Just give it time. Steadily the game and its world opens up, as new characters are introduced and the game gives you more room to explore its New York City setting. The action starts to find a rhythm, and you uncover new ways in which your abilities can be used. It’s true that you’re restricted to a few, slightly claustrophobic city locations, linked together by subway trains and stations, but if keeping you on a tight leash helps build this sort of atmosphere then I can see why Starbreeze stayed away from a larger, free-roaming world. As the game kicks into what first appears to be a simple tale of supernatural revenge, you begin to learn more about your abilities. You come to understand that, as in Riddick, taking out the lights gives you the advantage.
It’s not just that your powers help you see while your enemies can’t (love the cool pulsating lines effect, Starbreeze) but because they actively feed on darkness. With time, you discover that the creeping, wall-crawling minion you can send out under your direct control isn’t just a means of solving simple puzzles, but the easiest way to eliminate tricky enemies and soften up a room before you enter. With time, you find out that you can just play through the main plotline in linear fashion, but you can also take on RPG-style side-quests and unlock bonus rewards. Two hours in, and The Darkness seems to have a hold on you.
More interestingly, some of your expectations start to get overturned. Jackie isn’t the gun-crazed, goth goon you might have taken him for, but a man with a conscience and The Darkness isn’t an orgy of demon-powered destruction, but a measured, oddly sombre experience leavened by the odd deft touch of humour. It’s a game that lets you take your own approach to situations, allowing you to mix and match your supernatural powers with gunplay as you see fit. And while you might have seen them coming, the game hits you hard with two sucker punches in a row. Before you know it, you’re out of the grimy urban badlands and fighting your way through a hellish WWI-inspired netherworld, where the muddy trenches meet the horrors of Silent Hill.