Genre: Third-Person Shooter
Developer: Digital Extremes
Release Date: March 25, 2008
Dark Sector has come a long way since it was originally announced. What started out as a deep space survival-horror title has now morphed into a sci-fi flavored FPS, and so far, it seems like all of those changes have come out for the best. With less than a month until its release, the time for massive overhauls to the game are over, and when the teacher finally calls for pencils down, it looks like we're going to be left with a gripping, visceral thriller of a game.
The most recent (and hopefully final) plot of Dark Sector revolves around Hayden Tenno, a U.S. secret agent sent to infiltrate a research facility in a fictional Soviet country. Hayden has only been told that the Ruskies are testing biological weapons at this plant, and his job is to find out what they're up to and take out the madman behind it all.
The game's tutorial levels (also known as "pre-infection") play out in standard FPS fashion. Hayden finds cover, shoots, and loots dead bodies for new guns and ammo. There's really nothing special or notable about these early stages (other than the fact that they are presented in black and white), but they aren't why you're here anyway.
Things pick up soon enough, when Hayden falls into the clutches of his enemies and is infected with the virus himself. The pathogen causes a metallic skin to begin growing on Hayden, starting with his right arm. With this skin also comes a glaive, a symbiotic weapon that Hayden can use as an extension of his own body. The glaive is well-suited for combat, but it also performs other tasks, such as picking up unreachable items and flipping far-off switches. PS3 owners will get a special treat, as SixAxis controls will allow to add an aftertouch to the glaive and steer it in midair. As the virus takes control of the rest of his body, Hayden is granted new abilities, such as the power of invisibility and the capability to project a shield. By the time you get to Dark Sector's final levels, you'll be a bioengineered killing machine, which is just what the developers wanted.
Since this is an FPS, there has to be a multiplayer component, and that is indeed the case here. At GDC, the developers let us try out a level in which one player controlled Hayden, and the rest played as a group of soldiers trying to take him down. Whichever player managed to kill Hayden earned a point and got to play as him in the next round, and the game ended after a certain point total had been reached. The infected player had access to all of Hayden's abilities, while the others had the superiority of firearms and safety in numbers.
I'm not sure if this was the case in all play sessions, but in our group, any player controlling Hayden consistently had a tough time staying alive very long. Basically, the entire team bum-rushed his position, and someone always managed to get in close enough for a melee kill. It may be easier to play as Hayden once we've had more time with the game. The developers aren't too concerned with the multiplayer components, though, as they admitted Dark Sector was designed as a single-player experience, with the multiplayer components added later.
After seeing Dark Sector in action, I can confidently say that it's come a long way since its inception, and the team behind it has taken all criticisms and used them to craft an excellent and original shooter. The violent satisfaction of shredding opponents with your glaive, coupled with a dark sci-fi storyline, is shaping up this title to be more than just a mindless firefight. Be sure to check out Dark Sector when it launches in just a few short weeks.
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