Dark Sector Review: A Difficult Journey

Digital Extreme's Dark Sector is meant, it feels, to be the beginning of something, a game that serves as an origin tale and set piece for what could become a franchise. In the game you play as Hayden Tenno, a black-ops agent sent into Eastern Europe to assassinate someone. Things go astray, as these things often do, and Tenno is infected with a virus that gives him evolving and deadly powers; chief among them the ability to boomerang an organic three-bladed knife at people, lopping off appendages.

Digital Extreme probably had a no-brainer hit when the decided to let people lop off body parts with a deadly Frisbee, but in their pursuit for something more they may have missed the mark this time around.

The Glaive: As if lopping off enemies' legs and arms with a flying three-bladed disc weren't fun enough, Dark Sector lets you slow down time and guide it along it's path with the PS3's tilt controls. (Which works amazingly well) You can also absorb electricity, fire and ice with it, allowing you to do things like freeze over lakes you have to cross or turn waterfalls into bullet-deflecting cover.
Gruesome Finishing Moves: Call me a fan of action violence, but I love being able to weaken a creature or enemy and then walk up and sink my glaive through its arm, or cut out its intestines and lop off their head in one move.
Puzzling Boss Battles: The boss battles, and there are a lot of them, almost all require as much thinking as it does shooting and throwing. The final fight in the game is particularly brutal.
Weapon System: It's not all about the glaive in Dark Sector. You can also upgrade your weapons through a black market, a requirement because the ones you find on the street tend to explode after a few minutes use.

Delayed Abilities: While it's a rather lengthy game, it takes far too long to give you the abilities that make playing it actually fun. Typically that isn't a problem, but the game has so little else to offer that, sans your evolving powers, Dark Sector feels like a generic, rather bad shooter.
Weak Glaive: Lets face it, none of use are going to buy this game to shoot people. Dark Sector is all about the amputation and designing it so that you can't lop off a limb without several hits is just plain stupid.
Shallow Plot, Bad Dialog: Wow, just wow. The plot is an amalgam of every old sci-fi and military movie. You've got your scorned lover, your grumpy old Russian scientist, your patriot-loving general. Thank god they let you skip each and every cut-scene... immediately.
Trite Character Design: The look of some of the main characters go hand-in-hand with that hackneyed plot, but the one I can't figure is lead Hayden Tenno. Since when do Emo kids go black-ops when they grow up?
Bugs: While the technical glitches aren't as pronounced later in the game, early on they can be quite distracting and it never shakes the occasional chugging.

When I first checked out early code of Dark Sector I hated it. When I started playing it I hated it. In fact, there were times when I was playing through it that I honestly considered just stopping and moving on. But something kept me coming back for more. Most likely the glaive and the impressive ways you can use it to, at times, literally shape a level. Unfortunately, the game doesn't really shake out its kinks until nearly half-way through and the elements of the game that are truly unique and impressive tend to get lost in a glut of generic gunplay.

Next time, more Jackal and Aftertouch and less running and gunning.

Dark Sector was developed by Digital Extremes, published by D3 Publisher of America and released on March 25 on Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. Retails for $US59.99. Campaign played to completion, online modes sampled on PS3.

Editor's note: This game was refused classification in Australia. We're waiting to hear back from the publisher, distributor and developer on whether an altered version is in the works.


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