Darksiders 2 is a damn fine game, but does the Wii U and its innovative GamePad make for a better experience?
A Wii U version of Darksiders II was one of the earliest games announced for Nintendo’s new wonder-toy, and one that signalled the intention to provide more “mature” games for their new system than had ever been seen before on a Nintendo console.
It may have been the last version of the game to be released (after the August release of the PlayStation 3, PC and Xbox 360 versions) but it feels like the Wii U edition is intended to be the ultimate iteration of the game.
First things first, let’s talk about graphics. To the casual observer, there isn’t that much difference between the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 or PC version and this one. A few lighting and visual effects look different, but overall it’s pretty similar. I did experience some slight framerate issues when large numbers of enemies were on screen, slightly more than I had experienced with the Xbox 360 version. Another thing I also noticed is that some of the environments are missing minor things such as trees and other environmental features – but that’s something you won’t notice unless you’ve spent a considerable amount of time with one of the other versions (as I have).
One of this version’s new features is the ability to play the game away from the television using the Wii U GamePad. The game looks great when playing in this way, although there are some moments of noticeable screen tearing – though I never found it too jarring.
Meanwhile, when using the television to play, the GamePad can be used as part of the game’s interface, allowing you to manage your weapons, armour and other equipment on the fly without having to navigate the slightly cumbersome pause menus. An image of Death’s face can also be seen on the GamePad screen, and pressing it will bring up a map of the current area without the need to pause the game, which is another welcome feature. Finally, by holding the L bumper the GamePad will view all of Death’s powers and items, which can be touched to activate or equip.
However, the main problem with using the GamePad in this fashion is that all of the interactive icons are almost too small to touch with your fingers. Obviously they’re a little easier to interact with if you use the stylus, but that’s not something you can do so easily mid-battle.
GamePad play also allows for other features, such as the ability to spur Death’s horse, Ruin, by shaking the GamePad like you would a horse’s reigns, a motion feature that actually makes perfect sense and works quite well. While on foot, the same action will dodge, which doesn’t quite work as well and can be performed much more easily by pressing the R bumper. The game’s many instances of rolling stone balls for puzzles can also be performed by tilting the GamePad. For those who can’t stand the idea of motion controls, the functionality can be turned off in the Options menu.
An unusual feature I quite like is the ability to have audio output on both the Wii U GamePad and the television. In this mode, all the sound from Death’s actions and his dialogue is outputted through the GamePad’s speakers, while music and NPC dialogue is played through the television, offering an interesting surround effect. While the sound quality of the GamePad speakers aren’t quite up to par with the television output, I still found this unusual functionality welcome.
If using the GamePad for this type of game isn’t your cup of tea, it is possible to use a Wii U Pro Controller for a more traditional console controller configuration. This is activated by switching the Pro Controller on and pressing Start on that controller on the game’s title screen. There is no in-game option menu for switching controllers, which is a little annoying, and using the Pro Controller completely disables GamePad functionality, blanking the screen. It seems a missed opportunity that you can’t use the map and inventory modes on the GamePad while playing using the Pro Controller.
The last Wii U addition to talk about is the added DLC, as Vigil Games and THQ have added a plethora of DLC and pre-order bonuses as a standard part of the Wii U version. On the disc you can find the Argul’s Tomb and Death Ride’s bonus content, plus all of the game’s pre-order packs, giving you a ton of decent Level 5 equipment from the moment you find one of the Serpent Tomes. It remains to see whether or not the rest of the DLC dungeons will be released for the Wii U, but fingers crossed.
Should I Buy It?
This new Wii U version offers elements both better and worse than the previously released editions of the game. The other versions can be purchased relatively cheaply for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC, and for that reason it might be difficult to recommend the Wii U version over the others, even with the new GamePad functionality – although the ability to play the game entirely on the GamePad could be a valid selling point for many. If I hadn’t already have finished the game on Xbox 360, I would happily have gone straight for this version.
The fact is that Darksiders 2’s presence in the Wii U’s line-up is great news for owners of the system. If you’re waiting for Nintendo to release the next Zelda game, then you must pick up this game. It’s not only a great launch title for the system but also one of the best games of last year, and is well worth checking out if you missed the other versions.
Read our original Darksiders II review here.