Dark Sector - Review
By Dillon - April 7, 2008
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360
Resident Gears of Drakes Fortune?!
It's been four long years since Dark Sector was announced as the first PS3 and Xbox 360 game in development. A lot has happened since that debut trailer set in space, such as Resident Evil 4 (GC, PS2, PC, Wii), Gears of War (360, PC), and Uncharted: Drakes Fortune (PS3). There's no doubt Dark Sector plays very similarly to these titles, with a Gears of War-ish cover system, movement like Leon Kennedy's, and aiming close to Nathan Drake's. Still, even with the heavy influence from; and similarities to other third person action titles, Dark Sector manages to add some of its own spice to the mix.
Dark Sector is a nice looking game, with only a few graphical drawbacks. The art style is great and it looks kind of like a mix between Uncharted and Gears of War. It has that run down, dark, and cold feeling of Gears of War, with character models that look very much like Uncharted. It frequently impresses, and there's a nice variety of environments and enemies to look at. The framerate is consistently solid and not once did the visuals wear out their welcome.
Unfortunately, they are not perfect. Textures, specifically in the environments, can look blurry, or in some cases just plain muddy. Also, some of the levels can be a bit dark and the flashlight is useless so it can be somewhat dull. That isn't to say the lighting is bad at all, in fact the lighting along with most of the effects in Dark Sector look fantastic. Fire, electricity, frost, and water all look great and you'll need to use all these elements to get past the game's obstacles, but more on that later. All in all, Dark Sector is a mixed bag. It looks great most of the time, but a few smudges hold it back.
Calm before the storm.
The music is very forgettable in Dark Sector and the voice acting is just decent. The voice actors themselves do a pretty good job but the dialogue is iffy. There are awkward lines and misplaced exaggerations in most of the cutscenes. You'll most likely not even notice the music, as its kind of just...there. However, these aspects of the audio are merely there because they have to be.
The sound effects are where it's at in Dark Sector. Everything from the blazing gunfire to the environment breaking apart, it all sounds terrific. You're bound to notice the sound of gushing blood and cracking skulls with a well placed headshot. Not only that but when using the glaive (I'll get to it soon enough) to slice opponents in half you can almost hear the muscles tearing apart. The audio may have a few downsides but the sound effects more than make up for it.
The main thing holding Dark Sector back from being truly outstanding is the story. You play as Hayden Tenno, a government agent sent into the fictional Eastern European city of Lasria. Your goal is to take out a bad guy named Mezner who's in control of a deadly mutation virus...there you go. From that point on its just kill kill kill. The story is filled with predictable outcomes but since you'll be having so much fun with the whole killing thing, it's not a game breaker.
If the story in Dark Sector was at all deep, maybe this could have been a top notch title. At least it gets the job done, and explains your purpose for killing. It is not a bad storyline per se, there's just nothing spectacular about it. If you are expecting a deep, well thought out story, or even an exciting thrill ride like Uncharted, you'll be very disappointed. If you can look past this fault, and you can be satisfied with an action title through and through, this is the game for you.
I don't think Neosporin is gonna help this one.
Though it does borrow from many titles, Dark Sector has one thing of its own- the glaive. The glaive is what makes massacring the helpless foes in Dark Sector such a joy. Early on, Hayden is infected with the virus plaguing Lasria. Right away he discovers a strange three pronged blade that comes out of his infected arm. He uses this blade as a throwing projectile and as the infection grows on him new abilities are unlocked. These include a power throw which quadruples the strength of the glaive, and the ability to form a shield around you that deflects bullets. As time goes on more and more powers become available and it really gives you the sense of being a badass.
Guns also play a big role, but you can only hold a pistol or submachine gun type weapon and use the glaive. So if you want to break out the oh so satisfying shotgun or the powerful assault rifle, your going to have to put the glaive away. This will most likely cause you to forget about the big guns as none of them are nearly as fun as the glaive. You will encounter a merchant throughout the course of the game, and with the money you find scattered in the levels, new guns and upgrades can be bought. It feels extremely close to the merchant system in Resident Evil 4. Gunplay itself feels a lot like Uncharted, which is a good thing. The aiming is smooth and precise, and with a forgiving heath system you rarely die in combat.
Shouldn't have peeked out.
You will however die a lot from boss battles, which can be very frustrating. Most of the bosses in the game kill you in one hit. It's not a very good mechanic seeing as how some boss battles can take a long time. Unless you look up a good tactic to fighting these guys, you might feel a little pissed off, death after death after death. Fortunately once a good tactic is found taking these guys down becomes much easier.
Another small portion of the game is made up of two vehicle segments. These feel similar to the ones found in Gears of War and Resistance: Fall of Man (PS3). They're fun and very forgiving, making for an easy break from the gunplay and glaive...play. Yes, I really did just type that. Anyway, the controls for the walking tank-like Jackal get the job done, and the level design works out well.
Speaking of the level design, each area in the game feels different from one another. Some of the levels are claustrophobic for tight quarters gunplay, while others are wide-open, perfect for some glaive tossing action. A few of the levels do drag on a bit but overall the design was done well. Some puzzles will force you to use the glaive's ability to absorb elements such as fire, frost, and electricity. These are merely speed bumps for the combat however and they don't require much thinking.
It's Electric! ...
One thing about Dark Sector that surprisingly stood out was the AI. Enemies will stay in cover until you pop out, unlike most shooters. Also, when using aftertouch, a special power that lets you control the flight path of the glaive, enemies will freak out and run away when you steer it close to them. It's a nice touch and it adds to the experience a lot.
There are a few problems with the gameplay, most notably is that repetition can rear its ugly head after a while. The human enemies in the game are a joy to rip apart, but they only make up half the foes. The problem here is that while variety is great, the other creatures are not nearly as fun to fight. Also, melee combat is almost non-existent with one close range attack that is unbearably weak. That is unless you weaken the enemies first before executing them with a brutal finisher.
The Gameplay may be unoriginal for the most part, but it's still very fun. The violence is great and the action will keep you playing all the way through.
Did we mention this game was violent?
I'm a little disappointed that Digital Extremes decided to scratch the space theme from the original trailer. Instead they took from the success of recent hits and made a shallow action title. That may sound harsh, and maybe it is, but Dark Sector is still a fun game. The single player will last you a good 7-10 hours depending on your skill level, and the load times are short. The online is kind of an afterthought, with two modes and a small map selection. One mode, Infection, pits one super-powered Hayden against a bunch of weaklings. It's unbalanced and with a lot of players, unfair. The second mode, Epidemic, is better and will likely keep you interested for a little while. It pits two teams against each other, each with their own Hayden badass. It's not fun at first but if you play for a while it can grow on you. I cannot completely recommend Dark Sector for a purchase, but it's a great rental and I recommend you try it out.
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