The Darkness II: Vendettas

Vendettas is an alternate mode designed primarily for cooperative multiplayet, but fully playable as a single player experience. Well. Nearly fully playable, as the Hit List includes a few missions that actually are multiplayer-exclusive.

I actually originally expected it to be a fairly limited experience, one that I wouldn't find very enjoyable and give its own post just for completeness' sake. Instead I ended up sinking far more hours into it than I did into the main campaign, because it's actually fun and good. I figured I'd play the characters enough to talk about what they're supposed to be about, and instead I played all of them through the Vendettas' campaign, and then moved on to the Hit List missions because I was still having fun. This is all in single-player, mind, when the mode is first and foremost designed for multiplayer! I may yet give multiplayer a try, assuming there's anyone else playing online in this 7-year-old game, which so far there hasn't been anyone so I'm not holding out hope here.

The Vendettas campaign has a real story that actually occurs alongside Jackie's story, and to my immense surprise it's basically just better than the main campaign. The plot bits are quick and to the point, and actually entertaining. It helps that Bradford's character is focused on by the Vendettas campaign, but even when he's not involved things are still enjoyable in their own right. Even the gameplay is more interesting: where Jackie is this unfocused mess and suffers from the game seeming to be assuming you went straight for some of the best level purchases, the four Vendettas characters have clarity and levels have to be designed to be doable with any of them, forcing the game design to keep things in a more consistently manageable range.

Oh, there's still issues, such as how boss fight design remains consistently infuriating (Aside its final boss, which is bland but ultimately inoffensive once you've figured out the basics), but they're much less intrusive, and many of the most egregious offenses in the main campaign are minimized in various ways. Shield dudes, for example, remain just as horribly-designed, and in fact the Vendettas characters can't tear the shield off so they're actually more problematic in theory, but most likely due to exactly that point they're far rarer than in Jackie's campaign. I also suspect some of the more annoying elements of Vendettas are only really a problem in single-player: boss fights in Vendettas are pretty bad about locking you in a cage match with a foe who has way too much health, does damage really quickly, almost never flinchs when you shoot them up, and you have no way to get additional health... but in multiplayer, players can revive downed players and of course having four players means having far more firepower able to be put out, so I imagine that in multiplayer boss fights are frenetic and chaotic rather than a tedious slog where a few seconds of less-than-perfect play force you to restart the whole slog from the beginning.

I'm genuinely impressed by Vendettas, especially since it's the sort of alternate game mode I'd usually expect to be very obviously hacked-together. There's shades of hacked-together-ness that become more obvious as you play through it, such as how enemy dialogue retains a lot of the horrified lines that Jackie's Executions will provoke, even though most of the lines make no sense with most of the Vendettas characters, or even more bluntly how several cases of male-gendered pronouns are always used even if you're playing Shoshanna in single player, but it's shockingly polished, in addition to being just plain more interesting and enjoyable than the main campaign. Heck, even the characters are more interesting than Jackie, for all that they lean heavily on stereotypes; I'd enjoy a story centered around a colorful cast of Darkness relic-using semi-underground psychos doing their thing, where Jackie's story made me want to punch Jackie, punch the writers, and punch whoever decided the asylum sequences should be such massive time wasters in particular.

Each Vendettas character has a unique weapon that never runs out of uses, permanently eating up one of their one-handed gun slots but filling a role akin to Jackie's demon tentacles in terms of ensuring you never end up reduced to just pistol-whipping people. With the exception of Shoshanna's Arm of the Night, these unique weapons can't be single-wielded: you access them solely through dual-wielding. Additionally, each character has an innate passive quality and an innate activatable ability to further set them apart from each other.

The Vendettas skill trees are very abbreviated, and somewhat repetitive. Every character has three sub-sections. (As opposed to Jackie's four) In every case, one of these sub-sections is three skills that make guns a little bit better, no deviation whatsoever. Another sub-section is where the character's activatable ability's upgrades sit, and this actually varies across characters to suit their unique activatable abilities. The final section is semi-standardized: first you take a skill that makes nearby allies have more maximum health (Useless in single player, as far as I can tell), then you have three paths. The left path will be purchasing and then upgrading an aura whose effects are unique to that character. (Exception: Inugami's aura is inexplicably in his middle lane) The other two paths are more variable, but in each case the middle path's endpoint is that you gain temporary invulnerability either when destroying hearts (Shoshanna and JP Morgan) or executing people (Jimmy Wilson and Inugami), while the right path's endpoint will always be that destroying hearts and landing lethal hits with the character's unique weapon adds charge to their activatable ability if it's on cooldown.

Note that an activatable ability that's in progress does not benefit from this effect. You'll need to wait for Gun Channeling/etc to run out before you start going crazy trying to recharge it with hearts, assuming that's feasible. Conversely, don't leave corpses alone with the intention of saving them for later: I'm not sure if they just time out in general or if the game is fond of 'cleaning up' corpses that are outside of your line of sight for more than a certain amount of time, maybe even both, but in any event if you head out into a firefight and then turn back 30 seconds later to snack on hearts you're probably going to find that all the hearts you were expecting to help you are already gone, corpse and all. I'm talking single-player here, keep in mind, not even getting into heart-stealing in multiplayer. You can hold off briefly, such as if you're in the middle of a firefight and actively taking damage and want to wait until the healing element will be more meaningfully useful, but only briefly.

Also, a curiosity of playing the actual Vendettas campaign is that the gun set you end a level on is the gun set you begin the next one with. This isn't true in Jackie's campaign, and there's no equivalent behavior for doing the one-shot Hit List missions.

Another mechanical note: heart destruction and Executions in Vendettas are far more convenient than in Jackie's campaign. Being in light in no way interferes with either, and Executions are one-button affairs: there is no intermediate step of grabbing a vulnerable enemy and hopefully not accidentally tossing them instead, you just push a button when you're in their face and they're vulnerable and they die. It's a far smoother experience, and makes light much less maddeningly problematic.

Speaking of light, it's less big of a deal. The only two things that matter about it, broadly speaking, is that you can't activate an activatable ability if you're currently in light, and that your cover shooter health regeneration doesn't function while in light. Well, that and the audiovisual difficulties being in light imposes, but my point is that unlike Jackie you aren't actually cut off from a host of baseline capabilities the game intends to be your bread-and-butter.


Weapon: Arm of the Night. It's a pistol that has to reload every 4 shots by default (One of Shoshanna's skills extends the clip to 6 shots), but its overall ammo is unlimited. (If you pay attention to the reload animation, Shoshanna pops open the chamber for a second and all that happens is darkness apparently flows into it. It's actually a pretty cool animation) It can also spend ammo to charge up for a single burst of damage by holding the fire button, with the big burst mechanically seeming to basically be a shotgun blast, though I'm pretty sure each individual shot is still harder-hitting than if you fired them off in the normal way. This is a godspend against teleporting enemies, minimizing time wasted on trying to find them again. The Arm of the Night also fully reloads anytime you destroys a heart, so if you're good at landing charged shots you can largely skip the vulnerability of a proper reload.

Passive: Quick Reloading. This is a bit disappointing, honestly, as it's meaningless on the Arm of the Night itself (There is no baseline for the weapon to compare against), and even when I grabbed it in the main campaign on Jackie I honestly couldn't tell if it was having an effect. I think it does, but too small of one to be obvious. It's thematically appropriate with Shoshanna's gun focus, but it's still... underwhelming, and it doesn't help that Shoshanna can skip reloading the Arm of the Night by destroying hearts and can skip reloading any gun by activating Gun Channeling, rendering a quicker reload animation even more dubious in its real utility.

Activatable: Gun Channeling. Gun Channeling temporarily enhances the damage from any guns (Including the Arm of the Night), and shots fired while it's active consume no ammo. In fact, the act of activating Gun Channeling will instantly fully reload currently-held guns! Note that the Arm of the Night can't be charged up while Gun Channeling is active; remember to just keep mashing the right mouse button to rapid-fire it.

With skill purchases, Gun Channeling can become an amazing room-clearer, as Shoshanna's skill pruchases include the ability to see and shoot through walls and the ability to automatically acquire targets without player input if you're duel-wielding while Gun Channeling. The two effects combine especially well, as the game is erratic about actually revealing enemy's behind walls to the player, but the auto-targeting recognizes such targets on its own perfectly reliably. As such, you can 'spray and pray' and so long as you move your view around you'll almost certainly kill a bunch of enemies.

Note that the auto-aim effect does not hit anything anywhere on your screen. It's a fairly generous circle around actual targets, but you do need to be kind of right, hence part of why I'm saying you need to move your view around for the room-clearing effect.

Also note that enemies killed with Gun Channeling leave no corpse, and thus no heart. This can be inconvenient if you're low on health and trying to get it back up, though generally it's safer to clear a room of enemies and then use the remaining enemies to heal so it's not too big of a deal.


Shoshanna is probably the most 'balanced' character, in that her capabilities work out to long range but she still overall performs better in close, thanks to the shotgun-like effect of charging the Arm of the Night. As such, she performs well in most situations, or at least passably. That said, I have the impression she's balanced around when you get Gun Channeling maxed-out; the difference between early-game Shoshanna and more-or-less maxed-out Shoshanna is much starker than with the other characters, and the Arm of the Night is only not the clunkiest of the weapons to use because Jimmy's Dark Axe is buggier.

Notably, she has the easiest time against the final boss in single-player, as you get a constant stream of heart removals to maintain constant invulnerability and rapidly feed back into Gun Channeling, which is the only activatable ability that works at full functionality against the final boss.

Shoshanna is also the character most dependent on playing the game like a proper cover shooter. The Arm of the Night encourages her to duck behind cover, wait until she has a shot charged, and then pop out to kill someone before getting back to safety to do it again. She's also easier to overwhelm with groups of enemies, particularly melee enemies, than the other characters, especially if you're not comfortable dual-wielding since she's the only character who can't do damage to groups with her unique weapon and only her and Inugami lack a way to temporarily take a target out of the fight non-lethally, which Inugami makes up for through sheer lethality on each of his strikes while being able to swing his sword at a decent speed. You don't need to disable a target if you can kill it outright. Shoshanna is stuck making sure to actually use her secondary weapon to keep enemies off of her when she's reloading the Arm of the Night and/or waiting for it to charge up enough to kill what she wants to kill.

Also, one very telling point regarding how she's intended to be played is her Execution animations; she has exactly one animation for Executing a target while wielding a single pistol, and it's a fairly silly animation where she just bops the target on the head a few times with the weapon and for no good reason that kills the target. Dual-wielding, by contrast, has several different Execution animations, and they're all actually plausible for, you know, killing people.

I do wish Shoshanna didn't have her sexist lines, though. I especially wince at the hypocrisy of one of her 'I'm injured lines': "You men and your little toys!" You're wielding a pistol, Shoshanna. It's a magical death pistol, to be sure, but it's still a pistol. It's not like you're carting around a Darkness-powered rocket launcher, or carting around an emplaced machine gun and treating it the way other people treat an AK-47, and it's also not like you're a housewife complaining about men being obsessed with guns. You are also shooting people with a 'little toy'. Given this is one of her most commonly-used lines, it get very grating very quick, and it's part of a broader problem I have with the game of what few women The Darkness II has are defined first as women and if you're lucky they maybe have some other traits to define them.

Still, at least she's not being killed off so Jackie can angst about her. That puts her well ahead of basically all the women in Jackie's campaign.

Jimmy Wilson

Weapon: Dark Axe. Contrary to what you might expect, the Dark Axe is actually primarily a ranged weapon, thrown fairly long distances more than being used in-close. It gets stuck in enemies or the environment, but Jimmy can just call it back, and on its way back it not only gets a second chance to do damage but will actually knock enemies over in the direction it's going, even if they're armored or the like. This includes that the enemy it was actually stuck in takes damage and gets knocked over if they survived two Dark Axe hits. This makes it far easier to deal with eg melee enemies, as if you get the axe in them and then call it back they're going to be spending a good ten seconds getting up -and you can probably cut things short by Executing them before they get back up. He also has a much easier time with shield dudes than even Jackie does, as the axe goes partway into the shield and still hits the shield-holder, letting you inflict damage right through the shield and even interrupt a ramming attempt by calling the axe back!

Jimmy struggles more in firefights than Shoshanna, though, as the Dark Axe has a maximum throwing range that's much shorter than the Arm of the Night's maximum effective range. The physics of its maximum range are weird, traveling in a straight line with no regard for things like gravity up until it's traveled a set distance, at which point it abruptly remembers gravity is a thing and starts falling in a fairly sharp arc. Occasionally this can be used to actually strike an enemy by 'firing' over their cover, but the distance has to be quite exact, and Vendettas maps are generally not designed so you can conveniently hide behind decent cover while sniping someone in some other bit of cover this way. It's a trick shot, not a standard utility.

The Dark Axe is fantastic for setting up traps, as well. Simply hurl it into a wall behind where you expect an enemy to lean out from cover, and when they are between you and the axe call it back. They'll be seriously injured and certainly not contributing to the fight while they struggle to get back up. Since the axe always travels in as straight a line as possible from its current location, you can also move a little if the alignment isn't correct and then call the axe. This can also be helpful in cases where you were actually going for a direct hit and missed. Note that when it's coming back it can hit multiple enemies, as it just clips right through them until it reaches Jimmy rather than getting stuck a second time or the like.

Somewhat similar to the Arm of Darkness, if you destroy a heart or attempt an Execution, the Dark Axe will be instantly called back to Jimmy. (Probably primarily because these animations use the Dark Axe, but whatever) This can be inconvenient if you forget about it, such as if you try to set up a trap and then go to destroy a heart before triggering the trap, but overall it's fairly useful as it means you get to skip the waiting and the recoil caused by the Dark Axe coming back. Not to mention the obvious alternative design decision would be demanding you call it back before you can do such things, which would be awful.

Another useful aspect of the Dark Axe is that it can be used to much more easily deal with teleporters. They like to teleport away when the axe hits them, but the axe stays on them, and teleporters aren't immune to the knockdown effect when it's called back. Since they can't teleport while they're getting back up, this means Jimmy has a much easier time than most dealing with teleporters, as he just knocks them down and then pours on the damage while they're helpless.

That said, the Dark Axe is probably the single buggiest thing in Vendettas. I haven't seen anything game-breakingly awful happen, but if you throw it at anything that's within about 5 feet of Jimmy, the Axe will generally phase right through the object and hit something beyond it, and the physics/animations when it knocks enemies around are really buggy. It's not unusual to hit an enemy with the Axe, call it back, and what happens is the enemy gets pulled so hard they temporarily appear to phase right through their cover to be closer to you, and then the game 'realizes' that's not right and drags them back to the correct side of their cover. The close-range phasing is particularly bizarre/frustrating, in part because like all non-Inugami characters Jimmy's proper melee attack has a very un-generous strike zone/timing, which can lead to situations where Jimmy is basically forced to rely on his gun in a situation he really shouldn't need to, such as if pursuing melee enemies have gotten so close the Dark Axe will just phase through them.

Also, its effectiveness is somewhat lower than you might hope, as Jimmy throws it spinning vertically rather than horizontally. In practice this means the Dark Axe is only slightly more generous in its strike zone than a gun, as the typical reason to miss a target is because it stepped slightly to the left or right, or you misjudged how far they'd step out, or some other horizontal-movement-based issue.

Passive: Dark Armor. It's hard to tell exactly how Dark Armor works on Jimmy, as the game provides no visual cues -unlike Jackie, he doesn't grow demon-flesh armor or get a purple health meter- so among other things I'm not sure if he's just plain passively more durable or if, like Jackie's version, he's only extra-durable in the dark. Regardless, Dark Armor gives Jimmy a lot more room to try out moderately-risky maneuvers, more time to react to enemies, etc. It's probably the best of the passives, to be honest, and in particular is probably just flatly better than JP's passive. If your health goes twice as far, your healing goes twice as far, after all.

That said, Jimmy can still die fairly abruptly if you're careless, so you shouldn't treat his Dark Armor as a licence to go charging at a blob of gunfighters intending to melee them.

Activatable: Jimmy can periodically summon exploding Darklings. They autonomously chase down and suicide bomb on enemies, though their effectiveness is bounded by the fact that enemies can shoot them down, and they're not very tough. They also are on a time limit, and will simply die once they run out. As such, while throwing them out in the middle of an intense firefight is legitimately useful, you can primarily expect them to serve as a distraction in that situation, with any kills they land being a pleasant surprise. They are, however, quite good at killing/softening up melee enemies, who have no chance of taking them out before they detonate and you can just summon the Darklings right in front of them as they charge. Darklings are also helpful for dealing with encounters that involve a handful of teleporting enemies in a fairly wide space, as the Darklings don't have to bother with searching for a teleporter, they just run straight at them, always knowing where they are, unlike the player, and indeed this can help you find where the enemies are if you've lost track of them.

The base value is 2 Darklings summoned, but skills can upgrade it up to 3 and then 4. The other upgrades increase the damage the Darklings deal, and cause their explosions to knock enemies over. Note that you don't have to worry about friendly fire. You can't accidentally kill a Darkling by shooting it, and they can't kill you by exploding on you. In fact, if for some reason you find yourself on top of a cluster of 3+ enemies, it's a pretty good idea to just summon Darklings right into their midst.

Their detonation seems to be a bit buggy. I've repeatedly heard my Darklings explode as many times as their initial summoning count, and then seen one go scrambling past anyway, and at times I'm pretty sure I've witnessed them exploding on an enemy, killing the enemy, while the Darkling carried on just fine. I think they might get to explode twice before they actually die, which would be a very strange oversight if so.

Note that the duration instantly ends if all the Darklings die. If you're thinking about stalling on heart destruction so you can harness the recharge acceleration, you won't necessarily need to wait the actual full duration.


While the Dark Axe is really about range, Jimmy is actually somewhat biased toward melee by two things: one of his skills reduces the damage needed to be able to Execute enemies, and another one makes it so that he's temporarily invulnerable after an Execution. Once you've got both of those, it's strongly worth considering simply charging in against more fragile enemies and moving from one burst of bullets followed by an execution to another.

Outside of that, Jimmy tends to play somewhat like Shoshanna, but with less vulnerability to being mobbed. Your best weapon has a slow rate of fire, so lobbing the Axe and then ducking under cover while you heal off any damage you took/wait to be able to call the Axe back and then wait for it to come back is one way of doing things. Jimmy's tough enough he can afford to break from cover more readily than Shoshanna does if he's got a particular reason to do so, but he also actually struggles more if things get in close than Shoshanna does until you've got the 'Execute more readily' skill because of the Axe's wonky phasing behavior up close, so breaking from cover is initially something you'll probably be doing to get to better cover, not to get into the face of your enemies intending to kill them up close.

He's also better able than Shoshanna to duck out and destroy a heart for a heal and then flee back to cover, but this is true of all the non-Shoshanna characters. Jimmy gets the extended durability making it more likely he has a net gain. JP Dumond has the doubled healing, so same thing. Inugami gets a skill that makes him insanely durable while sprinting, so... same thing, just make sure to press the sprint button.

Overall Jimmy is a bit clunky, in part due to the bugginess, but plenty fun and solid.

Narratively, Jimmy is a giant Irish stereotype, but he's sufficiently over-the-top ridiculous (He's apparently convinced that basically anyone he's fighting is British or throwing their lot in with Britain and thus is a bad guy) that I mostly do find him more entertaining than offensive. Especially since it's amusing seeing one of Jackie's men struggle with understanding him and struggle to handle that lack of understanding politely. I especially like the touch that the devs bothered to give his Darklings their own outfit, in line with Jimmy's overwhelming Irish-ness, instead of just recycling Jackie's British Darkling or the glowing orange Darkling used as an enemy a few times in the game.

JP Dumond

Weapon: The Midnight Stick. The Midnight Stick is less a weapon and more a support tool, and a fairly weird one. When activated successfully, it pulls its target into the air for a couple of seconds, and then they fall and have to get back up. Additionally, it forces them into an Executable state if they're an enemy that can be Executed at all, without any regard to health levels, much like how the Darkling in Jackie's campaign can force-stun enemies, except it even works on armored enemies! And since Vendettas characters don't have to grab enemies with demon tentacles to initiate an Execution, you actually can Execute armored enemies in Vendettas. Anyway, the Midnight Stick does do damage, but not very much, and it's further slowed by how the Midnight Stick takes several seconds to 'reload' after a successful use. If you try to 'fire' the Midnight Stick and there's no available target, it still takes a half-second or so to reload, but it's much quicker.

The Midnight Stick's targeting behavior is unique. It only works out to a very limited distance, and there's no projectile involved at all. Its acquisition behavior merely requires your firing cursor is near-ish to the target, instead of dead-on, and is signaled by a purple smoke effect on a valid target. The Midnight Stick can be fired right through walls, and there's no travel time; you activate it, and the target is going up immediately afterward. The obvious use is thus to pull someone out of cover so you/your team can pour fire into the helpless target, which is where the primary support utility comes in, but honestly the fact that it forces enemies into Execution range is astonishingly useful. JP laughs at melee enemies of any stripe, as he simply hits them with the Midnight Stick and then Executes them before they can get back up. Spotlight dudes are also no big deal -what few there are in Vendettas- as their light goes out until they've gotten back up, and again, Execute them before they get up.

Running from one Execution to another is a very viable way of playing JP in a lot of situations, in no small part because the Midnight Stick's 'reloading' isn't actually interrupted by other actions. By the time you've finished an Execution, the Midnight Stick is ready for your next target, and since you're invulnerable while Executing and get healed by Executions, even a hail of gunfire isn't liable to stop you unless there's a lot of enemies shooting at you.

There are a couple of caveats beyond the harsh range limit, though. Shield dudes stagger when struck, but they're not actually knocked down unless you've already gotten rid of their shield and broken their armor. You can still use the Midnight Stick to interrupt a ramming attempt, but it doesn't trivialize them the way it does melee armored enemies. More frustratingly, ranged teleporters completely shrug off the Midnight Stick so long as their armor is intact, not even flinching -though unlike shooting them with bullets, it does 100% reliably provoke teleporters into zipping about, which can be useful when eg flanked by a teleporter where you need some time to regenerate/reload/wait for Black Hole to recharge/whatever and if they went elsewhere your cover would be perfectly serviceable. The Midnight Stick is also questionable against all bosses, as it can't knock them down, and it can't necessarily even stagger them, with the final boss not even necessarily being targetable by the Midnight Stick. (It's inconsistent; I'm pretty sure it's outright buggy)

Lastly, a bit of a weakness of the Midnight Stick is that it's poor at generating not-experience, sort of, though this only matters when you're still actually leveling a character, which isn't a very important point as character not-experience and skill purchases are kept across all play sessions. (Comparison point: my single-player run Vendettas runs had every character finish the campaign with every skill except the useless aura skills and in some cases missing out on one or two of the gun-enhancing generic skills) In Vendettas, killing an enemy with your unique weapon always generates more not-experience than doing so with other weapons, and since only the final hit counts this is inconvenient-to-impractical with the Midnight Stick. On the other hand, the total for an Execution is generally comparable to the total for a unique weapon kill followed by destroying the target's heart, so as long as you're aggressive with Executions JP is unlikely to be all that badly off.

The Midnight Stick is also mildly buggy, particularly when it actually lands kills. I've had bodies apparently fall through the floor and become completely inaccessible, which is just baffling, and more intuitively I've had bodies launched up through ceilings and become inaccessible that way. The Midnight Stick can also be upgraded to knock down enemies nearby your actual target when activated, and the force behind the knockdown is sufficiently significant that as with the force caused by calling back Jimmy's axe I've seen enemies briefly clip through objects and other silly things, though this doesn't crop up as much as the lost bodies issue and doesn't really impact gameplay particularly.

An in-game tip also claims that meleeing an enemy with the Midnight Stick will knock them down, but I never found myself with a reason to bother trying to do so, so I have no idea if it's true.

Passive: Hearts are worth more health. Destroying a heart gives JP Dumond 2 sections worth of health, instead of 1. This is fairly bland, but plenty useful, unlike Shoshanna's questionable quick-reloading effect. Curiously, it also seems to apply to his Executions, which is in stark contrast to Jackie's equivalent skill.

Activatable: Black Hole. Generates a black hole a set distance in front of JP and a fixed distance above the ground -you can't place it up in the air by looking upward, and in fact if, for example, you're standing on a rooftop and activate the black hole while facing out into the street, it will appear down near the street level rather than just above JP's own current height. Black holes damage all enemies in a decently-sized area (Including instantly breaking lights!), and most enemies are also immobilized temporarily while they struggle to avoid being sucked in by the black hole. If an enemy ends up sucked into the black hole, they die, regardless of actual health, which is strongly relevant because if you launch an enemy into the air with the Midnight Stick, it will be pulled right in and die, even if it's one of the enemies tough enough to survive the entire black hole's duration. Enemies actually sucked into the black hole leave no heart to be destroyed, though occasionally an enemy will be killed by its area-of-effect damage but fail to be sucked in and thus leave a heart behind.

JP himself has nothing to fear from his black hole, and can walk right through it if he feels like it.

Bizarrely, ranged teleporting enemies are not impaired by a black hole. Not only can they teleport out of it, but they can even walk normally and keep shooting at you! Fortunately, they don't seem to recognize the black hole as a damage source for purposes of triggering their 'teleport to avoid damage' behavior, so it's not unusual for one or two to take the full damage anyway, but this does mean you can't treat it as a disable against them. The bizarre thing is that melee teleporters are disabled by black hole, indicating the immunity isn't some weird byproduct of just being a teleporter, and indeed there's one boss who teleports who also gets disabled by Black Hole! Even weirder, the final boss of Vendettas really seems like it should shrug off Black Hole, but it absolutely gets completely shut down for the duration. Between that and JP getting heart-based invulnerability like Shoshanna, JP does surprisingly okay against the final boss in single player.

A weird thing that'll occasionally happen with Black Hole is that some enemy's body ends up midair while displaying a heart to destroy. You can sometimes finagle things so that you can destroy the heart anyway, but usually it's a lost cause. It's not terribly important in practice, just obviously weird and a bit obnoxious.


JP is clearly intended to be more of a supporting character than a single-player character, with the most notable example of this being that he's unique for having a skill that solely serves to help other players that doesn't fit into the standard mold I laid out earlier. (It lets him revive dead players faster; he's a doctor, after all) It's actually annoying in single player, as his invulnerability-from-hearts skill is locked behind it, and the quick-revival skill is really expensive, but on the other hand JP is actually so good at just running from one Execution to another that getting invulnerability from hearts is actually not that useful outside of the final boss fight. So... whatever.

The interesting thing is that JP ends up being one of the most close-quarters characters in the group, even more so than Jimmy! Jimmy's Dark Axe and Darklings are better up close than far away, but they can function far enough out to be perfectly functional in most firefights. JP's unique effects just plain can't go as far out, and so he has to close in if he wants to bring them to bear, instead of it merely being a good idea. It's actually possible to thus play JP as a sort of Inugami-lite who isn't quite so bad at dealing with rooftop snipers and whatnot, weirdly enough.

It's really frustrating in single-player how ranged teleporters are such a huge problem for JP, though. They're already one of the most infuriating enemies in the game, and JP is basically stuck hoping he can get their armor off with Black Hole to make them manageable, which is not remotely guaranteed. To be fair, he trivializes all the other most dangerous enemies, but in this kind of game that arguably makes the design space worse.

Narratively, I actually like JP. He's a voodoo witch doctor black man, which is moderately stereotyping, but he's not handled as some Magical Negro. He's a calm, pleasant doctor who happens to be a witch doctor, which actually only occasionally crops up in conversation. He actually comes across like a fairly realistic example of a modern black man who happens to also be in touch with his roots, at least once you include the context of him existing in The Darkness universe and so his skull-faced stick is an obviously magical artifact powered by elemental evil or something. He's probably my favorite Vendettas character.


Weapon: Kusanagi. It's a sword. Inugami stabs and slashes things with it. Right-clicking delivers a thrust, while mouse-wheel-clicking delivers a slash. The slash comes out faster, but is weaker. If you're playing Inugami right, you should almost never need to use the slash, as the Kusanagi is incredibly lethal even before you take the skill choice that further increases its damage, and it has the unique quality of being possible to 'fire' while in the middle of a sprint. As such, what you should be doing is sprinting at an enemy and initiating a thrust shortly before you're in range of your target, rendering the slower speed irrelevant or even a minor advantage in terms of making the timing easier. The slash is only potentially useful if you're already on top of one or more enemies and it's more important to get the damage out quickly than to ensure that it's lethal.

When I say the Kusanagi is incredibly lethal, I mean that once the damage is upgraded no non-boss enemy can take more than two thrusts from it, with the semi-exception that shield guys will take a staggering three thrusts by virtue of the first one breaking the armor on their shield, the second one destroying the shield, and the third straight-up killing them right through their armor. That's assuming you're actually getting blocked by the shield, rather than instantly killing them when they move it aside to shoot at you. Most of your time as Inugami should be spent sprinting at and instantly killing your enemies, with periodic interruptions to destroy hearts to keep your health up. When I did the Vendettas campaign, I actually found the sword so effective (Not to mention fun) that I actually completely forgot to switch my Uzi for an UMP until I was halfway through the second-to-last mission, because the only thing I was actually using the gun for was breaking lights. (I used my two-handed weapon for the handful of occasions it wasn't possible to reach a target with the Kusanagi)

The damage upgrade also allows the Kusanagi to strike multiple enemies with a single swing. This is both more and less relevant than you might think. On the one hand, enemies don't actually like to cluster that much, and the Kusanagi's strike zone isn't very large in the first place. On the other hand, the Kusanagi's strike timing is extremely generous; normally melee in The Darkness II has its hit timing last for only the part of the animation that is connected to impact sound effects and so on, but the Kusanagi can do damage throughout nearly the entirety of its animations. You can actually initiate a swing, visibly miss the target, and as you reorient suddenly Kusanagi's hitbox overlaps them and instantly kills them. By the same token, even though you'd expect a thrust to only be able to catch multiple enemies if you're literally stabbing through one target to get the other target, in actuality once you've got the damage upgrade it's entirely possible to take a swing at someone, kill them, and as you're turning to face your next victim they die without you needing to initiate a new swing.

Passive: Super sprinting. Inugami's sprint is faster than other characters', and it doesn't require you mash the button to sprint over long distances. (Normally a sprint runs out really quickly, but there's no actual disadvantage to just immediately pressing the sprint button again) Additionally, one of Inugami's skill purchases makes him take drastically less damage during a sprint, indicated by a purple effect at the edge of the screen. The damage reduction effect makes it basically risk-less to run right at a blob of enemies and start cutting them down, as it's something like a 90% reduction and you're going to be one-shotting enemies anyway; once you have it, cover is basically worthless to Inugami, as running right at enemies is usually a more effective way of reducing how much damage you take. Especially since a dead enemy is one that isn't going to hurt you anymore.

Activatable: Swarm. Bug swarms seek out nearby enemies in every direction around you and stun them for the duration of the effect. The actual duration is split across each target; if you catch four enemies, each of them will be caught for only a fourth of the time as if you'd caught one enemy. (I'm inferring here, and it's possible the UI is lying; it seems accurate, but I'm not sure) The forced stun works on every enemy in the game, including bosses (Though you can't Execute bosses), and combos nicely with Inugami's access to 'temporary invulnerability after an Execution'. I think it does damage at base as well, though I'm not entirely sure; if it does do damage at base, the value is too low to matter most of the time. There's a skill purchase that 'improves' the damage, though, and with this upgrade Swarm can actually outright kill more fragile enemies -which surprisingly includes shield dudes!

Swarm's exact physics are difficult for me to parse otherwise. I've had cases where the Swarm jumped to a new enemy when an affected enemy died, but I've also had cases where it really seemed like it should jump and it didn't. I'm pretty sure it ignores walls, but not 100% sure. It doesn't help that generally the Swarm's actions are occurring primarily outside your view.

Swarm seems a bit underwhelming compared to the other activatables at first glance, especially since Inugami's one flaw compared to the other characters is his unique weapon is completely worthless if the enemy is up somewhere you get to more-or-less on foot and Swarm isn't exactly doing a lot to make up for it on that front, but it actually is an extremely good fit to Inugami's preferred strategy of charging right into the midst of the enemy and getting cutting, and what few non-boss enemies are slightly more complicated to deal with than 'apply sword to face once or twice' are trivialized by Swarming them. Furthermore, it has by far the quickest cooldown of the Vendettas activatable abilities; the other characters' activatables can generally only expect to be used once per 'encounter' prior to getting the kill/destroy hearts for cooldown reduction skill, whereas Swarm will often recharge when a battle is only about 75% of the way done. Critically, this even extends to how quickly it's charged by kills with the Kusanagi and heart destruction, to the point that it's entirely possible for Inugami to Swarm three or four guys, chop them all down, harvest their hearts, and immediately be ready to repeat this on another group!

Swarm is also critical to making most boss fights tolerable for Inugami, as bringing Kusanagi to bear against them is usually very dangerous. Swarm gives you several seconds to inflict extreme damage to them before you have to back off and focus on gunplay, and since it actually recharges reasonably quickly the between-Swarm periods don't drag on heinously long.

Like Jimmy's Darklings, Swarm's duration instantly ends once all affected targets are dead. Unlike Jimmy, this lets Inugami be proactive about abusing hearts for recharge duration, as he can deliberately seek out Swarmed victims and kill all of them before starting in on heart destruction. Though the swarm transfer mechanics are sufficiently opaque it won't necessarily work out the way you want.


Inugami plays the way I expected The Darkness II to play once I got past the idea that it would be some pseudo-stealth game. You charge through volleys of fire, you brutally murder people with your unfair Darkness abilities, and you just keep going because you're an unfair murdermonster and they're just mortals.

That is to say, Inugami is fun.

I really love how 'imbalanced' he is: he does one thing well, he does it really well, so well his other weaknesses aren't generally a problem, but he is fairly limited when that One Thing isn't really a good answer to the situation. The final boss of the Vendettas campaign is a particularly good example as it's impossible -or at least very impractical- to melee it, and so Inugami really struggles against it when compared against eg Shoshanna.

Narratively, Inugami surprised me. He's got a notable Japanese accent, and of course he's a Japanese dude using a legendary Japanese weapon, but otherwise he puts me less in mind of the way people stereotype Japanese and more in mind of Japanese-made stories about bloodthirsty warriors. It's interesting.

Inugami also gets the most amusing responses from enemies. Shoshanna tends to have people making sexist remarks at her. Jimmy mostly gets responded to as being smelly and ugly. JP mostly gets responded to with variations on 'voodo is fake'. Inugami instead gets responses like 'this is what happens when kids play video games' and 'we use guns nowadays' -a self-deprecating joke and also a broader allusion to stuff like memes about katanas being way better than they actually are and so on. I especially like the extra layer of funny that Inugami is nonetheless exceedingly effective; usually this kind of joke would've taken a form emphasizing how melee combat isn't that effective when people are wielding guns. Maybe Inugami would've been given a katana that launches sword-beams, as a concession that still keeps the 'cool factor' of wielding a katana. The Darkness II instead gives us not only the meta-humor of pointing out how unrealistic this kind of thing is but then makes it even more funny by virtue of the fact that Inugami is casually cutting these people down.

It even works on other layers! A common criticism is that video games are 'murder simulators', and Inugami is a man running around murdering people while enjoying the act. So the goons can be alluding both to Inugami's use of a katana but also his enjoyment of killing people.

There's a level of self-awareness there that's really fun, and I'd probably have liked the main story if it had more stuff like this and less in the way of Jackie angsting about things I don't care about and/or don't really believe make sense for him to angst about.


And that's all I have to say about The Darkness II. Vendettas is a lot of fun, the main game is not and its plot is bad too.


Popular Posts