The guards you face will follow predictable routes, meaning most of the gameplay is a straightforward yet dull matter of memorizing their patrol patterns in a room and avoiding any objects that might make noise. In theory, this means you should be able to pick and choose where you'll sneak by guards, but in reality you'll just resolve to rip out the throats of every guard you meet as fast as possible before they notice you and alert their comrades. In fact, this is how you'll play out most Dark's levels. There's almost no freedom or flexibility allowed in how you approach a level asides the "Kill guards, hide a minute, kill more guards" formula. Plus, each section has only one or two routes available to reach their exits, and you'll go through a large amount of aggravating trial and error as you repeatedly die trying to figure out the pattern of guard-murdering and teleporting you'll need to follow in order to win. This repetitive gameplay is one of Dark's biggest and most frustrating flaws, and the requirement to murder your way through every section versus trying to do anything else you might do in a stealth game just adds to the boredom.
In the event an alarm does go off, either because you were spotted or a guard found a corpse you left behind, you might as well just put down the controller and let Bane get gunned down so you can restart at the previous checkpoint. Another of Dark's irritating flaws is how nigh-impossible it is to escape or hide from enemies once they've gone hostile. Almost instantly, you'll find yourself being pinned down and swarmed by almost every enemy in a area, and it takes ages for them to calm down and return back to their posts. If you're really lucky, you can use the alarm as an opportunity to try and kill all the guards in a level since they'll all be bunched up and sometimes approach you one at a time, but since Bane is surprisingly frail for an immortal vampire, you'll rarely be able to survive a stand-up fight with machine gun wielding mercs or poison spitting ghouls. There are some things you can do to avoid detection, but their effectiveness is limited. For example, you can drag corpses out of view, but this requires an annoying switch to a first person perspective and some wrestling with the controls and physics engine that makes it feel more like a chore than anything.
Dark does has some RPG mechanics in play, giving you at least a little flexibility over how Bane progresses through the game. Every kill you make will grant you experience points (plus a bonus if you're able to pull it off without alerting anyone), and every thousand points grant you a "power point" that let you boost specific abilities or powers. The abilities range from increasing your toughness or reducing the noise you make walking around, to vampiric powers that let you leap across the room and instant kill a target. But given how Dark's stealth system isn't really about being a sneaky bastard so much as it is pointlessly killing everything that moves, you'll find yourself ignoring the powers that that improve your stealth and focus more on whatever lets you kill guards as fast and quietly as possible.
Each of your major powers use up one slot of Vitae, which is essentially a mana pool you refill by feeding on some unsuspecting victim. The limited amount of Vitae you can have at any time (through upgrades you max out at four) does add an element of risk in deciding if you'd be able to feed on an enemy and haphazardly drag their corpses out of sight before his friends notice he's gone. But with it being so difficult to avoid triggering an alarm in the first place, you won't bother with that kind of maneuver very often.
Bottom Line: Dark is a title that's full of repetitive gameplay and occasionally stupid-high difficulty, topped off with a lackluster story and dull characters.
Recommendation: If you're really, really into vampires or stealth action games, there are better choices out there than Dark.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.
Genre: Stealth, Action
Developer: Realmforge studios
Publisher: Kalypso Media
Platform(s): PC, Xbox 360