Sunday, October 18, 2009

Xbox 360 Review: Dark Sector

Okay, okay, I realize that Dark Sector actually came out in March of 2008. You know what though? I just picked it up for a measely seven bucks on eBay. I figured what the hell. For the cost of a super-sized Big Mac meal at McD's I'd give the game a shot. Turns out I liked it quite a bit!

In Dark Sector you play as...okay, I didn't actually pay attention to the cut scenes, they were pretty bad. Let's just say you play as a super-secret spy sent to some place full of people with bad Russian accents. Some type of virus, or something, has been released that is turning the populous into zombie-like creatures of varying degrees of insanity. Some are little more than bloated farmers with shovels while others are gray-skinned alien-looking-things with...shovels. There are also some guys with guns who like to shoot at you and these shovel-packing zombies.

The gameplay more or less feels like a hybrid of other, more popular titles. The shooting and exploring feels very similar to Resident Evil 4, but the cover mechanic and simulated roadie-run give Dark Sector a definite Gears of War feeling. There's also a nice survival horror tint to everything and there are plenty of puzzles to rack your brain over as well.

The game infects you with this virus early on. So instead of being a random spy with a gun, you're given a bitchin glaive that acts like a boomerang. You can throw it to your heart's content and as the game progresses it even powers up. You can remote control it, power up the shot, or infuse it with elements such as fire, electricity, and ice. On top of that you can also use pistols, shotguns, and assault rifles. Further powers bestowed upon you include a shield that deflects projectiles and the ability to become invisible for a short period of time. The only problem with some of the latter powers is that you don't really get them until past the halfway point. You'll feel like "oh cool! I can turn invisible now!" just before the game ends so that's kind of disappointing.

Dark Sector is made up of 10 Chapters and most all of those Chapters ends with a slick boss fight. There's a massive guy you have to take down in a church, an invisible monster you have to outsmart, and a slightly more powerful nemesis infected with the same strand of the virus as you. All in all there's some nice variety here with regards to the bosses, though I must admit that I was let down due to the "rinse, wash, and repeat" strategy it took to beat most of them. The same can be said for the regular enemies of the game. While they offer a nice challenge at points, the AI isn't the brightest and each firefight is approached in the same manner. The only thing that changes is the amount of enemies thrown at you at a time. Despite that, the powers the game gives you makes each battle feel rewarding in its own way.

Now, let's just make it clear that Dark Sector is a fun game to play. The powers are a blast to exploit and the overall action the game promotes is quite solid. The campaign actually takes roughly 7 to 8 hours and offers up a nice bit of challenge even on the normal difficulty setting. With that being said there are the aforementioned flaws that stand out, but a few others as well. The game glitches frequently and you'll often get shot through walls by enemies, see bodies floating in mid air, and even watch as enemies walk right through explosions almost as if they didn't even happen. It's kind of frustrating to say the least and the game definitely could have used some more polish.

If you have a few bucks kicking around you could do far, far worse than Dark Sector. Sure nobody plays online anymore, but the single player campaign is a pretty good time and the achievements are easy to get. I'm glad I picked this one up and really got a kick out of the vision the development team brought to the game. Granted the "vision" was more or less to copy what other games have done, but the setting is interesting and I rather enjoyed the powers the protagonist is packing.

Dark Sector gets 3 decapitated heads out of 5.

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