Game Review: Dark Sector

Posted on July 15, 2009

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Dark Sector is a shooter published by D3 Publishers of America (PS3 and 360) or Aspyr Media (PC), available for download from Direct2Drive. It released March 25, 2008, and uses the Evolution Engine. It uses a third person, over the shoulder, camera. Okay, enough facts.

Dark Sector is about a Hayden Tenno, a commando sent into an Eastern European city where he is attacked and infected with the Technocyte Virus, a bioweapon that gives him extraordinary powers.

The graphics are good, bordering on terrific. If I had to pick at them, I’d pick on them for the lighting. Important items are picked out for you in the game with a glimmer of light, usually when the camera first looks at them. The trouble is, the lighting can make anything glimmer with light, depending on camera motion and angle. The controls are simple and they respond well, which I find unusual in a console game ported to the PC. Hayden gains powers gradually, so you have time to learn each new control. The storyline isn’t particularly gripping, but serviceable. The sound is fine on my machine, and they provide an option that I find very important in a game – the option for subtitles! Since the voice channel doesn’t work on my machine (something I find extremely common on console ports), the subtitles are vital.

Where the game really succeeds, for me, is in the challenge it presents. I’ll never be a hotshot FPS player, but I’ve been playing shooters since the original Castle Falkenstein. I love the goofy ones like Duke Nukem 3D and Serious Sam, and the serious ones, like Ghost Recon, Rainbow Six, and Modern Warfare. So I expect to be challenged by a game, even on the easiest setting. That being said, I want the hope that I can succeed. When I played through the original Call of Duty game, I cheated my way through the Normandy Landing sequence because I couldn’t see any hope of succeeding. Where Dark Sector shines is in always giving me the hope that if I try something just a little different the next time, I will succeed – and without a cheat code. I love that in a game!

Where the game fails is in maps and puzzles. The maps are fairly simple, single-path entities. There’s one way through, and you’ll just have to deal with the gantlet of enemies. You can sometimes run past them, but you can’t avoid them altogether. The puzzles can be fun, but are often frustrating because they require secret knowledge to get past them. For example, there’s no way to know that the only way to destroy a power armor opponent is to first destroy the three lights on his armor, or that in one chapter you need electricity to disable a Jackal fighting vehicle so you can pull the driver out and take command. I find that I sometimes need to log out, look up the solution online, and then start play again.

IGN gives it 7.7 (good), and GameSpot gives it 7.5. I might go as high as an 8, but in general I think the reviews are accurate. If you enjoy satisfying shooter combat, Dark Sector is worth a look – especially since most places have it discounted now.

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