Digital Extremes, the producers of Unreal and Unreal Tournament, have spent 4 years developing Dark Sector, and since the initial teaser trailer announcing a new game set in space very little else was heard.
All that changed with the recent release of Dark Sector on the PS3 and XBOX 360. The original sci-fi assumption has been abandoned in favour of a more earthbound setting, but it is obvious that Digital Extremes wanted to make a beautiful and satisfying if not extremely violent game.
The problems seem to have arisen from developing this into a logical story while at the same time being influenced by titles which have launched in the meantime.
I’m not saying the latter is a bad thing, the use of a Gears of War style cover system for example is a boon, as is aftertouch (ala heavenly sword) which enhances the kill sequences brilliantly later on in the game.
However, storytelling is where Dark Sector lets itself down, as characters come and go with little rhyme or reason, and alludes to a back story that we know little about.
But if gameplay is your thing then the story pushed cut scenes don’t interrupt the flow too much and to be honest they aren’t as bad as the story in Lost Planet, for example.
Playing as Special Ops agent Hayden Tenno, you find yourself being sent to Lasria, a fictional member state of the former Soviet Union, where the latest threat to the freedom of the Earth comes from an evil bad guy called Mezner who is set to enslave the world with a virus that turns ordinary folk into zombies, monsters and a load of other freaks.
Things don’t go according to plan when Tenno becomes infected with the very same virus he has come to destroy during a battle with one of Mezzner’s Goons. This should kill Hayden, or at the minimum excursion him mad, but fortunately he is able to fight of the worst effects of the virus thanks to a pre-existing condition called congenital analgia – which method he can’t feel pain (who’d have thought..).
So, instead of turning Hayden into a mindless zombie his arm begins to mutate ultimately giving way to the ability to grow a triple bladed throwing star, known as the Glaive, from his very flesh. Now this is where Dark Sector comes into its own. The Glaive is quite possibly the coolest weapon in any game ever.
As a tool for mercilessly slaughtering your opponents the Glaive clearly has no peer, especially when you gain the ability to add aftertouch which, once mastered, lets you guide the Glaive round corners and chase down victims severing limbs and decapitating heads in glorious slow motion. Something that I never tired of (not sure if thats a good or a bad thing!).
But its uses extend beyond insignificant extermination and you can use it for some simple question solving by picking up various environmental elements such as fire, ice and electricity with the Glaive and using them to open doors or clear obstructions.
Dark Sector’s online gameplay offers two types of game: Epidemic and Infection. Both these games types are meant for 10 players, but you can include bots to make up any shortfall. In an epidemic game kind there are two teams, each led by a Hayden, the objective is simply to see which team can kill the other teams leader first.
Infection sees one player cast as Hayden, who must survive as long as possible while trying to kill all of the other nine players single handedly. The most fun is had when you get to play as Hayden when you get to make complete use of the protect and Glaive against your hapless adversaries, already though he is considerably outnumbered.
On the whole Dark Sector is a game well worthy of your time and scores a substantial 8/10 simply because it looks gorgeous and you will never tire of slaughtering your opponents with the Glaive.