Review: Dark Sector (Microsoft Xbox 360)

dcDark Sector
Genre: Shooter
Developer:Digital Extremes
Publisher: D3 Publisher of America
Release Date: March 25th, 2008

It’s been a long, hard road for D3’s new shooter Dark Sector. Originally announced for the “Xbox 2″ four years ago, it disappeared into the abyss before making a big comeback to hit store shelves this Spring. Was it worth the wait, or should it have stayed in the video game black hole with so many other promising games that never saw the light of day? Let’s review…

The game starts with a black and white prologue where the world is introduced to Hayden Tenno, a government issued badass sent to take down a terrorist named Mezner. The evil Mezner is turning people into superpowered freakshows by unleashing a dangerous virus on the world. Think along the lines of the classic George Romero zombie flicks with a twist. Without spoiling too much..well..Hayden gets infected, which in turn leads to the main storyline of the game – getting UN-infected (along with revenge, of course), and the birth of one of the most innovative weapons the genre has seen in a long time, the GLAIVE.

The glaive can best be described as an oversize ninja star/boomerang of destruction. It can be used to decapitate enemies, slice off limbs, and even steal weapons and power-ups. Your gun inventory throughout the game is very limited, and you must make a lot of choices along the way on which guns you prefer more than others – but the glaive is always there, and frankly – you may forget about the artillery if it means more chances to slice and dice with the glaive. The game does a great job at slowly training you on the powers of your weapon, seemingly allowing you to master one trick per chapter, before moving on to learn yet another cool trick.

dsSometimes the response time for the glaive isn’t ideal. You can fling the thing, and while it’s in mid-air get shot up by the sometimes endless enemies firing ammo from all angles at you. This is where the game adds challenge, as much as you’ll love the glaive, there are times where you’ll need to find a place to hide and fire your limited weaponry a la Gears of War. Your health is monitored by heartbeat and a redness that takes over the screen the worse and worse things become. I died…a LOT, usually for trying to be a glaive-toting hero and not taking cover like a person who would like to live. Using actual discretion, and depending on your shooter skills, Dark Sector can be beaten anywhere from 8-12 hours. At which point you can up the difficulty level or take a stab at the multiplayer on Xbox Live.

Finding and buying new weapons, upgrading the glaive, and taking down the conspiracy can be a lot of fun the first time around, but the replay value in this game is fairly low. The cutscenes are beautiful and the voice acting is well done and cinematic-quality, but to me Dark Sector was like a solid action movie. Entertaining, not ridiculously long, a bit repetitive at times – yet intriguing enough to keep playing.

Outside of the cutscenes, the game visually is solid but not spectacular. Us kids these days are spoiled, as while Dark Sector looks great on a HD screen, it doesn’t stand out compared to other games on the market during actual gameplay. Enemies tend to blend together and at times are completely indistinguishable. Dark Sector runs almost entirely in third-person mode and you don’t really get a good look at Hayden in action either. Overall there’s just nothing to write home..or a review about in terms of graphics, they’re just…good.

darksector03.jpgMore than just…good, is the audio – which is a true highlight of the game. Those indistinguishable bad guys do have a bit of personality coming through the speakers. Groan as the baddies scream “I found him!” and then smile as the glaive slices them up and they scream in complete and utter pain for losing one of their limbs. Combat action, regardless of the fight is captured fantastically, and if you’ve got a surround sound system you’re in for a real treat.

As for controls, the biggest complaint is hand-to-hand combat. Sure you have the glaive, and guns, but you can also sneak up on a bad guy and lay the smack down. This combat is all captured with the B/Red button on your controller. Time it right and you’ll be prompted to tap it again for a devastating finisher. The problem is, the response is very clunky at times, and you’ll end up kicking a wall, missing entirely, or tapping it 500 times in a frantic effort to get the job done. This same button is used to open crates, but if you aren’t perfectly lined up you won’t be prompted to open the crate, and instead will be unleashing melee spin kicks on air and around the box. It can be frustrating, especially if you’re in a hurry to get out of a certain spot or were trying to be superman in the middle of a multi-bad guy attack, failure probably results in a frustrating death. The guns are easy enough to manage, anybody who’s played a shooter can get the hang of that aspect, and I’ve already covered the glaive’s skills. The hand-to-hand combat hurts an otherwise solid control scheme.

The Scores
Story: Very Good
Graphics: Good
Sound: Very Good
Control and Gameplay: Decent
Replayability: Average
Balance: Decent
Originality: Good
Addictiveness: Average
Appeal Factor: Enjoyable
Miscellaneous: Good
FINAL SCORE: ENJOYABLE GAME

Short Attention Span Summary
The Glaive brings a new twist to what would’ve been just a good ol’ fashioned shooter. It adds an extra dynamic and will help cure the wants of shooter fans needing to try something a little different, while not straying too far from their genre of choice. A solid story and reasonable completion time make Dark Sector an easy recommendation for even the most casual shooter fan to give a try.

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