The Darkness - hands-on

We've hinted at some pretty serious concerns with The Darkness before. There seemed to be a limit in level size, it was easy to get lost and it had twitchy controls. We've spent hours with an almost-done code, and we're delighted to report some of our worries have been soothed. The Darkness might not eclipse the unexpected magnificence of Chronicles of Riddick, but it's packed with imagination, blood, guns and kick-ass environments.

And after establishing themselves as king of the videogame twist, there're plenty of surprises along the way (we'd love to tell you what, but we wouldn't want to ruin it for you). Certainly, it's the first game, to our knowledge, to include a romance Achievement (we ain't telling you how to get that either) but most importantly, it treats the license with the dignity and respect it deserves, but is never bound by it either, to produce a smart, compelling and in places, actually damn funny, title.

The hero, of course, is poor old Jackie, rescued from an orphanage by his uncle Paulie at a young age, brought up in the family gangster tradition and ultimately getting the blame for a job gone wrong. But if it wasn't enough that the only male role model in your life's determined to kill you on your 21st birthday, you'll also get the awakening of the mysterious Darkness in you.

You start out plowing through the ammo to take out goons (thankfully the controls have been tightened), watching them spin and clatter to the floor as they flood into areas to take you down, or executing them with hideous finishing moves. But soon you start to see the guns in a different way. Your Darkness powers - a shield, the tentacles, the Darklings, all thrive in the shadows and lose power in the light. So you could fly through an area blasting away. But instead you might start taking out the lights, before sending out your tentacles to eat their way through a few enemies, summoning a Bezerker or Gunner Darkling to kill as many people as you can before mopping up the rest yourself.