Dark Sector Review (360)

by April 12th, 2008
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A Fantastic Single Player Experience

This triple-bladed Frisbee/boomerang is a disgusting amount of fun to use

At a first glance, Dark Sector may make a fairly negative impression. After all, the developers behind this title were not shy about borrowing from other games in order to achieve their goals. The fact that the game’s protagonist not only seems to be locked into the first hour of rigor mortis, but may also be the cover boy for Emo Weekly, does nothing to help the game’s initial impression. So after the first hour or so, you may find yourself asking ?If the game is unoriginal, and the main character unapproachable, what is there to like??

Well, as it turns out, quite a bit.

?Down With the Sickness? (Storyline)

In terms of story, you play as Hayden Tenno, a special operative on a mission to save the world from a mysterious illness. Without giving too much away, just know that there are a brace of men looking to this illness for their own reasons; one for his own nefarious purposes, and the other drawn to it through some perverse sense of kinship. And in the middle of all that is you: the unlucky assassin who’s caught the disease.

As you make your way through each chapter (with the final tally being ten), a little more of this plot rises to the surface. Admittedly, the save the world angle is a tad clichéd, and the unveiling itself could have used a bit more elaboration, but the offering of the story overall is no better or worse than most of the top-tier shooters on the shelves today.

?Shamble and Gun? (Gameplay)

At first, the gameplay may seem a tad forced. Hayden is rigid and awkward, and tends to shamble wherever he goes. Most of the time, you’ll be stuck looking over his shoulder as you fire on enemies and move for cover. And the first questionable design decision arises in this area: the area of running for cover. By holding down the ‘A’ button and moving the left analogue stick, you force Hayden into a run. This is useful when you need to find cover fast. What isn’t useful, however, is the inability to automatically link up with said cover once you’ve made it. In order to duck, you have to press the button again. This is a minor issue, but can be frustrating when you find yourself in the thick of things.

Dark SectorAs far as the weapons are concerned, Dark Sector holds its own remarkably well. A large assortment of weapons lay at your disposal via the black market, each of which can be tweaked through various upgrades hidden throughout the game. The amount of satisfaction derived from shooting varies from gun to gun, from ok (pistol) to really fun (shotgun), but overall it’s hard to go wrong.

The best part, however, is the Glave. A strange and fantastic byproduct of the illness, this triple-bladed Frisbee/boomerang is a disgusting amount of fun to use. The first few throws will leave you wondering what the fuss is about, seeing as how most enemies tend to just stagger backwards from a single hit, forcing you to throw the blade a second time in order to get a kill. But as the game advances, so does the power of the Glave.

In no time at all, you’ll find that you have unlocked the ?charged throw,? a use of the whirling disc that puts a little more stank on each toss it’s applied to. A well thrown shot will sever arms, legs, cut people in half, and lop off heads. And just when you think the Glave has worn out its welcome, out comes the ?aftertouch;? an ability which allows you to control the path the weapon takes mid-flight. And yes, its just as much fun as it sounds.

What wouldn’t be fair however, would be to pass this title by simply because a few of its ideas are not original.

The only drawback to the Glave is that it’s almost useless up close. A punch from it will stun enemies, allowing you to occasionally engage in a brutal finishing move, but for the most part it’s like slapping a rhino with a nerf bat: you’re just going to piss the rhino off, and probably get yourself killed in the process. This can be really frustrating, especially when you have five nasties up in your grill, and the clock is ticking, and they keep grabbing you. If there is anytime that this game stops being fun, it’s in this moment. The key for survival then, rests in the player’s knowledge of when to use what weapon. Just know that you’re in line for some painful and frustrating lessons before you realize what works and when.

In terms of multi-player, there isn’t much to go by. A scant two game types is all you will find here, neither of which is particularly fun for long. “Epidemic” and “Infection” are sadly just not enough to compete with the COD4’s of the world, so it might be best to just pass this aspect by.

?Dark City? (Graphics)

Visually speaking, Dark Sector is a beautiful game. The locations are range from crumbling, sunlit cities to dark and broody interiors. Though many of the items used to populate each map are repetitive (tents, boxes, etc), each level design speaks out in its own unique way. There is virtually no back tracking, which is quite a feat considering the length of the game. Textures are well done, though occasionally lackluster, and the cut scenes are beautiful.

Dark SectorCharacter designs are also very pretty, though the game does get itself into some trouble over the choices of the actual designs themselves. Fighting enemies cloaked in florescent, oversized hazmat suits may sound good on paper, but it’s a little ridiculous in application. Aside from fighting discolored marsh mellows, you will also cross paths with ?gasmask? troops. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself thinking of Steve Martin wasting away in a dentist’s office when you see their gasmask filters inflate.
And then, of course, you have to contend with the infected, quite an ugly bunch.

?Now Hear This?Now hear This?.Now hear This?? (Sound)

The majority of the time, you’ll find yourself pleasantly engaged by what you hear during your run through Dark Sector. The guns have a satisfying amount of ?boom? attached to them, the Glave sounds completely dangerous and believable as it whips through the air, and the voice acting for the most part is solid.

Surprisingly, the best sound work is discovered in the little places. In terms of the best, rain spattering on objects, water turning to ice, and even sheathing the Glave in order to reload (a very nice and effective touch), are all a pleasure to hear. They definitely add to whatever sense of immersion you may find.

The worst, however, isn’t all that bad. It’s just a tad irritating. Every so often, you’ll come across a room where a grainy film is being played, or a PA is booming out across a courtyard. This would be great on its own, but for some reason the developers decided that one play through wasn’t enough, and so those infrequent but annoying messages will play themselves over and over and over until you move past the section. A minor grievance, to be certain, but one that could have been easily avoided.

The musical score is ok. It’s not anything that will reach out and grab you by the pooper, but it’s not anything you’ll want to turn off.

?The Skinny? (Overall)

When taken in individual pieces, it would be easy to write Dark Sector off as a copycat. And that would be
a fair assessment. What wouldn’t be fair however, would be to pass this title by simply because a few of its ideas are not original.

What it does on its own, it does very, very well. And the bottom line is this: after all of the aping of other games, the somewhat disappointing story, and the virtually non-existent online play, Dark Sector is still a mess of fun. Those looking for a deep multi-player should look elsewhere, but people looking for a solid single player game that’s a blast to play should check this one out.

The Good: Helluva lot of fun, The Glave is amazing, Great Visuals, Multiple Powers
The Bad: Poor Online Play, Occasionally irritating sound, A few questionable Design Choices, Story could have used some more attention

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Gold Y AwardGold Y Award
4.5 4.5 / 5
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Thomas Fisher

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