Name: Dark Sector
Genre: Third Person Shooter
Platforms: Xbox 360, Playstation 3 (Reviewed on Xbox 360)
Finally, the “first next-generation game” comes out. After fourteen years of development and countless delays, Dark Sector has finally been released. Usually games delayed as much as this end up failing, with dated graphics and buggy gameplay. As it approached release, Dark Sector seemed to be different. Could it be that a game was actually delayed to add content and fix bugs?
Plot clearly takes a back seat to gameplay in Dark Sector, but it is an interesting enough narrative to keep the game moving along. Taking place in the fictional Soviet bloc country of Lasria, where a virus outbreak is transforming the people into monsters. Your character is sent to try and contain the virus and stop a man named Mezner from spreading it to the rest of the world. The story may sound vaguely familiar, things being familiar might be a reccurring event throughout the game.
Dark Sector has never met a recent action game that it doesn’t blatantly copy, and playing through the levels of the title will make you feel almost nostalgic. The characters seem ripped straight from Resident Evil 4, the levels and locales will be all too familiar for anyone who has played Gears of War or BioShock, and the outfits the characters are dressed in will make you think you are playing Crysis. Even the way characters move and attack seems recycled from the past four years of gaming, leading me to wonder if the reason it was delayed was to wait for more games to come out to rip off of.
Controls are simple enough, with a cover mechanic that should remind players of Gears of War. The A button rushes and takes cover, but isn’t as seamless as it is in Gears. While there is no blind fire option, there is control of the only thing that matters in the game: the glaive.
Early in the game, Hayden is infected with a virus that transforms his arm to a metallic substance and allows him to grow a glaive from his hand. This becomes his source of power throughout the game and is continually updated with new abilities. The glaive is thrown with the right bumper and clicking it again allows you to control its movements, which might be one of the best things about the game. Dark Sector has fantastic hit detection; so making sure to hit an enemy in the head as opposed to the chest can kill them in one hit. I would dare to say that the only original thing in the game is the glaive, and it is implemented well enough to stand on its own.
It also appears that the developers missed a few classes of Game Development School. Several newbie mistakes detract from the otherwise polished gameplay to lead to a weird sensory confusion. Each room has one too many waves of enemies, each boss has one too many hitpoint, and each level goes on for a few minutes too long. Even more frustrating is the occasional lack of feedback during boss battles, making you wonder if you are actually damaging the enemy in the first place. They also realized that having a game in large, open areas leads to players wanting to explore. Their resolution was blocking doors with wooden crates, pathways with planks of wood, and even the occasional invisible wall. Compared to the rest of the game's polish, these elements stand out like sore thumbs.
Graphically the game is phenomenal. When games are delayed as much as Dark Sector was, they usually show it in the visual department, but with Dark Sector, that's not the case. Character models are smooth and environments, while not entirely varied, are wonderful to look at. Even when placed against some of the games it copies, Dark Sector is a visual delight. Body parts are sent flying when the glaive cuts them off, and a well placed throw could have a body tumbling in half. While it is obviously extremely violent, it doesn’t seem forced like it feels in some games. Enemies should be cut in half if a glaive catches them in the gut, they should burst into flames if a flaming glaive catches them.
I am dumbfounded by some of the hate other critics have for Dark Sector. It has problems, but none actually detract from the games experience. People need to remember that there is a place in the industry for above average shooters. Not everything needs to be Gears of War, there is room for good shooters with some original elements that fill the gaps in-between Super Smash Brothers and Grand Theft Auto, and that is where games like Dark Sector come in. The multiplayer isn’t good enough to keep you playing for long, but it is definitely worth a single play through.