Whether you are developing a game, directing a movie, or writing a book, you want to entice people with a great opening sequence that sets the tone for what's to come. 2Dark has without a doubt one of the most disturbing and dark openings to any game I’ve played, establishing a psychological tension that doesn’t let up until the end credits.
With Mr. Smith’s wife brutally murdered and his kids taken from him seven years ago, players must uncover evidence that will lead him to the captors and with hope, his children, if they are still alive. It’s quite clear from his disheveled appearance that finding his kids or at least finding closure from the psychopaths that took them is his number one priority. The incident certainly has awoken the demon inside him, as his home contains many hidden secret rooms, including a personal shooting range. Although your revolver is a powerful tool in taking care of foes, ammunition is scarce, and shooting does tend to attract unwanted attention.
Mr. Smith utilizes stealth mechanics to infiltrate some cliche horrific places, such as a rundown amusement park. While the environments and the dim lighting keep the tension high, the trial and error gameplay hampers the experience. Slowly walking through unlit hallways and dark corners is an excellent way to sneak up on your foes, however, most of the time you have the chance to meet your untimely demise due to instant death spikes or pitfalls. Herein lies my primary concern with the game, as 2Dark does not make use of checkpoints or autosaves.
Although you can smoke a cigarette to save at any point manually, Mr. Smith doesn’t care for his health, the sheer amount of instant death hazards in the game means you’ll likely be saving every couple of minutes.To help you find your way through the maze of corridors, you must collect batteries to power your flashlight or rely on your lighter to dimly light a small area in front of you. Besides the environmental hazards, there spiders and rats that will constantly pester you at the worst moments. Without actually causing harm, they are more of a nuisance than anything, as trying to deal with them increases the amount of noise you generate.
Your priority is to collect information to advance the plot from the unique designed psychopaths in each level. However, you also want to rescue any children that you come across. Now, kids have always been off limits when it comes to violence in video games, but in 2Dark they are frequently locked up in horrific locations, tortured, and even killed. One room I came across in particular was covered in blood with bones piled in one corner of the chamber. The children will painstakingly follow you, and you can either chose to have them stay put or follow at any given moment. Tossing candy on the ground is a good way to get them to follow you, but you can also put them up and carry them to the exit if you are in a rush. Try to avoid any dead bodies, as they will scream, causing nearby foes to come running towards you.
On the left side of the screen, you can scroll through all the items that you have in your possession, however in the heat of the moment, trying to find the correct item can be a hassle. The action doesn’t pause while searching for an item, and trying to combine items, either to reload the game, add additional batteries to the flashlight or even saving can become frustrating. Direct combat with melee weapons isn’t worth the effort, although it is a requirement at times. There is no one-time kills or knockouts if you sneak up behind anyone, and trying to trade blow for blow will most likely end up with you dying. When you do take damage, you’ll see bloody areas cover your voxel-based character. The more damage you absorb, the more you start to look like a bloody walking corpse.
The reliance on trial and error gameplay does a disservice to the disturbing setting that 2Dark creates. The lack of checkpoints is frustrating, and I fail to see how having them would have harmed the game’s tension. Simply having to replay large sections of levels or stopping to manual save after every room just isn’t fun. The combat could be improved if bonuses were provided if you were able to sneak up behind someone, but as it stands, melee attacks are too weak to be effective.
Note: The 2Dark review is based on a digital PlayStation 4 copy of the game, provided by the publisher.