Dark Sector 360, PS3

Occasionally, we at DZ are invited to leave the safety of our bedrooms in order to have a look at an unreleased game, with a view to letting you know how it’s turning out. Now, we all know the real world is a terrifying place – but we’re willing to take risks for you, our lovely audience.

The latest game we were asked to check out was Dark Sector, the current project from Digital Extremes – the guys who helped develop some of the Unreal Tournament series – and so far it’s looking pretty nice. Basically, imagine a cross between Gears of War, Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, Resident Evil 4 and, um, Xena: Warrior Princess, and you’re most of the way there. Gritty, third-person combat in the Eastern Bloc is the order of the day, and we know that sounds generic as hell, but bear with us.

The game sees you playing as Hayden Tenno, a black-ops assassin working for the CIA, sent to the fictional former-Soviet nation of Lasria to take out a former colleague. As in, ‘kill him’. Not ‘buy him dinner’. It’s worth noting that Hayden is voiced by Michael Rosenbaum, whose CV includes playing Lex Luthor in Smallville and, far more crucially, he did a superb turn as The Flash in the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited cartoons. From what we’ve seen of Dark Sector, his talents are certainly put to good use – although it’s not exactly hard to put most video game voice-acting to shame, eh? Anyway, Hayden gets infected with a technological virus that’s been sweeping across Lasria, infecting the population and sending them completely mad as it mutates their bodies and causes them incredible amounts of pain. The trick here is that our man Hayden has a real-life medical condition called congenital analgia, which prevents him from feeling any pain whatsoever. And if you laughed at the words ‘genital’ and ‘anal’ popping up there, give yourself a gold star.

So, the virus begins to mutate Hayden’s body and give him access to new abilities, without the side-effect of sending him batshit mental. The most obvious and important of these abilities is the glaive – the three-bladed disc that Hayden can produce straight from his hand, lob it at enemy soldiers and laugh heartily as their limbs fly all over the place. But if he’s already got guns, what’s the point? Well, as the game progresses, the virus begins to mutate more of Hayden’s body, giving him access to new glaive abilities such as a power throw, the ability to grab items and bring them back to Hayden, and a whole bunch more that we’d rather not spoil for you. The most entertaining of the abilities has to be ‘aftertouch’ – essentially, it lets you guide the glaive’s flightpath after you’ve thrown it. Got a bunch of enemies hiding behind cover? Throw the glaive up and bring it down on their soft, fleshy heads. Without wanting to dwell too much on the game’s violence, the amount of effort that’s gone into the dismemberment of enemy characters is pretty incredible. If you’re running low on ammo, for example, you can take off a guy’s arms with the glaive and he’ll jump around screaming, allowing you to then throw the glaive at his now-abandoned weapon, thus bringing it to you so you can start shooting his mates with it.

Sadistic? Sure, but it’s also a fair amount of fun.

For the OCD sufferers among you, there’s also a Resi 4-style weapon upgrade system. Every so often you’ll come across a black market vendor who’ll sell you weapons and upgrades – these are pretty invaluable, as enemy equipment is programmed to deactivate when it comes into contact with the virus that’s making its way through Hayden’s body, thus giving him only about 60 seconds of playtime before the gun refuses to fire any more. So, keeping your own stash of upgraded weapons is a pretty good idea.

There’s a bunch of other nice touches we could rant on about – the almost total lack of a HUD, the promise that there’ll be some reallygood reasons to re-play the single player game once you’ve finished it, not to mention the multiplayer modes. But overall, Dark Sector is looking like a game worth keeping an eye on. Visually it is relentlessly gritty, which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but if you can get past that there should be a pretty damned fun game waiting for you. Fingers crossed, we’ll have a full review for you when the game hits the shelves in a couple of months.