from time to time. Another cool track is “The Deep.” It has this really sick guitar riff playing, echoing left and right, sometimes screeching, sometimes losing its tone. It’s really well done. When the intensity changes, the guitar goes crazy. I love it. The guitar sounds detuned and sick, like the composer took some gloppy goop and threw it into the music, and somehow, everything came out better than expected.

“Echo” is another great action-packed composition along with “Best Served Cold.” These are wild and crazy tracks with violins out of control and some really great composition. There are also soft tracks like “Gone” and “Together again.” “Gone” plays at a confusing moment of the game, and the chords echo this confusion. “Together Again” also has this really beautiful string section around the end that really blew me away. Then there’s “Interrogation,” full of haunting tones. The entire album is filled with these dropping notes that very slowly go down and down into the depths. That was the overall feel I got from the soundtrack.

Overall, I’m very impressed. The Darkness II incorporates a dark tone that’s really atmospheric and game-appropriate. Timothy Michael Wynn is the mind behind the music. You can preview some of the songs from The Darkness II off his website where you can also view some photos from the recording session in Prague. The Darkness II is available on Steam/PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

I’m awfully curious about what other fans of the series thought of The Darkness II. I know the series itself spawned a huge comic book fan base, but what do you guys think of the game, or more importantly, the music?

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