Darksiders is a port of the PS3/360 title that was released earlier this year. As a rabid PC gamer, I am almost always wary of (some would say overtly biased against) console ports. I think it's the bad taste in my mouth left by the botched console dilution of the later games in the Deus Ex and Ghost Recon series. Brilliant PC games neutered to nothingness in a foolish attempt to court a console audience. A game like this, though, is hard to find as a PC native title, so believe it or not, I entered into this review with an open mind.
00.19 wrote a great review of the PS3 and 360 versions, so I'll skip going too far in depth on the basic gameplay stuff. The CliffNotes version is that you are War, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. You're falsely summoned to Earth and start laying waste to everything. You get called to the Principal's office and get reamed out for your mistake. Disgraced, you are able to talk you way into returning to Earth to find out what happened. To fight his way to the truth, War has a Bigasssword™ to start, then as the game progresses you get access to a scythe, a giant ninja star/boomerang thing, and eventually a pistol and your horse.
This is old-school gaming at its purest. Enter area, kill waves of baddies. Fight boss. Enter new area, fight larger waves of baddies. Fight boss. If you've played Heavenly Sword, or any of the hundreds of other action/fighting games like it, this plays exactly the same.
But... it is fun. Mindless, mash-your-mouse-button-till-it-breaks fun. The special moves are entertaining, gorgeous, and easy to enable. Being surrounded by half a dozen demons and laying waste to them with your whirling purple scythe never gets old. The boss fights are as you'd expect. Each has some special mechanic that once you figure out, are not difficult to dispatch.
What's frustrating is that to extend the game without bothering with pesky additional plot, you are constantly diverted on side quests that, amazingly, often involve 20 minutes of linear corridor fighting to get a key then running back to find the door. Party like it's 1990. The action is broken up by nonsensical platform/puzzles that all have a feel of "who would build this and why?!?!" They're often more of a nuisance than a challenge. Like I said, old school gaming.
And while it seems like you can save anywhere, you can't. You get reverted back to the most recent checkpoint. Fortunately, these are quite numerous.
The effects, especially of the different weapons and special moves/combos, are gorgeous. While the environments all too often have a post-apocalyptic ruddy sheen, the visuals and environments are quite good. Character models are highly detailed and are the star of the show. I played at 1,920x1,200 and generally had smooth framerates with only very occasional drops with my NVIDIA 8800 GTX.
The interface is carried over, somewhat poorly, directly from the console version. The mouse is used for some things, but others aspects of the UI can only be adjusted or selected by using keyboard shortcuts. It's not clunky, per se, but definitely wasn't designed for the mouse and keyboard. Thankfully, the controls in-game are far more natural. It plays like a standard 3rd person game, WASD keys and all. You'll awkwardly be using the Alt key a lot (block, dash, and for combos), which started giving me a sore thumb after a few hours. Some aspects, like on one level where you're flying and shooting down other flying demons, are likely a lot easier using the mouse than with a thumbpad.
One aspect, though, that just doesn't work with the keyboard/mouse is the special abilities. To access these power ups (like Blade Geyser, which causes a bunch of swords to jut out of the ground) you need to press Caps Lock, then simultaneously press a number key to select the power you want. The problem is, it doesn't pause the game, so you effectively have to stop all combat and stand still while you press the buttons you want. Cumbersome is an understatement. Nearly unusable is more like it.
So even though Darksiders isn't remotely innovative and is unabashedly a console port, it does have an entertaining story to tell, fun gameplay, and decent graphics. It might not do anything new, but what it does it does pretty well. A quick check of pricing at the time of writing shows prices in the $35-$40 range. For that price, I'd recommend Darksiders if you're into this kind of game or are looking for a simple diversion and enjoy killing waves and waves of pissed off demons.