Anti/Hero

Anti/Hero
Journey Into Darkness

Logan Westbrook | 2 Feb 2010 11:52
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Villains come in a wide variety of flavors, from the good guy led astray to the murderous psychopath. The more complicated the relationship between the villain and the hero that fights against him, the more interesting the conflict. The idea of two opposing forces, whether individuals, organizations or a mixture of both, is a familiar one in film, literature and games. But what do you do when your worst enemy is an inseparable part of you, something that you can neither run away from nor fight?

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Based on the Top Cow comic of the same name, Starbreeze Studios' The Darkness casts you as Jackie Estacado, a mafia hitman who turns 21 on the same night his adoptive uncle and head of the local family, Paulie Franchetti, decides he's had enough of Jackie's defiant attitude and orders a hit on him. As Jackie is being chased through a graveyard by his uncle's goons, the shadowy tendrils of the titular demonic being erupt from Jackie's back, giving him the strength and resilience to escape his pursuers. At first, the plot seems pretty clear: Jackie must take his revenge on his uncle using his newfound supernatural powers to tip the scales in his favor. But as you progress through the game, the reality turns out to be much more complicated. The Darkness proves to be a catalyst for more violence rather than a tool to end it, and the longer Jackie survives, the harder Paulie tries to hurt him.

Jackie is best described as a noble villain. He's a violent man, certainly, but one with certain lines he will not cross and a code of ethics to which he strictly adheres - relatively common traits in the often romanticized tales of organized crime. The Darkness spends much of its first act establishing Jackie's flawed but well-intentioned character and his relationships with others. He frequently meets with older members of the family - none of whom seem particularly fond of his uncle - and he shows a great deal of respect for them. More importantly, the game takes pains to underscore Jackie's love for his girlfriend Jenny: He calls her often to check in, meets with her frequently and, in perhaps the most contemplative "level" to ever appear in an FPS, spends a quiet evening with her at her new apartment.

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