“It’s time for heads to roll.” Digital Extremes’ latest title, Dark Sector, which is being published by D3 Publisher, decided to take that quote and make it literal. Their new sci-fi, action packed, third-person shooter seems to do everything right and very little wrong. From the look and feel of the game to the emotion behind each character’s voice, Dark Sector is something to be revered and enjoyed by anybody old enough to pick it up and play. Based around the perfectly coined Evolution Engine (formerly Sector Engine), Dark Sector evolves the third-person shooter genre to what it should be.
You’ll start out having to install a bit of the game to the PlayStation’s HDD. This will roughly take about 3-4 minutes; so don’t expect to get bored too soon. The result of this is faster load times - not quite up to par with Devil May Cry 4’s, but only a tad slower nonetheless. Also, make sure you’re signed into the PlayStation Network upon booting up the game. This will allow you to be prompted with the 23MB update that has already been released.
Dark Sector revolves around a world where biochemical warfare is expected but not always prepared for. The Technocyte Virus is described as a bio-weapon that turns the infected into mindless killing machines; that is, as long as the virus doesn’t kill the host first. The United States has sent in a man named Robert Mezner, a scientist who willingly puts his life on the line for science and research. After all contact is lost with their operative, the government is left with no choice but to send in a psychotic, unstable, ruthless killer, Hayden Tenno. Not only has Hayden spent the last countless years in a prison cell for past crimes but he also happened to be Robert Mezner's protégé.
Due to the relationship between the two, the government feels that releasing Hayden into the world again may help their negotiations with Mezner. They’re also well aware that Mezner will potentially try and recruit Tenno into the grand scheme of things. You won’t learn any of this throughout the game, but we figured we’d give you a little more history in regards to the plotline that was provided to us through Dark Sector Zero, a comic book that discusses the past history of Dark Sector.
The game begins with Hayden Tenno being deployed to the Eastern European city of Lasria. Lasria is a Soviet state still around after the end of the Cold War and is not only on the brink of ruin, but is also home to the secret Technocyte Virus. Tenno is sent in as a third-party operative in order to take out one of his comrades, Viktor, along with the task of blowing up the facility that Viktor is being held captive in. Upon arrival, Tenno begins to question the mission and his participation within it. After being told that he’s already past the point of no return, he must push forward to carry out his task. Along the way you’ll learn that Mezner is alive and well and plans to release the virus from its holding vault.
Thus you push forward to seek out Mezner while walking into your first real challenge of the game, taking down a helicopter looking to pulverise you with a hail of machine gun fire and rockets. Upon completion of this dogfight, you’ll have your first run in with the unoriginally named villain, Nemesis. Not much is known about Nemesis at this point, except for that it looks as though it is from another planet or seriously infected with the Technocyte Virus in an extreme way. After being knocked out, you’ll shortly awaken and return to consciousness with Robert Mezner standing above you. He’ll go over some things and you’ll enjoy some light banter, however, once you reach for your weapon off to the side, Nemesis will puncture you with its weapon, slowly causing the Technocyte infection within your body and the start of your journey through the world of Lasria and Dark Sector.
Digital Extremes has given the impression that they’ve put a ton of time into the control scheme and the way the mapping is laid out. Through perfect button arrangement, they’ve allowed the user to control Tenno without any awkward finger movements. Your triggers on the right side will control not only your gun fire, but will also launch your glaive; while the triggers on the left side will be responsible for aiming and throwing out grenades. The directional pad is used for switching between your primary weapon (handgun/glaive combo) and your secondary weapon (shotgun/assault rifle). You can also use the directional pad to click on your flashlight as well as a way to find out your ammo information.
The face buttons on your controller will give you the opportunity to use glaive powers with the triangle button; circle takes point for finishers and your action button, X, is key for rolling away and taking cover, while square is your primary reload function. Analogue control is used for both movement and aiming, which is starting to become the standard for most shooters nowadays. The responsiveness of the controls is very tight and Tenno will react smoothly with each decision you make. There will never be a time where you’ll feel there is a delay between actions as everything comes together fluidly, one after the other.
Through combat, you’ll be given a plethora of ways to perform a kill. For instance, you can choose to shoot a Howler from a distance, wait for him to drop to the ground, run up to him and perform a finisher that involves you slamming your glaive through the top of its skull or you can perform a well placed headshot from a safe distance and move on. The options are varied and you’ll spend some time trying to find new ways to create kills. The finisher aspect has a lot of great qualities and can result in a lot of, “Jesus,” moments. Digital Extremes made it so that each finisher is presented in a cinematic experience. This means the camera angle will change and it will give you the best view possible on the decapitation, limb severance, or any of the other finisher options possible.
Between a finisher and your next maneuver there is a slight second delay so the camera can readjust to the standard over-the-shoulder view, but you won’t take any damage during this period and the gameplay resumes just as fluidly as before. On top of the close combat finishers, you’ll be given a decent arsenal of weapons to choose from as well.
The most anticipated weapon for this title is the Glaive that has been showcased in every trailer shown. The glaive is a masterpiece of a weapon and we’ve grown to love it as one of the better weapons in gaming. The glaive is the result of the infection spreading throughout Tenno’s body, and acts as an extension of him, if you will. The glaive is capable of many things and only grows in use as it evolves with the virus within you. As you take down stronger enemies, your glaive will slowly adopt new abilities.
One of the cooler evolutions of the Glaive is the EnergyPulse. This will allow you to take an element onto the glaive such as fire, ice, or electricity and use it in an entirely different way. You’ll be able to throw the glaive into a pack of enemies, click your R3 button and the element will explode off the blade like a shockwave. This can set enemies on fire, electrocute them, etc. It definitely adds into the entire way you can take down a bad guy. Along with the EnergyPulse, you’ll see the abilities to Shift, AfterTouch, ShieldPower, PowerThrow, Steal, and EnergyTrap. Each one will bring new depth to the glaive itself and make it even more useful in combat.
Weapons will range from handguns to assault rifles to shotguns. There are twelve weapons in total but certain armaments can only be bought via the Black Market; the rest of the weapons you’ll have to pick up from the bodies of dead soldiers. If you’re choosing to gain the weaponry from slain soldiers, remember that these weapons are not permanent. They only remain useful for a certain amount of time after you pick them up. This is because they are all assigned to certain government troops and the use of these weapons by any other individual will cause the weapon to be rendered useless after so many shots.
While the weaponry obtained from soldiers is limited, the weaponry made available within the Black Market will always be ready for use. The Black Market also has other uses outside of just buying up weapons. You’ll also be able to sell previously bought weapons, grenades, and weapon upgrades. Another option given to you within this underground world is the ability to enhance your weapons with upgrades you’ve found throughout Lasria. Each weapon is given a certain amount of upgrade slots, though you can find an increase slot upgrade to add one more slot to any weapon.
The upgrades come in an assortment of ways and work much like the perks do in Call of Duty 4. Some examples include the option to extend your clip size, speed up your reload time, lessen your recoil, quicken your firing rate and so on. There are plenty of upgrades available, but you’ll have to find the rest yourself because some of them are pretty well hidden. The upgrade system also brings about one downfall of the game itself. Once you’ve used an upgrade slot on a weapon, you can no longer use it again. This means you can’t swap out upgrades with one another in hopes of finding the best combination. As a result, you may have to wait before using certain upgrades because some work better than others depending on the gun you’re implementing them on.
Dark Sector also gives you a nice variety of enemies to use these weapons on. You’ll be taking on Elite Troopers, standard Technocyte Troopers, Howlers, Colloses, standard military soldiers, and a few others that we’ll let surprise you as you progress through the game. One key factor that is always important in regards to the enemies you’re going up against their intelligence. This just happens to be another hit or miss scenario for Digital Extremes.
While there are times where the enemies come off as incredibly intelligent, there are also equal amounts where foes come off as utterly stupid. Whether they’re just randomly standing around staring at a wall or they’re watching one of their buddies get shot, the enemy AI can sometimes have a depressing moment. The odd part about this is, it doesn’t always happen. It’s almost as if the entire situation of intelligence is randomized. Some soldiers will appear stupid, while if you die and respawn, that stupid soldier may appear in a different location and has evolved into a smarter troop. We’re not sure if this is a glitch in the coding or if it was intentional, however it just seems a bit off in some places. Fortunately, this isn’t a problem for the game's bosses.
Dark Sector will introduce you to a nice variety of bosses in terms of originality. You’ll do battle with a huge colossus in a church, a nightcrawler-esque boss, Nemesis of course, and Robert Mezner in the finale. Though there are only really four bosses, they’re spanned evenly over the 10 chapters of play. While 10 chapters don’t sound like much, it actually equals out to roughly 11-13 hours of gameplay.
During this time of play, you’ll be treated to a dark gloomy world brought to life by DE. The graphics are very well polished and have a lot of detail to them. The blood splatters from headshots, legs, arm, and head severances are beautifully done and you’ll never grow tired of them. Not to mention that watching an enemy shatter after you’ve placed a shotgun shot in their frozen corpse is wonderfully done. The only issues we had with the look of the game stemmed from the poor cloth animations and the slight tearing that we can only compare to the tearing you’d experience in the jungle and caverns of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. We make this comparison because we’re sure you’d agree that the tearing in Uncharted did not take away from the experience at all, much like the tearing in Dark Sector is so minor that it doesn’t detract from it either.
As for the online aspect of the game, it’s not as lackluster as we thought it would be. There is definitely some substance to it and if you have a couple of friends in the server with you, it can be a ton of fun. In Infection you’ll be able to take the place of Hayden Tenno or one spot of nine hazmat soldiers. Though Tenno will be given the full ability set that he has in the game, the soldiers can easily work together to take him down. We must mention though that nothing is as refreshing and satisfying as turning invisible to sneak behind a hazmat soldier and then finally snapping his neck.
As for the Epidemic mode where two teams, each with their own Hayden, have the objective of taken down the other team’s Tenno, the game works just as it should. Like a standard game of VIP mode, it plays just as expected. There is nothing groundbreaking within the multiplayer experience, but it isn’t exactly lacking either. You’ll definitely be able to put in as much time in the multiplayer world as you do the single player environment without getting bored.
Dark Sector provides an excellent, dark experience to contrast against the bright existence of Uncharted. These two games together would definitely prove to be one another’s Ying to the other's Yang. If you happened to enjoy Drake’s Fortune, then Dark Sector will bring you a similar experience in a gorier environment.
-The Final Word-
Dark Sector adds a nice element of play to the current market of third-person shooters that are becoming stale with repetitive gunplay. The glaive is a great addition into the genre and will help keep things interesting throughout your playing experience.