52 Weeks of Canadian Gaming - Week 22
Release Date: March 25, 2008
Developer: Digital Extremes
ESRB Rating: Mature
Reviewed by: Brian Wray
One of the most challenging aspects of my 52 Weeks of Canadian Gaming” is to find time to play the game enough that I can create a valid opinion of the game. For some games this can easily be done in a day, such as was the case with Terminator Salvation, while other games will require more time. While I first planned on playing Dark Sector two weeks ago, I could not free up enough time to offer a valid opinion of the game. Finally this week I was able to ensure that I would get in a full 7 days of playing. Was it worth my wait?
Dark Sector is a third person shooter by London developer Digital Extreme. Digital Extreme is well versed in shooters as its devs are responsible for the Unreal Tournament series of games. Dark Sector is quite evident of this pedigree as it has all the advantages and flaws of its Unreal counterparts.
In Dark Sector, the gamer plays the part of Hayden Tenno. Hayden was sent to take down Mesner, an evil scientist who developed a virus that turns people into mindless metallic zombies. As Hayden attempted to fulfill his missions, he in turn was injected by the same virus in his right arm. Now his arm is all misshapen and turned to metal flesh with the ability to materialize a glaive out of thin air (where can I get me this virus). Armed with new powers, Hayden presses on with his mission.
Graphically Dark Sector is at once incredible and dull. The main hero looks great. Most impressive is when he is holding his glaive engulfed in fire or sparking with electricity and the reflection of this can be seen in his metallic arm. On the opposite end, the ground in most places is void or any real texture. Most of the enemies are also quite bland, but the bosses are very well done.
The controls in Dark Sector are very refined. At no times did I have any problem performing any of the many possible moves. Similar to most shooters, the left analog stick moves the main hero, while the right analog stick moves the camera around. To be honest, I needed not touch the camera very often as I always had a great view of the action. The buttons are used for various actions such as to take cover, pick up items, open doors, melee combat, reloading and more. The D-pad is used to select guns. A small note on the cover system, the developers did a good job as the cover system really works well in this game.
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The star of the game is not Hayden, but the glaive. The glaive is a 3 bladed disc that acts like a boomerang, while slicing anything it touches along its path. This beauty can be used for everything from decapitating infected to picking up supplies and guns left on the ground. As Hayden level of infection progresses, so will the capability of the glaive. At one point the glaive can absorb the properties of fire, electricity and ice that can then be used to solve puzzles or inflict some serious damage to the never ending stream of bad guys, especially once the explosive capability has been obtained. But the most powerful enhancement of all is the capability of aftertouch. This ability allows the player to control the path of the glaive once thrown. A glaive in flight is not an easy thing to control, but time should be spent mastering its controls all the same. There are few things more satisfying in the game than to power toss a flaming glaive and then controlling its path to slice and dice a row of enemies to finally explode another group at the end of the flight.
Even though the glaive is quite powerful, the range is unfortunately quite limited, and some bad guys are intelligent enough to know not to get whiting the glaive’s range. For these Einstein combatants, the game provides an assortment of fine handguns, rifles and shotguns to take them down. One small problem, Hayden can only carry two guns at once, a handgun and a rifle or shotgun. Guns dropped by fallen enemies can only be used for a short time as they have magnetic inhibitors and Hayden’s arm is now mostly metal causing the guns to jam up. If the gamers want to have a gun that will last longer than 10 seconds, he/she will need to purchase one from the black market dealer. The good news is that these black markets can be found just about anywhere, even deep down in the sewers or in the middle of a warehouse filled with bad guys (I guess they need to purchase guns also). The shady arms dealer does sell guns without any inhibitor and also allows the installation of upgrades. It is important to note that he does not sell weapons upgrades, just installs them. The upgrades can be found in the game levels. I could deal with the fact that the black market dealer did not sell any upgrades, but I did wish he sold grenades.
At times there will be many enemies on screen all rushing Hayden. Glaives and guns alone will not take care of the problem; this is when Hayden will show off his melee combat skills. Well maybe I should say attempt to show off his melee skills. Melee combat in this game is seriously flawed. Hayden has a bad to the bone glaive that can perform just about anything, including scratching those hard to reach areas, but cannot hit an enemy that is right in front of it with a swing. This forces Hayden to take multiple swings to register a single hit. Not a good thing when surrounded by metallic zombies. This forces the player to actually toss the glaive and hope to hit something, which will make them vulnerable and then to move in for a finishing kill (performed by pressing the B button while the enemy is red). More often than not though, Hayden will die when rushed.
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The game does feature some multiplayer action and for fans of VIP game play, they may love Dark Sector. The two game modes are variations of the same theme. In one game, there is one Hayden and everyone else is normal military folks looking to kill him. Whoever manages to take him out becomes Hayden. The other game mode is similar, but with teams. I did manage to find a group of gamers playing Infected. In the game, I was a soldier trying to take down Hayden. I was playing with 2 other soldiers and a few bots. The bots did not leave their spawn zone, so there were no help. Multiplayer is frantic (even with only 4 actual players), but the game is not very balanced. Hayden is way to powerful as opposed to everyone else. Maybe if we were 8 actual players all attacking Hayden at once, then the game would be balanced, but shotgun blast after shotgun blast by three of us just could not take him down.
OK, now most of you are expecting a barrage of bad stuff to offset the good stuff I just mentioned. In truth there is very little bad stuff to talk about. Melee combat aside, the levels are either a bit to long, or just not varied enough giving the illusion that the levels are quite long. Also the events in the game are triggered. I would use the ability to control the glaive to scout out a new area, notice it's empty, rush into this area to find it filled with enemies. As it turned out, entering the area triggered the appearance of enemies. At one point in the game, enemies just would not stop rushing me. After taking down more than two dozen infected metallic zombies, I decided to just run into the zone where everything stopped. For the rest of the game, I could never assume that I had cleared the zone as the game may be just be waiting for a trigger to unleash (or stop) the flow of baddies.
But there problems are more of annoyances than real problems. To me, Dark Sector only has one real issue, but it a big one. Dark Sector’s Achilles’ heel is the story. The story in Dark Sector does not make much sense. At many times we see Hayden respond to characters with anger about some previous event that we are not privileged to take part of. This is about as exciting as walking into a spy thriller half way through the movie. This could have been easily remedied with a few well placed flashback sequences, but for some reason the developers saw it best to leave us in the dark.
Overall Dark Sector is a very fun game that will offer plenty of action for the price. I was able to complete the game in about 12 hours on normal difficulty. This is quite a bit of gaming that can be had at most places for less than a Sir John A. Macdonald.