Today, the great console drought of the last few months snaps like a twig with two games: Sleeping Dogs and Darksiders II.
Are they worth your money? So far, two hours into each… oh my yes. Very, very much so.
It’s a shame these two games are going head to head this week because each of them, in their own way, do their genre proud. Very rarely are gamers genuinely spoiled for choice on a Tuesday, but if you’ve got the $120, it’s seriously time to buy both games.
Let’s start with the sequel from the embattled published THQ.
The original Darksiders was a fun dungeon crawler. If the Zelda games are inspired by manga, it was inspired by van art. What stood out about it was the combat system could be surprisingly varied, if possessed of a few annoying bottlenecks, and the writing was surprisingly restrained. War, despite his name, wasn’t prone to just killing people if he didn’t feel it was necessary or people actually apologized to him.
The main problem of the game was under the hood: you didn’t level up your character, you leveled up your weapons by using them. This wouldn’t be a problem except one of the weapons was never worth using, and one of them was pretty much a “get out of fight free” card.
So far, the combat system is much more balanced and you level up your character, not your weapons. And the loot system is far, far more developed. There’s plenty of armor and weapons to monkey around with; the game enjoys giving you loot. And the dungeons are both huge and gorgeous.
The sequel has stepped it up, and in a good way.
Making a video game version of a Honk Kong crime movie such as Infernal Affairs or Triad Election is a tough job. These are movies with a very specific style and very specific way of doing things. Attempts have been made before: Stranglehold being the prime example.
But this… this really pulls it off, so far.
The combat system, which is largely hand to hand, is incredibly smooth. The environmental takedowns are freaking ridiculous: there isn’t a surface, tool, or sharp object you can’t slam your opponent into. The countering system is pretty familiar; when an enemy glows red, press the counter button to drop him.
And yeah, it’s got a lot of the conventions of the open world crime game. But it’s also got some good ideas. It represents your undercover nature with two XP bars: Think Renegade and Paragon. As you level them up, you unlock new melee moves, smoother car robbery techniques, and so on. Screwing up will lower one or the other bar, so you’ve got a lot of motivation to not run around acting like a jackass. The missions for each side are different as well: police missions are more about finesse, criminal missions are brutal.
Oh, and you can also go out on dates. Date two women at once: it’s hilarious.
My one complaint so far is that the vehicle physics stink, although they’re at least functional. Beyond that, this is a great open world game. United Front should be incredibly proud of what they’ve pulled off here.
I’ll have reviews for both games later in the week.