Dark Sector Review:
“ahhmm . . . what just happened ?”
by Shadow Wave
©2008 Ben Cadwallader
“`Digital Extremes attempt at a 3rd person shooter had an interesting and unique goal. When it was first announced its graphics looked amazing and sound effects and violence was something to get excited about. Years later and its finally out. But is it a good game? Well if you like repetitive combat and a story that’s like reading every 10 pages of a book, it will be!
“`To start off with, you play as a secret agent named Hayden Tenno. As there is barley any story I won’t spoil it all, besides what you know. The first level of the game starts out in black and white which is the prequel and training mission to the game, this effect really works well and it’s nice to see some creativity coming from the developer. The opening level gets your basic skills up and shows how everything works, as it should. The level leads onto a few events which in the end kind of explain how Hayden gets his supernatural powers.
It won’t take a long time to realize that the AI is not too bad, well they are very good flankers. Example; you will get a enemy with a Riot Shield run towards you getting your attention, while other better armed enemies will run up behind you. It works well and keeps you on edge. Unfortunately this does not work as well while they are in cover, they will do what most games do, and each enemy will just crouch and stand over and over again, until you put your glaive through them. But for the most part human AI is quite good. During the levels where you primarily fighting humans are quite enjoyable and strategic, the game does lose goodness once the “zombies” start making an appearance…
For two thirds of the game, you will eventually come across Zombies to kill, and more and more of them. Now most of these have the same priority – to run straight towards you and swing their giant hammer/blade. Sure, this is okay in small quantities, but Digital Extremes have put level after level of primarily fighting these Zombies. It gets extremely repetitive and frustrating as in some portions of the game, they just don’t stop coming until you do a certain objective. Eventually there will be a few other enemies to fight, but they are all similar and annoying as they’re ranged attacks will rip you up, which makes it difficult, compared to fighting humans which at the end of the game, is like eating cake.
Hayden gets a lot of supernatural powers to aid him in combat. Initially he gets his Glaive weapon, which acts similarly to a boomerang. This is used to attack people from a distance as a ranged weapon with unlimited ammo. Also, if you attack an enemy and they glow red, if you rush up to them in time, you can perform a finishing move which performs a violent 1 hit kill. After a short while into the game, you can also direct the glaive with the joystick in the air, which is needed for puzzles, and if you want to cut off some limbs, unfortunately I found this to get used too often as a requirement.
The glaive can also be charged with a natural element, electricity, ice, and fire. This can be thrown at enemies for stronger attacks, but main use is for puzzles, such as using electricity on a door to open it. These are used way too often and are basically the only puzzles that Hayden will do, by the end of the game you will find them annoying and you can see they have been used as a way to extend the games length of around 10 – 12 hours.
Hayden gets a range of other cool abilities, such as bullet reflecting – Matrix style. And the most useful ability; invisibility, which I used A LOT in the end of the game, as the levels were chocablock full of Zombies and by that time you just can’t be bothered dealing with them. So you will fly through the later levels.
As this is a shooter, you don’t just rely on your powers, you have access to guns, you carry a handgun always while you are using you’re glaive, and this will be the main weapon you use over the course of the game. You can pick up weapons dropped by enemies but these will not be able to be used for more than 30 seconds – the reason is in the story.
So you’ll have to purchase weapons in the Black Market that is a store found by looking at sewerage holes, inside you can upgrade your weapons with power ups you find hidden in the levels, and purchase new weapons with money you find. Don’t expect to buy all the guns on your first play through, perhaps 3 guns maximum, purchases are expensive. The shotguns I found to be the most useful, but you’re handgun will be used the most. Ammo is found in boxes lying around the levels, similar to Gears of War.
Speaking of Gears of War, Dark Sector employs a similar yet less versatile cover system. In Dark Sector, moving on cover is a lot slower, you can’t crouch optionally, and you can’t blind fire, and believe me if you’ve played Gears of War, you’ll be wondering why it’s not there. Getting shot while in cover happens a lot as well. But overall the cover system works well, just there needed to be a few editions to make it work a lot more fluently.
Boss battles are unique for each specific fight, and are quite fun, each one has a nice finishing move to finish of the fight, and kill the boss in some cool way. Some of the bosses do have a bit too much health. Some fights require a lot of just standing basically still and loading one clip after another into them. Some of the later bosses have puzzles in, which will drive you mad if you don’t figure it out, but thats a good thing. Overall the bosses vary from size, strategies vary, and are quite enjoyable and a welcome fight as you’re probably sick of the zombies.
The graphics are quite nice and clean nothing fancy but it does fit the scene, blood is not over the top, which raises the question about the banning in Australia. And the sound is a bit under standard, guns sound a bit weak, and while Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville) is a great leading voice, the other voices keep getting lost in cut scenes behind much louder music, which really does not help with trying to understand the confusing story, and leave you with nothing to associate with.
In conclusion, the story of Dark Sector makes absolutely no sense, and I was left with saying “huh” at the end of the game. And the combat is quite well done, when you’re fighting humans or bosses, sadly the combat gets lost when fighting zombies, and puzzles get repetitive. I may sound like I’m extremely negative, but the game play is quite good, it just has many flaws outside of combat.
©2008 Ben Cadwallader
Response towards the banning of Dark Sector.
“`After playing through Dark Sector I’m amazed that this was banned. This game is not that overly violent compared to Gears of War etc. The most violent part of the game is in one of the early cut scenes, and the rest of it is a few decapitations from the head and waist. And the finishing moves you perform do have screams, but they are muffled with a Radio static like sound.
These screams sound like they have been in games for years and it’s hard to even pick up on that they are new or anything. But in my opinion many other games have more violence and more scream effects that this game, it’s really quite tame. And Dark Sector is not really a game for close up work. Most of the time you will be doing your damage from a distance.
©2008 Ben Cadwallader