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Dark Sector

This is not your fathers Krull
My first exposure to Dark Sector was a small, teaser picture of the glaive weapon. I thought that perhaps a game based on the 80ís movie Krull might have been in the works. I didnít feel it a stretch at the time as an upcoming game is set in the Conan the Barbarian universe. As more material was released and trailers, the impression was changed and expanded my curiosity.

Set in a fictional Soviet nation of Lasria, Dark Sector introduces a gritty world ravished by a virus that mutates humans and turns them into powerful creatures with deadly weapons and abilities. Sent in to stop the virus before it spreads worldwide is Hayden Tenno. Hayden is part of a government that is called to thwart a madman, named Mezner, before his plan to infect the whole world can be implemented. Can Hayden save the world from being infected by a deadly virus before it is too late?

As the game opens, Hayden is deployed in Lasria, a Soviet nation, at the center of a spreading virus. You are deployed and told to seek out the one responsible for the virus outbreak. The initial mission serves as a sort of tutorial to acclimate you to the controls used in the game. As you make your way through the compound, you confront the man responsible, Mezner, and are infected with the virus responsible for mutating the residents of Lasria. This is where the game really starts as Hayden learns to adapt to his infection while still on a mission to stop a worldwide epidemic.

As the infection takes hold of Hayden, he discovers a new ability that allows him to summon a deadly weapon called a Glaive. Using this weapon allows him to dispatch enemies from a distance in a brutal fashion. As the glaive impacts with an enemy, it will either infect them or if thrown with force, can decapitate them or sever a limb. Enemies react to the portion of their body damaged as they fall to the ground, screaming, in a bloody mess. To say that the game contains violence would be a bit of an understatement at the damage dealt by the glaive.

As you progress through the game, you will encounter times when you can charge the glaive up with a particular element. Fire, electricity and ice allow for increased damage to enemies by catching them on fire, or electrocuting them. Some of the most fun comes from the ice damage that freezes an enemy solid so that you can shatter them into pieces. While the elemental attacks with the glaive are certainly fun, they do serve another purpose in the game. Certain areas require you to burn away material blocking a passageway or to use the electricity in the glaive to power a door or lock. Many of these puzzle type situations seem overly complex and unnecessary in a game of this nature. Add in the complexity of trying to control the glaive through tight openings to reach an electrical panel or source of fire so that you can progress become tedious and frustrating.

Hayden, too, receives additional abilities as you progress through the game. Initially you are in possession of the glaive and some increased strength and stamina. However, as you progress through the game you gain other abilities that allow you to summon a shield briefly to protect yourself. One of the more useful abilities gained is that of invisibility. Using this ability will let you slip past security cameras in certain portions of the game as well as allow you to sneak up on an enemy and take them out using a finishing move that is quite brutal.

Some aspects of the game felt sort of misplaced, such as the weapons system. At times you can enter a Black Market where you can purchase different weapons or upgrade a current one with items you find through out the game. While these do indeed improve your damage, ammo carrying ability or accuracy, under the right circumstances you need not even use many of the weapons available. The weapons in the game do serve a purpose in that you can often shoot farther then you can throw the glaive. However, if you run out of ammo, you are left with little choice in how to deal with an enemy. Enemies do drop weapons as you kill them, however in an interesting twist, they are genetically altered to render themselves useless after a few moments of your usage. I will say that it is an interesting way to get you to conserve your ammunition once you gain access to the Black Market to buy weapons. It also forces you to really make use and get your glaive usage to deliver many kills.

Another such issue that made itself known at various times in the game was camera issues in close quarters combat. Many times the camera would lose track of where you were focusing on and kind of stutter and mash your character and an enemy together. This made it difficult to get your bearing and take out enemies before they killed you. Employing a matrix-like ability to slow time and maneuver the glaive to its target is introduced in a ability called aftertouch. By employing this skill, you can slow down the movement of the glaive and guide it to its target, whether enemy or puzzle.

Achievements will come pretty steadily as you progress through the games single player mission. You will encounter achievements for completing the chapters as well as specific tasks throughout the story. In addition, a number of secret achievements will round out the thirty-two possible in the single player mission. Completing the list of thirty-eight achievements are six that are obtained in the various multiplayer modes over the Xbox Live service. Some achievements will require planning and skill if you wish to obtain all thirty-eight.

When playing a game that sets up a specific tone, an environment that matches will complete the experience and enhance the gameplay. The environments you will encounter in Dark Sector really do convey the dirty, grittiness of a city in the midst of a biological and military battle. Broken streets and building floors make navigating your way challenging as you are assaulted by enemy troops and mutated residents.

The game presents a dark and gritty world ravished by war in a battle against a deadly infection. Making your way through the various buildings and military installations, you will encounter broken buildings and structures that offer varying degrees of cover and protection as you fight your way through. Some of the walls and items you will use to provide cover and protection will deteriorate as they are fired upon by enemy troops. Backgrounds appear realistic and massive as you make your way around each area.

Keeping voice chatter to a minimum plays into the gritty, single player aspect. As you make your way through each area, you will overhear the communication of enemy units intent on wiping out you and the infection plaguing the city. Occasionally, you will encounter messages communicated to you by your commanding officer to relay orders or vital information necessary for your task completion. Rounding out the sounds is not lush, massive orchestral music, but the realistic sounding effects of gunfire and the impact of bullet and weapon upon flesh and other obstacles. The most minute details complete the auditory picture such as when you charge up the glaive with crackling energy or the sound of metal freezing upon contact with frozen tankers.

Looking purely at the single player aspect, there is not much incentive to replay the game after completing it the first time. Perhaps if some new abilities or weapons were unlocked there would be a draw to replay. As it stands, all that is provided is a harder difficulty, called Brutal mode, which increases the strength and damage of enemy units while making it easier for Hayden to die. While the game was interesting and contained an engaging story, the thought of replaying it for a mere achievement would feel more like a chore.

A common way for a game to offer replay value is by the inclusion of an online aspect. By including a multiplayer aspect, a game can live entice people to invest their limited gaming time. One of the draws of current gaming is the ability to extend the life of a game through well done and thought out multiplayer modes. Dark Sector offers two modes of multiplayer that can be played over Xbox Live or system link. Infection is a gametype in which one player is in the role of Hayden possessing all weapon and abilities available in the game. The other players spawn as enemy soldiers intent on taking down Hayden. The enemy team must communicate and work as a team to take down the player in control of Hayden. The player killing Hayden will start the next round as him. The other multiplayer mode, epidemic, is played similar to infection except that each team has a Hayden and their goal is to take out the other teams Hayden. If you have played Halo 3 or Call of Duty 4, this mode plays like the VIP gametype that occasionally comes up in matchmaking games.

Shooter games are a popular staple of console gaming. While many seem to get lost in the massive amount of choices available, there are occasionally games that stand out. Dark sector combines the first person shooter genre with a story you might find in an X-Files episode or a sci-fi movie. Dark Sector will provide an engaging story with some immersive scenery that provides an experience well worth checking out.

The game does exhibit some minor faults that present themselves occasionally. In addition, the overly complex final fight of the game is prone to make some throw down their controller in disgust. However, these instances do not diminish the overall experience and satisfaction obtained by completing the game in full. Unless you are a die hard shooter fan who craves any and all titles, this game, while not a must have, is still an enjoyable title that would be a good addition to your library.