Giant Bomb Review

18 Comments

Dark Sector Review

2
  • PS3
  • X360

Dark Sector's got great-looking character models, but the slow and repetitive gameplay really holds it all back.

Dark Sector is notable for being the first "next-generation" game announced all the way back in 2004. Back then, it sort of had a stealth-action look to it, like a futuristic version of Splinter Cell. It would have been interesting to see how that game would have turned out, but I have a feeling that the 2006 release of Gears of War made a pretty deep impact on Dark Sector's development, because the final product takes several cues from Gears. Unfortunately, it doesn't clone it well enough to actually be a clone worth playing to completion.

Hayden's a pretty lithe dude, but he moves a lot slower than you'd think.
On the surface, Dark Sector seems pretty cool. The character you control, Hayden, is sent into an area that's been infected with some kind of hideous, post-apocalyptic disease, but he's quickly pinned down and infected himself. As you play, the disease takes hold and you unlock new abilities. The first thing that happens once you become infected is that the game goes from being guns-only to giving you a boomerang-like glaive that you can use to chop off the heads of enemies, if you're a good aim. You eventually get a shield, the ability to control the glaive in mid-flight, and the ability to turn invisible for short periods of time.

The game also tosses some light puzzle-solving at you here and there. The glaive can be infused with fire, ice, or electricity by throwing it into fire, something frozen, or a power box, respectively. You'll occasionally need to burn things to clear a path or charge up a jammed door with power to proceed. 

Once you're fully powered up with all the different abilities, you have some options for how to best deal with enemies, but you're always stuck with a few nagging problems. Hayden moves extremely slowly, plodding around the environment like a man twice his size. For a guy who looks like he should be flipping out and beheading enemies like a ninja, the movement speed doesn't make much sense, and it really makes things drag. You can sprint for short periods of time, but the sprint is Gears of War-like in that you lose a lot of lateral control. Again, that's something that makes sense for a linebacker-sized dude like Marcus Fenix, but when applied to a lithe operative like Hayden, it doesn't fit.

While you'll be inclined to do most of your fighting with the glaive, you'll also get some guns to work with. You start with a pistol, and as you collect rubles and briefcases with weapon upgrades in them, you can make your weapons better or replace them at black market checkpoints found in the levels. The weapon purchasing and upgrading systems don't seem to be a major part of the game, and you can make it through with limited purchases.

Most of the game has Hayden running from place to place, occasionally stopping for an encounter with gun-toting humans or pipe-wielding zombies, neither of which are very smart. Humans will randomly shoot into your cover point without ever getting tactical, and the zombies move too slowly to ever be a serious threat. This reduces most encounters to an easy shooting gallery where the only occasional problem is the range of your glaive and the general lack of ammo for your weapons. Once you earn the power to turn invisible, the game gets even easier, since you can just blink out, run up behind a guy, and take care of business.

If you toss your glaive through fire, you can set dudes on fire with it.
The game has a basic cover system, letting you pop in and out of cover to take shots or toss your glaive at distant enemies. Up close, you have a melee attack, and if you get behind someone--which is super-easy with the slow-moving zombies--you can execute them with a finishing move, which triggers a canned animation that shows you snapping a zombie's neck, slitting the throats of some enemies, or just jamming your glaive into the skulls of some creatures. The finisher animations look great and do a nice job of showing off the game's detailed character models, and it's a shame that there aren't more of them, because they get really repetitive. The rest of the game looks pretty good, too, with decent-sized environments and nice blur effects. Hayden's face is probably the only thing in the game that doesn't look so great. It's too flat, maybe? I can't quite put my finger on it, but something about the way it looks and animates just seems totally wrong.

There's a multiplayer option in Dark Sector that lets up to ten players play one of two modes. One has two teams, each with one Hayden that must be protected. The other puts one player in the Hayden role, with the other players trying to bring him down for the right to be Hayden in the next round. Neither mode is much fun, and the whole game can be a mess if everyone isn't using a good, fast connection. Dying for no visible reason, warping around the map, and other glitches came up pretty consistently in every match I played.

Dark Sector feels OK for the first two chapters, but there are eight more to slog through after that, and if I wasn't working on a review of the game, that's probably where I would have stopped. The occasional variety of a boss battle or vehicle sequence doesn't break things up enough to make the campaign an interesting one, either. Between the dreary action, the sluggish movement speed, and the seemingly tacked-on multiplayer, you'll probably want to pass on the whole thing.
Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
18 Comments
Posted by RoboRobb

Jeff finally blazed through it. Piece of Junk! :S

Posted by Joevit

I have 360 game... Sucks!!! They made a big deal about this game and it was crap.

Posted by deskp

i liked this game, dont regret buying it!
it was fun to play through. the story wasnt all that much, but the gameplay was fun and they style of the game is cool.

;D

Posted by Drakulla

I only played the demo, thought it was OK. I didn't like the fact that whatever new weapon you grabbed, you only had a few minutes to use it because your overly dangerous arm would destroy it.

Posted by Legolas_Katarn

Its like a bad Resident Evil 4 mixed with a bad Gears of War.

Posted by shadows_kill

this game rocks. the online isnt good but the story is REALLY good.

Posted by Everyones_A_Critic

I rented this on the 360. Some of the powerups are cool but I found it to be really bland when it came down to everything. You pretty much sum it up perfectly Jeff.

Posted by FarCry

fun game but terrible story

Posted by Xerxes

Another game I was less than impressed with. The premise of it sounds cool, but the execution is poor and monotonous to a "T." Very sad considering this was a title I was looking forward to. I ended up only renting it from Blockbuster and never got past the second section because I felt as if I had seen everything the game had to offer in that short amount of time.

Posted by mawfu

good premise but poor execution.

Posted by sheisty_shogun

I just got done playing the game and can't say I ever got tired of slicing up bad guys with the glaive.  That said, the story was of no interest to me at all.  I just wanted to keep chopping heads off.

Posted by PATJASA

played the first part..... just can't take the repetitive enemies and boring gunfight.... the only fun part is to chop people's heads off with the glavie... but then the animation of head chopping off is fun, but you have to charge and stuff...just painful stuff.... so stopped half way through.... totally agreed with the review.

Posted by Sokkratez

I just finished this game. I thought it was good. Not great. They could have cut out a chapter and a half and been okay; or drop the multiplayer aspect and flesh out story elements some more. I was impressed that guns remained interesting and useful despite the glaive being the star of the show. Achievements were also fun to go for.

On the Giant Bomb scale I'd have given it 3 stars.

Posted by Silentassasin5k

I really enjoyed Dark Sector. I only spent 15 dollars on it, but I have to say it wasn't that bad of a game. The story was very lackluster and I really expected more from a game that had been in production for so long. It also felt that the game took a lot of ideas from Gears of War and Resident Evil, but that has probably been noted many times. I think it deserves three and a half stars on the GB scale.

Posted by leor
Edited by Cltn2080

I just picked this up and it's really not as bad as a lot of people have made it out to be.  It's certainly not a great game and I can imagine being disappointed if I were one of the people who long looked forward to it. I'd probably have been unhappy about having dropped 60 bucks on it too.  Looking at it now though, as a decent mindless action game that can be had for less 10 dollars, it's  a lot easier to recommend.  You'll probably enjoy enjoy it plenty if you don't go in expecting anything special.

Posted by Clenchmask

I like bad games, I got this one as a gift after renting it and enjoying it's unabashed mindlessness. For some reason when I play this I think of the original MDK for PC and PSOne.  Nostalgia alone makes me enjoy it. SO if you see it for cheap and you like visually stunning crap, pick it up, I'd say it's a nice little romp.

Posted by Generiko

this game is alright from what I remember, though I never finished it because I kept on dying on one part >_>