Angels and Demons

If you can overlook its contrived and often-irrelevant story, there's plenty in Darksiders 2's gameplay to warrant a couple dozen hours, especially for fans of the original. You'll even see some familiar faces, though Death's quest doesn't actually have much to do with anything until about the final third. Seriously, it's all pretty random stuff that continuously begs the question of Death's quest-givers, "Can't you just do it yourself?"

But the dungeons are well-designed and varied, elements like ridable stone constructs—like the fantasy version of mechs—and the ability to summon powerful dead lords to help with rudimentary puzzle-solving (I find that hilarious) manage to keep things feeling surprisingly fresh. A later level turns the game into a clunky-but-fun third-person shooter, and not one such far-fetched mechanic ever overstays its welcome.

Darksiders 2 is unpretentious, despite its pseudo-Biblical angels vs. demons trappings, and as a game it's just modern enough. A crow flies with you to show you the way if you get lost. Fast-traveling out of a dungeon to buy more potions sets a waypoint so you can fast-travel right back in. It even catches you up on the last major plot point every time you start it up.

It's rough around the edges; I experienced no fewer than three hard freezes, not to mention the time the sound cut out for a half hour or so. And astute players may notice some muddy textures. On the other hand, the voiceovers—particularly Michael Wincott's performance as surly, wisecracking Death—and Jesper Kyd's mesmerizing score are outstanding.

Don't expect any answers or closure from the ending, though naturally it sets things up for the inevitable Darksiders 3. But from there, hopping into a new game to level Death up more (and better prepare for the addictive "Crucible" arena mode) is a must, and that just goes to show how good the gameplay actually is. 

A previous version of this review incorrectly named the other two horsemen "Famine" and "Pestilence." We realized they would make lame video game protagonists once Hakster pointed out our mistake.
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