In the event of a horrific zombie virus outbreak there are a few features of modern society that would expectedly falter: twenty-four hour supermarkets, for one. The press as well, perhaps electricity and certainly public transport. Right? Not in Russia, or so according to Digital Extreme’s Dark Sector. No apparently it would take more than a violent military coup and the shocking mutation of an entire population to interrupt the Russian train service. It’s a shame then the game itself doesn’t trail in the shadow of the admirable public transport system.
Dark Sector didn’t have a smooth ride on the production rollercoaster. Visually identical to Gears of War and with a number of mammoth alterations through the eight years of production (it was once sited as an out of space sci-fi FPS akin to Unreal Tournament) it heralds all the typical problems that long production times generally bring.
The game initiates its hazy thin narrative with a Splinter Cell esque prologue in which protagonist Hayden Tenno engages in an infiltration mission somewhere in the monochrome depths of Russia. Adopting the recognisable Gears of War over the shoulder third person camera for combat, the game begins its jellybean trail of borrowed ideas and stale gameplay features. Despite this the initial level is probably the most enjoyable and culminates in the infection of Hayden and eventual discovering of the titles sole unique trait, the Glaive.
Rather than weaving the Glaive into a multicoloured quilt of gameplay features the developers simply mould it into the protagonists arm (literally) and leave the player to indulge in it’s throwing abilities for the rest of the game. A neglect detectable, like a parent taking their child to the park but failing to acknowledge that the child can’t reach the floor and can’t swing without a push.
At various points throughout the game it’s possible to combine the Glaive with the elements (fire, ice, electricity), which make it more entertaining to use and adds a splash of variety to an experience lacking in it. The Glaive itself is fun for a while, but its appeal diminishes when it becomes necessity to execute each and every foe in the same manner.
Which leads on to another detail, the antagonist army. The game pits you simultaneously against the Russian army and a variety of once human, now zombie corpses. The relentless level of damage each can endure is incredible. Though the game sees fit to grant you a small selection of firearms, none are helpful forcing the player to utilise the Glaive continually. Furthermore the AI is a mile south of acceptable. Whilst this may all be part of being nigh on invincible it doesn’t make for an engaging experience when enemies are perfectly content with attempting to fire at you through walls, while showing no aversion to endurance races around trucks with bullets screaming and ricocheting into the very windscreens.
Monotonous is the most fitting word to describe Dark Sector. Besides the repetitive gameplay the game throws a few boss battles into the fray, all of which are forgettable. It seems as though a game can’t pass without a series of quick time events. Ninja Gaiden II incorporated it slyly into the game with the obliteration techniques. Contrarily Dark Sector attends the Viking: Battle for Asgard school for destroying all sense of reality. Throughout the game, and in each of the few boss battles, garishly coloured ‘bash B’ circles grace the screen. Apparently the intelligence of gamers is on the downfall as no thought is required here, nor any skill; just pressing B here is enough to come out victorious.
As the narrative transgresses and you navigate a host of uninspiring locations a few shards of potential fracture the inky clouds, though they continue the trend of borrowed concepts. The black market sections allow you to buy and upgrade guns, an unremarkable version of Metal Gear’s Drebin system. Vehicle segments make for a welcome diversion from the Glaive play as well.
A seldom interesting narrative and limited arsenal are the least of Dark Sector’s worries as there just isn’t anything here besides the Glaive and it’s not enough to carry an entire game.