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Dark Sector

Score: 80%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: D3
Developer: Digital Extremes
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1; 2 - 16 (Online)
Genre: Action/ Third Person Shooter/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

Dark Sector pulls out all of the visual stops and looks great. Unfortunately, it is so dark that you probably won't be able to enjoy all of the nice details. There's an in-game way to adjust brightness (something more games need, especially if they're going to insist on depicting nothing but dark, dank shades-of-grey environments), though even with some tweaking I had to squint to make out things. Outdoor environments look best; interior environments look good, though they eventually all blend into each other.

The same goes for enemy characters. Except for slight color variations, everyone looks the same. The cool thing about enemies is that you can decapitate or maim them in a variety of ways using your blade. Nearly every body part can be chopped off, giving an added bit of satisfaction each time you take out an enemy. Even better, you can steer the blade to get a precise, and up-close, view of the kill.

Of course, your main character, Hayden, gets most of the attention. With the exception of an odd haircut, Hayden looks cool and even evolves a bit over the course of the game. Although the script leaves something to be desired, Michael Rosenbaum (Lex from Smallville) does a pretty good job voicing Hayden.


Dark Sector is primarily a cover-based shooter, which leads to the obvious Gears of War comparisons. Players take the role of a government agent (Hayden) sent to the fictional city of Lasria to assassinate a rogue agent, named Mezner, who is in possession of a biological virus called Technocyte. When infected by the virus, subjects undergo a variety of mutations, causing them to transform into mindless killing machines. As these things usually go, Hayden is infected by the virus but is able to control it, giving him a weapon to use against Mezner.

Similar to Gears, gameplay is mostly based around running between areas of cover while periodically popping out to take a few shots at enemies. Levels are linear, though they are designed to give you enough wiggle room to deal with situations however you want. Although you'll mostly face small groups of enemies, you'll also come across giant enemy nests where you'll have to take out small armies. These are the areas where the game is weakest; the cover in these situations isn't the best and some enemies spawn in the worst possible places and come in such high numbers and erratic intervals that there's little sense of progression.

Multiplayer is a bit of a throwaway. Although there are two game types, Infected and Epidemic, the only one that ever seems to get any play time is Infection - and even then it is hard to find a good game. Most of the time, I was lucky enough to stumble into a game that was filled with Achievement whores who were more interested in inflating their Gamer Scores than having a competitive match. In the rare instances where I found a legit group, the gameplay wasn't compelling enough to keep the group intact for very long. During Infected games, one player is infected while the others play as soldiers and work as a team to take him down. The power balance is skewed towards the infected player; even with four guns trained on him, the only way to kill the infected player is to hit him from behind with a melee attack, but getting close to the infected player is hard because he can become invisible and cut your to shreds with his blade.


Dark Sector does a better job at setting up environmental puzzles than it does setting up combat situations. Puzzles get the most out of the blade's abilities, while also balancing in-game logic with real world common sense. If fire is needed to burn through an object, you first need to find a gas leak and then find an electric source to charge up the blade and spark a fire. However, this does lead to a few issues later since you'll begin to look for the most complex answer possible while the simple one is right in front of you... which isn't a bad problem to have.

Although the gameplay is satisfying, it lacks the little extra bit of polish that makes good games great. Most of the cover areas are laid out really well, although there are others where you're better off running around. These areas lack the basic puzzle element that makes the mechanic enjoyable. Enemies will sometimes spawn in illogical areas, while others will run into positions that are impossible for you to hit them from.

Game Mechanics:

Although gun play plays a major role, Dark Sector's distinguishing mechanic is a Krull inspired boomerang blade. The blade is primarily used as a weapon, though you'll learn new tricks over the course of the game making it an even more valuable asset. Early on, you'll gain the ability to pick up items similar to the boomerang in Zelda and learn to steer it in flight. The latter is easily the most enjoyable aspect of the game and opens up a number of opportunities for taking out enemies who like to dodge behind cover. It is also used to solve puzzles either by touching hard to reach switches or imbuing the blade with an element and transferring it to another location.

It's incredibly tempting to call Dark Sector just another Gears of War wannabe. The two games share similar mechanics and look nearly identical, yet Dark Sector manages to carve out its own niche place in the third-person shooter genre. It's far from perfect, but does enough right that it is still a satisfying and fun game.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

Sony PlayStation 2 El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera Sony PlayStation Portable Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII

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