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Dark Sector First Impressions

8 March 2007

It's been in development for what seems like a decade, has changed appearance and even platform (started as life on PS2), but finally it looks like Dark Sector will actually see the light of day on PS3. In an invite-only preview event, PSU.com got a sneak peek at D3P's long awaited action title.

Developed by Digital Extremes (Unreal's co-creators with Epic), Dark Sector slips you into the figure hugging body suit of Hayden Tenno; pretty-boy Black Ops agent for the CIA. Heading in to the fiction Eastern European city of Lasria, Hayden is set upon by forces unknown and awakes to find his right arm has been infected with an organic metal that allows him to sprout weapons from it (Witchblade anyone?). So armed (groan), Hayden makes swift use of his new-found powers and heads in to Lasria to uncover what is behind the madness and violence that has engulfed the once sleepy metropolis.

It soon becomes apparent that something's very wrong in Lasria - soldiers turn against you, others seem infected with the same metal - Technosite - as your arm. Worse still, non-human things lurk in the shadows ready to pounce and rip you limb from metallic limb.

Reminiscent Evil

Drawing influences from Resident Evil 4 (amongst others), Dark Sector is a third-person action adventure with echoes of Resi' 4, Gears of War and Metal Gear Solid. Being a CIA 'assassin' Hayden is able to pick up enemy weapons and use them expertly (in a very Resi' over-the-shoulder style), but judging by our short demo, you'll be utilising his new arm powers more than anything else.

Our D3P demonstrator remained tight-lipped on the full extent of the arm's powers, but one of the main abilities is to produce a throwing glaive (no doubt influence by Krull, Blade and Xena). As well as stabbing, slicing and otherwise cutting up your foes, the glaive is also essential to progressing through the levels and accessing secret areas. It has the ability to 'pick up' fire and electricity (more powers are promised, but remain secret for now) from flaming and sparking installations such as smouldering cars or shorted out light fittings. As well as producing some glorious lighting effects on Hayden and his immediate surroundings, the flaming/arcing frisbee of doom can be used to set things on fire to open areas or dispatch enemies in amusing quivering ways.

While the enemies - mutants and fascistic guards in gas masks - initially had cliché warning bells echoing in our heads (Half Life 2, Killzone anyone?), they do actually have a plot reason for being there. Without giving too much away (and D3P was careful not to reveal more than they wanted to) a Cold War gas has escaped from beneath the city (hence the masks) and infected the populace with the Technosite virus (hence the muties). OK, as plots go it's hardly the most original, but at least it all hangs together with a lazy sci-fi logic.

Technosite for sore eyes

Graphically, Dark Sector is impressive, with a rich Eastern European architecture enriched by some atmospheric lighting and smoke effects. The smoke is also some of the first we've seen to react to your actions; the demonstrator was keen to send the glaive through a wispy column rising from a car fire, wafting the smoke aside as it passed. It was quite clumsily done (the smoke moved as a column rather than vapour), but illustrated the level of detail Digital Extremes are aiming for.

Online multiplayer was mentioned, and Splinter Cell's incredible online modes were cited as strong influences, but nothing more was said. All we could pry from them was that they were aiming to take the best elements from the solo game and work it into the multiplayer.

Our first impressions of Dark Sector were positive; great visuals, intriguing central character and some interesting combat on offer. Only time will tell if Dark Sector can rise above its obvious gaming influences and deliver a truly stand-out title for PS3 when it launches this October.

Look out for a Dark Sector interview here on PSU.com soon.


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