GT Hands-On: Dark Sector
D3 Publisher of America recently gave us some hands on time with their upcoming title Dark Sector. As the trailers showed (before they were axed by the ESRB), Dark Sector is a third-person shooter/slasher offering stunning visuals, an engaging story, and some truly unique combat features. While the title is sure to be a hit next spring, I found that not all is bright in Dark Sector.
The first thing I gravitate towards when looking at a new title is the storyline. While developer Digital Extremes is not letting the full story out of the bag just yet, what they have told us is more than enough to keep me interested. Gamers take control of CIA operative Hayden Tenno, who is sent into the imaginary former Soviet Block country of Lasria to determine and eliminate the source of a deadly virus. The virus isn’t your everyday make em’ cough and make em’ dead number either. It seems this bit of biological terror takes your average citizen to a not so permanent grave and brings them back zombie style. The motivation to complete your missions is made all the more urgent when you too are infected by an unknown agent. This infection serves an additional combat motivator, as the zombies want to kill you for not being undead, and the soldiers want to kill you just for being infected.
Combat is the next big draw to the game, and Dark Sector lays it on thick. Like any shooter you will have access to pistols, sniper-rifles, and an assortment of automatic weapons. Your primary weapon however is the glaive, a three sided thrown blade reminiscent of Krull (yes I know there were 5 blades in Krull), that returns like a boomerang when thrown. You can also set waypoints for your throw, targeting one enemy after the other, enabling you to dispatch multiple enemies in a single throw.
The glaive becomes even nastier with supplemented with environmental power-ups. A lamppost, circuit box, or open flame is all it takes to bring your weapon to the next level, allowing you to unleash savage assaults that electrocute or burn your enemies alive. These altered glaive states also assist you in the completion of puzzle objectives. An example would be the need to add electricity to a gas leak to start a fire. Fire being the only way to burn through an obstacle presented further in the level. Further upgrades were promised, but not available in the demo presented.
Graphically the game looks great. The visual styling does an excellent job of portraying the mood of the game and the character movements are smooth and realistic. Cut-scenes are all generated from in-game assets, making the storytelling aspect of the game fluid and unobtrusive. There are also several unique effects that add variety to the game. One effect occurs when enemy soldiers attack Hayden with a nerve gas designed to kill infected citizens. The screen instantly changes into an acid frenzy of washed blues and reds that made me want to throw on some Floyd and turn off the lights.
Despite all the things that Dark Sector does well, there is one glaring problem that needs to be addressed before launch. The camera angles need significant work. When closing to melee range, you have the ability to trigger a finishing move that activates an incredibly brutal mini cut-scene. In practice, the finishers I executed made the camera swivel around to give me a nice crisp close-up of my kneecaps or back, as opposed to the full body torture segments detailed in the trailers. Further problematic camera work was displayed when jumping off a second floor landing. Hayden extends the glaive to cut his way down the side of the building, sending sparks flying and basically looking hella suave. At least that’s what I think was supposed to happen; the camera angle never left the landing. These are things I wouldn’t normally bring up when seeing a demo, but when I was told three separate times that the game was only being delayed till next gear because of market competition, I get kind of worried.
In general, Dark Sector is very much like Gears of War. The control setup is almost identical to Gears. The cover system is almost identical to Gears. The graphics feel like Gears. Hell, even Digital Extremes kept saying “It’s just like Gears.” I am sorry to say however, Dark Sector is not like Gears. Cover and concealment are important if you are going to survive, but you have to exit cover for a ridiculously long time in order to lock on with the glaive. Additionally, accuracy with projectile weapons is tedious to say the least. I don’t know if the Devs were aiming for realism or simply trying to make gamers focus on the glaive, but beyond the first shot my firearms recital bounced across the screen like a 4-year-old mainlining Kayro and Red Bull.
Bottom line: Would I buy this game? Yes. Despite the problems here and there, Dark Sector is going to be a winner. It is not going to be the GoW the developers want it to be, but it will be great in its own right. Excellent story, sweet graphics, and inventive weaponry abilities mean this should be on your list.