Digital Extremes introduces to the blade wielding hero, Hayden Tenno as he slices his way through this dark tale of militant behaviour gone wrong. Borrowing from recent gaming hits, Dark Sector tries to reinvent the over the shoulder action perspective in its own unique way.
Dark Sector starts your adventure before your character gets the cool tri-bladed weapon that suspiciously looks like the weapon from the 1983 movie Krull. In the opening level of the game, you assume the role of a covert Black-Ops CIA Agent, Haydeno Tenno. Hayden is sent on an assosonation mission deep into Lasria, an Eastern European city on the brink of ruin. After achieving his task with one cold harted slug to the head, Tenno must refocus his attack on the mad biologist who has created a deadly virus that has been plaguing the land. In his quest to find the mad biologist Mezner, Tenno gets infected with Mezner’s designer virus, Technocyte and narrowly escapes death.
Tenno quickly learns that his mutation from the virus is having the opposite effects then madness because of a condition he was born with that doesn’t let him feel pain. This grants Hayden the ability to use the powers that the virus released without the mental attachment; turning Hayden’s arm turns into an evolving weapon of destruction. As you fend off the army trying to stop the infected and the infected itself, the body count starts to rise in this dry, but entertaining story as the protagonist hero.
It’s strange to say this, but I have been wondering what if Hayden Tenno would have been enough without the gimmick of The Glaive? I was truly intrigued as the normal covert operative and the more the plot started to spiral in to the whole of sci-fi madness, I felt a little disconnected from the character.
This doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the twist of having a mutated arm that can is armed with an ultra deadly blade, its obviously pretty cool. What I guess I want to get across is that I could have used a few more missions with an un-mutated Tenno. It would have help to build up the tension and provide a little more of a back story. I found the fictional Cold War setting created in Dark Sector to be fairly interesting with their biological weapons especially in with the art direction pointed towards dark tint... and I wanted more! This is all hearsay of course, if that was the scenario I could likely have wrote, "It takes too long before you get behind the arm of the fast throwing killing machine". Neverless, I think Dark Sector could have only benefited from a little more plot development before you get your "superpowers".
Glaives of War?
In a quick comparison, Dark Sector has been called a criticised for borrowing the duck and cover aspect from Gears of War while taking a pinch of viral outbreak storyline from Resident Evil. While Dark Sector vaguely resembles both these games it’s really not fair to make a judgement from stereotypical references. All games draw their influence from somewhere, and I can name other games that had duck n’ cover gameplay before the almighty Gears of War. I’m not defending Dark Sector, just making an observation because these comparisons every time I hear about Dark Sector.
On the other side of this argument, Dark Sector does include a number of gameplay mechanics that are found in Gears. Dark Sector uses a similar system for movement and action in the game with popular over-the-shoulder perspective, duck and cover action, and the ability to run with the guerrilla camera just like Gears. Dark Sector also implements the use of regenerating health with no HUD. So, Dark Sector might be a little like an unreformed Gears, minus the Locus Horde. If you see Dark Sector as a Gears clone, or not, there could be worse games to be fashioned after. After all this debating, one thing is for certain, if you have played Gears of War on the Xbox 360 then you should have a good idea of the Dark Sector’s gameplay. For Playstation 3 owners who didn’t get to try Gears, here is your chance with Dark Sector.
Wanna Play Catch?
Pushing itself away from GOW is The Glaive or "Death Frisbee-a-rang". Once you mutate into this new unstoppable killing machine things pick up and take a turn Dark Sector from normal shooter into something a little more dynamic. Controlling the Glaive is easy to do and thanks to its return magnetism it always returns right into your hand. To have greater control of the Glaive and other weapons you can quickly toggle between a normal view and an over-the-shoulder viewpoint for more precise aiming. The Glaive has a few other properties besides decapitation, it can be powered up for more destructive hits, used as a boomerang to pick up items during the game, or even used a conduit to absorb other elements to turn them against the enemy. The first time you will encounter this you will need to electrify your Glaive to unlock an electronic door. Besides giving a jolt to mechanical devices, electricity can be used to light socket your enemies, or used like a toaster in a bathtub. Like other games that bring in a few familiar elements, Dark Sector only benefits from this and becomes a little more interesting.
Keep Those Fingers on the Trigger
The over the shoulder perspective also acts as a way to dual wield your gun and Glaive. Both weapons can be fired at the same time which is something that comes in handy when you’re up against multiple enemies. Besides pistols you can also acquire rifles, shotguns, missle launchers and more. Each weapon is upgradable with special upgrades you find scattered across the map, along with money, both items and cash is spent in specially marked black-market areas. Hayden can also get into a good brawl with some devastating hand to hand finishing moves that crack bones and rip flesh. Melee combat isn’t recommended as a first option as Dark Sector has some collision detecting problems, in combat and even hitting simple items that lay stationary on the screen. After the frustration of not figuring out you can electrify my Glaive, I fought off a whole room of zombie mutants with my fists and it was clear, the detection is a little problematic failing to hit a good percentage of the time. If you can bear with a few missed hits, the brutal “finisher” animations are worth a sadistic peek.
Saving the best for last is the Aftershock feature. Aftershock is the ability to manually control the spinning Glaive. Activating this is done by hitting another button press after the Glaive is airborne and then you can control the Glaive in slow motion. PS3 owners also get the bonus of using the motion controls of the PS3 controller which actually works well. When Digital Extremes teaches you the Aftershock controls, it will be a requirement to hit this little box before you can continue. It’s a little fancy flying her, but once you get it, you’ll feel in total control.
For multiplayer Dark Sector has two modes of play, Infection and Epidemic. The multiplayer games support up to 10 players over five maps. Infection is similar to a hunter/hunted mode. The infected get to roll as Hayden as the other players try and kill him to become him. This is a fun little mode that I’ve always enjoyed in games when done right. Epidemic is a team based affair that has each team tiring to eliminate each team’s designated Hayden character. Even with two good modes in multiplayer, Dark Sector will primary be a single player event. The multiplayer’s modes are fun and somewhat creative, but ultimately they don’t hold the same fun-factor as other games online.
After you finish Dark Sector, you’ll have the option to replay the game in Brutal difficulty which I can imagine to be quite challenging since I had a few testing moments in the single player campaign on normal. Dark Sector like a lot of shooters has to hold up its replayability factor in its multiplayer. In this respect Dark Sector falls into more of a guaranteed happy rental, unless you really enjoy shooters and want that 1000/1000 achievement points on the Xbox 360 version. While I’m on achievements (sorry PS3 fans) most of them can be collected in one play through like the Headhunter achievement (Decapitate 30 Enemies) or Finesse (Kill 30 enemies with Aftertouch). There are a few harder achievements added to the mix that will make you work your way through the game again, not to mention six multiplayer points to grab. If you’re an achievement junkie, Dark Sector is definitely worth the running price.
In the looks department Dark Sector has a great polished sheen to the game. Digital Extremes who has used the Unreal Engine in the past have gone their own way and created their own game engine named, the Evolution Engine. If I was a developer looking for a game engine I would extremely interested in the Evolution Engine to put that same level of polish on my product. Although, Dark Sector uses the popular pallet of dark colours the game looks amazing in 720p. The framerate runs ultra smooth with a beautiful amount of detail added to the levels and characters. Both PS3 and Xbox 360 version seemed to be very comparable and I was happy to see the PS3 performing without any noticeable hitches. I feel Dark Sector is a little underrated in the graphics department, right now I’d put it on the top of the list for new entries in 2008.
The audio is equality impressive in Dark Sector coming up to meet our expectations out of a horror influenced shooter. Dark Sector atmospheric soundtrack and excellent monster sounds sound great pumped up on the stereo. Dark Sector is a must for gamers looking for a great game to play in the dark. There are certainly a fair amount of spooked out moments during them game all helped by the delivery of the audio tracks. The voice acting is also very in tune with the rest of the project featuring Michael Rosenbaum from Smallville. Even with a “named” actor Dark Sector isn’t the type of game that is filled with dialog. The storyline is very subtle and isn’t shown a lot of focus. For Dark Sector’s audio component the spotlight highlights the great sounding monster noises, weapon effects, and low key soundtrack.
Digital Extremes has set out to create an original 3rd-person, action-shooter powered by next-gen hardware, and in that respect team from London, Onatario has done an incredible job. The graphics and audio also help remind us why the next-generation of gaming looks and sounds so good. Dark Sector is definitely an under-rated workhorse and one of the early highlights in 2008. For gameplay, Dark Sector isn’t a revolutionary title that will be remember in years, but it offers the new twist of the Glaive into the mix creating an interesting way to play a shooter.
I have to recommend gamers check out Dark Sector for a safe rental and a purchase only if you enjoy over-the-shoulder styled shooters, or shooters with a sci-fi element. Even though Dark Sector wasn't a mind blowing refinement of the shooter genre, it was definitely worth the wait.
Gameplay: 7.5, Graphics:8.5, Sound:8, Innovation:7, Mojo:8 Final: 7.7 / 10