Video Game Rentals Delivered

Dark Sector

David Yun (Xbox Live Gamertag - Vawce) David Yun (Xbox Live Gamertag - Vawce): (contact-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2008-04-29 19:20:32

Dark Sector - Rank C

Developer: Digital Extremes
Publisher: D3 Publisher
Date: 3/25/08

Also available on PlayStation 3

Here's the short review: if The Legend of Zelda got recklessly drunk at a seedy bar and Gears of War took her home, Dark Sector would be their bastard child who was given up for adoption but instead ended up receiving daily beatings in foster care. There's good stuff here, but a lack of education and too many shots to the head resulted in unfulfilled promise.

I suppose I have to write a fuller analysis, despite the fact that I recommend you pass this game over. The point of the text in one of my "Rank C" reviews is to mention any positive aspects that might warrant popping the game in your console.

Well, it sure isn't the clumsy and unimpassioned narrative. The story is a watered-down version of the "monstrous plague" plot lifted straight out of Resistance (which itself exuded a strong Gears of War vibe). Actually, Dark Sector was in development for four years, so it's entirely possible that the plagiarism flowed in the other direction, but it's hard to shake off the sensation of derivativeness. It's also laden with slick but impotent cinematics that feel like a Western developer tried to emulate the slick but meandering cinematics of Metal Gear Solid. There's no legitimate reason to care about the characters or their struggles. In this regard, Dark Sector is an archaic throwback game where you simply continue to fight through room after room of enemies for no other reason than they're trying to kill you. Despite the ostensible effort to produce something unique, Dark Sector feels like a "me too" also-ran without much personality.

The first impressions of gameplay will instantly evoke Gears of War deja vu. Dark Sector is a third person shooter that clones the Gears single button mechanics for sprinting, taking cover, and vaulting over that cover. The art style is similarly dominated by a Gears-esque monochrome grittiness. Aside from its loose, swimmy controls, Dark Sector's basic shooter essence looks and feels virtually identical to Gears.

The hook, and the only reason to check out this game, is that your plague infected metal arm can produce a glaive. I don't know why the game calls it that, because a "glaive" is a type of sword. Instead, your weapon is a boomerang with three razor-sharp prongs. This should be enough information to consolidate your mental image of the game. Picture an emo commando Link in a stealth suit running around with a pistol in one hand, and his boomerang replaced by an over-sized ninja star in the other. The basic, shallow fun of Dark Sector is butchering your enemies with this ridiculously awesome flying guillotine.

As you progress through the game, it picks up more abilities. You can charge up a power throw that can break chains and slice cleanly through enemies in one shot. "Aftertouch" zooms the camera right onto the glaive, and allows you to steer it in flight. These abilities combine together nicely, as you can hurl a power throw to decapitate one foe, and aftertouch it to slice off another's arm. Just like Link's boomerang, you can use the glaive to fetch items that would be otherwise out of reach. You can also temporarily amp up the glaive by tossing it into flames, electricity, or ice. These are used to solve environmental puzzles, such as juicing up machinery with an electrical charge or lighting torches. (Can you hear the Legend of Zelda "problem solved" chime in your head?) You can also employ them in combat, by freezing enemies with an iced glaive, or tossing an electrified glaive into a pool of water that your foes happen to be standing in (*cough* BioShock *cough*). You eventually acquire even more impressive abilities, such as turning invisible, or reflecting bullets with a telekinetic shield. It gets even harder to shake the Legend of Zelda feel as you integrate these abilities together, especially with the boss fights. Figuring out how to beat them is decidedly more difficult than the actual execution thereof.

And for some reason that eludes me, your infected arm is also a flashlight. It's the old school kind that goes out periodically, requiring you to charge it back up before using it again. I thought we'd moved beyond that irritation in videogames to flashlights that simply stay on until you turn them off.

This is becoming a repetitive chorus for me, but "this game also features half-baked, tacked on multiplayer." There are only two modes. In the first, one player is the glaive-wielding badass and he gets to kill all the other chumps. In the other, there are two even teams, each with one glaive-wielding badass who gets to kill all the other chumps. It's not much fun being one of the chumps being stalked by an invisible master of the flying guillotine.

Dark Sector is a competent rehash of well-worn gameplay that has been done better elsewhere. The only thing that makes Dark Sector special is the glaive gameplay, but even decapitations can get monotonous after awhile.

The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions are equally "meh".

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