Dark Sector Review
Dark Sector starts poorly but gradually improves and becomes rather enjoyable thanks to the glaive.
Posted by Ben T (nutcrackr) on May 7, 2009 - 6:00pm EST (May 7, 2009 18:00)
Dark Sector is a third person action game set in the near future in which a Technocyte infection mutates creatures and turns them insane. You play as Hayden, a character who is a secret agent with a resistance to pain; much more of the story is easily and probably better forgotten. His arm quickly gets physically altered intentionally by this technocyte virus which gives him a glaive weapon attached to his arm which can be used in a variety of ways to kill enemies. Although the game features weapons the main combat revolves heavily around the glaive and its powers for combat along with the occasional puzzle. The story is presented a little thinly and in many ways it becomes convoluted trying to become deeper than it probably is when you just want to slash people with your glaive anyway. Controls are fairly good with some strange mouse support that would occasionally click out of the game locking Hayden into walking backwards forcing me to restart. Unfortunately there is no save anywhere but the checkpoint save system is among the better implementations in recent games. The game starts out quite badly, using standard weapons against some particularly brainless humans in bleak and bland environments. It’s fortunate that the central weapon, the glaive, makes an early appearance and remains the central focus until the final foe crumbles.
Dark Sector starts particularly poorly when it comes to displaying some very basic game design principles. Cut scenes early on are often poorly composed with very loud ambient sounds drowning out the ordinary voice talent that is trying to tell a pretty dull story. Abnormally the cut scenes improve and so does even the dialog and story toward the end. The AI is often completely stupid and unfortunately remains that way; a few times the AI seemed to forget I was even there and just ran about finding cover. Even better yet they would just run in front of me to find cover that was not cover at all letting me freely shoot them in the back, it all felt rather amateur. Even in some levels the AI would try or successful use their ranged attacks through walls or objects clearly not intended. Occasional spawn placement was dubious too, in a later level I was hiding in a nook in the wall and instantly a group of three human soldiers spawned in front of me forcing me to retreat, although that was fairly rare. The zombified creatures you meet later fit much better with the AI system since their basic instructions are, “run towards and attack Hayden.” These guys even offer the most challenge because they can get in very close and cut you down quickly. In some of these action sequences you will be called to perform short segments of basic button mashing, which means jamming a displayed key although it’s very forgiving. With the human opponents you can just chip away at one or two while you regenerate health behind cover like most modern third person action games. Some of the level design might be considered odd with cover placed in very unusual positions but it’s generally satisfactory enough to keep the action flowing. While the game starts as a bit of a failure it redeems itself strongly with Hayden’s glaive weapon.
Dark Sector would not be a good game without its implementation of the glaive. While the glaive might simply be classified as another weapon at Hayden’s disposal its various powers and use in puzzles greatly increase the playability of the entire game. The glaive is a circular 3 pronged boomerang like metallic object that’s part of Hayden’s infection on his arm. You can throw it and it will return even when you are behind cover, you can charge it by holding the release button and it will fly forward with more damaging power often very critical to hold off hordes. Additionally you can control the glaive in third person while in slow motion to direct it around corners, or over cover. Not only is it good at removing the heads of pesky foes hiding behind cover, it’s a good idea to release and scout the area ahead to check things are clear as sometimes the AI path finding forgets the path. While in close proximity you can engage finishing moves that kill the enemies quickly and brutally. These features make the glaive a nifty tool of destruction with perhaps its one limit being its limited release range requiring some careful positioning. Although these basic elements are used often the glaives powers don’t stop there with additional charges from elemental sources.