If there’s anything more certain in life than death and taxes it would be video game remasters. There’s been over 20 video game remasters of last-generation games released on current generation consoles with no end in site. While some video game remasters like Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection and Gears of War: Ultimate Edition have managed to live up to their claim, others barely scratch the surface of the next-gen hardware they’ve been ported on.
And then there’s the next-gen, high-definition, super duper ultra deluxe remasters that actually run worse than the original version. The less said about those remasters, the better.
With the release of Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition from THQ Nordic and Gunfire Games, it’s easy to be pessimistic about another video game remaster. After all, it was only four years ago when the original game was released on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii U. However, the original release of Darksiders II did have some technical flaws such as screen tearing, so there was room for improvement. Also, this remaster was worked on by the developers of the original Darksiders II, as Gunfire Games is made up of employees from the now-defunct Vigil Games. So, anyone worrying over a potentially lazy port that was outsourced to a no-name studio need not fear.
The questions remain, however: Is Deathinitive Edition the real deal? Before answering that question, let’s start at the beginning.
Following the events of the first game, Darksiders II puts you in control of Death, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. But this isn’t you daddy’s Death with long, black cloak, and a skeleton body to go with it. This Death, designed by comic artist Joe Madureira, is lean, muscular, and has a Casey Jones-ish skull face and a heavy metal hairdo. He’s on a mission to free his brother, War, by undoing the crime that got him charged in the first place: Erasing humanity. As you could imagine, Death’s task is anything but simple.
The Darksiders games have often been compared to The Legend of Zelda, and based on the first 30 minutes, it’s easy to see why. You begin the game riding your trusty undead steed, Despair, with a running mechanic reminiscent of the Epona carrot system from Ocarina of Time. Then, you encounter a dungeon filled with puzzles that need solving. Such as hurling a Bomb Flower-like explosive at a switch, in order to open a door. After that, you locate a key in order to progress through the dungeon, until you encounter its boss. Very similar. Darksiders II, however, is more than an edgy Nintendo game.
Death’s surprisingly acrobatic moves are similar to the cloaked protagonists in the Assassin’s Creed series. The combat invokes Ocarina of Time with its lock-on, and God of War with its over-the-top violence and quick time events. The various mechanics in this game never come across as rip-offs of others, but rather clear inspirations compiled into a beautiful package.
At first, combat and puzzle solving may seem too easy, but it progressively becomes challenging as the game goes on. Combat slowly becomes more complex as you unlock more “Wrath Moves” – which are special attacks that eat up your energy bar – and acquire the ability for multiple weapon attacks. There’s nothing more satisfying than slashing enemies up with your scythe, than switching to hook hands, and finally finishing them off with a loaded revolver Devil May Cry style.
Dungeons also become larger in scale and demand more for completion than a simple press of a switch. There’s still a straightforward sense to them, however, so there’s never a directionless moment in the game. As brutal as Darksiders II may appear to be, it’s actually very forgiving. Your destination is clearly marked on the mini-map like in any sandbox game; pushing the L3 button has your birdy friend clue you on what to do; and it’s possible to fast travel out of a dungeon, so you can restock on health potions, and return to your previous position.
The world of Darksiders II is horrific, vibrant and vast. Characters are large, but welcoming. Everyone is terrifically voiced, including Death himself, who is played by Michael Wincott. The soundtrack is distinct, with a touch of Zelda at times.
With that said, this remaster isn’t perfect. Although the screen tearing from previous releases has been resolved, the graphics in Deathinitive Edition aren’t a huge over-hull from the original game. It’s nicer to look at but retains the impression of a slightly beefed up Xbox 360 game. Colors and lighting have been redone for the re-release, but moments where these graphical details would unnaturally recede spoil the mood.
Camera angles can also betray you at times. Trying to lock-on an enemy with the L2 trigger, while initiating a Wrath move by pressing the L1 button and one of the four face buttons is impossible. Having the option to lock-on enemies with the touch of the L2 trigger, instead of holding it all the time, would have solved this problem. Alas, there’s no option for that in the game.
Getting back to the main question at hand: Is Deathinitive Edition the real deal? The answer is yes and no. No, Deathinitive Edition doesn’t take full advantage of the PS4 hardware. However, it’s not a last-minute port. All the goods of “Darksiders II” are here, and some of the bads from previous releases have been amended. Not only does this release includes all the DLC made for the game, but it implements them seamlessly into the story. At $29.99, Deathinitive Edition is an attractive purchase for anyone that might have missed out on the original release. Or, anyone itching to revisit their time as the Grim Reaper.
Sometimes, a remaster doesn’t always have to be filled with bells and whistles. If the fun from the original game is preserved, then it’s a job well done.
Darksiders 2: Deathinitive Edition
Initial release date: October 27, 2015
Developer: Vigil Games, Gunfire Games
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows
Publishers: THQ Nordic
Game Review: Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition for PS4
Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition takes the 2012 game and remasters it for current systems like the PS4. The game itself is entertaining with its darker take on the Legend of Zelda series, as well as weaving mechanic from other games and turning it into an alluring basket of fun. What’s disappointing is that Darksiders II doesn’t take full advantage of the PS4’s capabilities, aside for a few minimal adjustments to the graphics.