Darksiders 2 PS3 review – The apocalypse gets it right second time around

“O death, where is thy sting?” runs the famous cry from Corinthians. “Right here in this axe the size of a Fiat Punto,” replies Darksiders 2, as its hero – the Reaper himself – swings like a steroidal Cuban at the hunch-shouldered monsters roaming the expansive netherworld between heaven and Earth, scattering them like a handful of chucked pebbles.

Darksiders 2 PS3 review

Darksiders 2 takes place in the same collected mythical space as the first game – a cobbled geography of demigods and legends, populated by ancients and remarkably murderable immortals. It also takes place at the same time, just after the apocalypse has gone off like a prematurely popped cork at a New Year’s party, with the horsemen left holding the jeroboam with a guilty look on their faces.

While War set out to prove his innocence in the original by stabbing, slashing and shooting the entire firmament of heaven twice, we now follow his brother Death’s actions in parallel (spoiler: these also involve a great deal of stabbing, slashing and shooting).

In fact, Darksiders 2 feels a lot like a second shot at the first game, a refined re-doing rather than a regular follow-on. War was, if we’re all honest, a grumpy and disagreeable hero who took his job as the stone-faced mascot of biffing each other in the chops rather seriously.

In a bit of a turn-up for the books, Death is an altogether lighter figure – not throwing out one-liners and reminding you to tip the waitress, but written with some likeable give, and entering into gravelly-voiced teasing during the game’s simple conversation trees.

He’s a bendy sort, too, skittering across walls in the game’s more numerous climbing sections (which, someone should point out, have been cribbed over Prince Of Persia’s shoulder right down to the trailing hand-sparks during wallruns) and flashing through combat with his double scythe and changeable weapons like – well, like an embodiment of mortality itself, and one who clearly does a lot of skipping.

These changes to Death reveal subtle, welcome shifts in the tone of Darksiders’ fiction. The emphasis on the horsemen being immutable figures of scripture (which explained War’s eternal pout) has given way to a more balanced and enjoyable fantasy world. The original Darksiders had to explain away War’s early-game toothlessness with a yawning “stripped of his powers” schtick. Death is instead more of a rising, exploring figure in an expansive world-between-worlds.