Dark Sector Xbox 360, PS3
When the Canadian outfit of Digital Extremes, who worked with Epic Games on Unreal and Unreal Tournament create a game, you have to take notice. Especially when the game created was first announced and premiered back in 2004 and was the first game to be announced for the next-gen systems. The original game was supposed to have been created around a sci-fi environment but sadly in 2006 the game suffered a major overhaul – perhaps a sign that things were not exactly going to plan. I could be wrong, but my interpretation of this event seems to mirror what occurs in the pop-industry when a seemingly cool producer in a niche genre wishes to make more money. They sell out and turn to produce more “commercially viable” music. The result you get is a generic blandness and a complete loss of individuality. So is this the case here? Read on…
Dark Sector is set in the near future around a seemingly soviet-based fictional locale called Lasria. The country has been ravaged by a technocite infection. I won’t ruin the plot, suffice to say a very nasty guy called Menzer is attempting to rid the world by the said infection. You play Hayden, initially an American special agent, similar to James Bond, who also suffers from congenital analgia – an inability to feel pain. Your superior has asked you to complete a mission but early on it goes tits up and during a rather heated debate you get stabbed and infected. Expressing your anger, Hayden blows up the building he’d been infected in and escapes. You then contact your superior and so the real game begins. Only now the infection has given him the ability to grow new weapon called a Glaive and it’s this weapon that the main crux of the game is based around. As an aside, and a history lesson, the misnamed Glaive (which is actually a spear type weapon) is actually more similar to a “Chakram” used by ancient Indians. It’s been used in many video games, Tira from Soul Calibur 2 used a larger one and the Wardens from WarCraft 3 also used them. It was probably in Konami’s Yie ah Kung Fu but I can’t remember and I digress. It has been slightly stylized in this game as instead of a ring, we have a 3 bladed weapon which is used like a “boomerang”, slicing anyone in its path to tiny bits. It can double as a torch (in both forms), be remotely controlled in slow motion and be imbued with elements. Well, one of them. Anyway, what we have here is a third person “Glaiver”.
First things first, the game features some stunning graphics based around DE’s Evolution engine. The levels and ruins are typical but gorgeously drawn. The only downside to these graphics is that they’re rather dark. Now I’m fine with my monitor but some people are going to struggle to see things at times. Assuming you can see normally, you’ll find the game excels in use of colour and light filters and great atmospheric conditions, but this is nothing new and herein lies the first problem. If I can refer you to my first paragraph, this game is pretty much as bog-standard as they come. Graphics aside, it would be sub-standard were it not for the Glaive and a weapon alone should not make or break a game. In fairness, there’s much in here to like and dislike in pretty much equal measure. Every pro has a con in this game and it’s evident throughout. Scenery damage sometimes works on some walls, but not on lights. Some objects have physics, others that should, don’t. The game looks up-to date but features old skool ammo crates, which you annoyingly have to press a button to pick up and only then when you’re standing over them. It’s even more annoying when the ammo box is in a crate which has to be destroyed in the first place. The game initially leads you in to the “Glavie’s” features but then leaves you stranded as to how to exit certain parts of a level and sometimes you can be left just wandering around. (Hint: it’s all about that Glaive). Onto the enemies and they’re your typical fair. Russian soldiers and infected people (zombies with garden tools) are the mainstay with the odd attack chopper or “stop motion animated” King Kong beast thing. There are also mechs but these are no Giant Shadowhawk battlemechs, these are small Russian mechs. Yes, small, and rather badly animated with a simple machine gun and rocket. You get to control one later in the game but it’s only for about 10 feet so the appetite for destruction is certainly not whetted.
With its duck and cover system, the game feels like Gears of War with the Glaive replacing the chainsaw. Progressing through the game earns your Glaive new abilities with the best one – “slo-remote-control” coming early on. This enables you to “fly” the Glaive into AI which has the effect of hacking off their arms, legs, heads and torso. Its really quite gratifying once you get used to it. It also has 2 levels of attack. A typical attack, and a 4x one. For some reason, the soldiers are able to absorb a typical attack so you have to hit them twice to vivisect them accordingly. This is true even if they have no armour, which most of them don’t. Holding down the Glaive button gives you the yellow 4x attack which, if aimed well, will kill them instantly – even if you’ve only hacked off their arm. Lets assume its the mass loss of blood, which I must add is done with a somewhat cartoony effect. Although make no mistake, it’s a very violent game and this adds to the addictiveness. As I say, the Glaive can be imbued with fire or electricity and these will help aid you through some of the game’s harder levels. A fire fueled Glaive can instantly kill most of the zombies that “plague” the levels, causing them to explode. Secondary to the Glaive you have a standard set of weapons – your pistol, machine guns, shotguns and bazookas. These too have limited spaces for typical power-ups like better aim, or faster shooting although these can’t be swapped once installed and can only be installed in “black market” shops. Obviously despite being a CIA agent you lack the ability to chip them yourself. Black market shops are found in drains and can also be used to buy your own weapons as the soldier’s ones are time limited and self-destruct in your hand, although this cannot be used to any effect.
Talking of soldiers we get down to the AI and it’s fairly average for the most part. Like GOW, you come across what’s effectively an arena with lots of cover afforded and the AI does its best to take you down. Take too long in your attack and the soldiers will try to get closer to you and they will nearly always make use of cover. You can also find yourself defending against shielded soldiers, who can get quite sneaky but for the most part its “Peckinpah” styled gun play. If you get behind an AI you can perform a close up kill which will reward you with another gory “nip and tuck”.
So that’s it really. Positively, the game is awash with colour filters and some truly splendid graphics at times – if you can see them. The Glaive works well and is rather satisfying to use but this is offset by the old school use of ammo crates and parts of levels being sealing off, making it as linear as they come. The game doesn’t bore you but its only saved by Hayden’s main weapon and that’s really not enough. It is certainly worth a rental if you like third or first person shooters but you’ll certainly feel short changed if you buy it.