Before we knew of the Xbox 360, or anything concrete about the PlayStation 3, we had heard the name Dark Sector. This was a time when what would become the Wii was known only as the mysterious “Revolution.” The 7th Generation of video game consoles hadn’t even begun and we already received a taste of what was on the horizon with a video released by Digital Extremes:
The video promised a next-gen space experience. With a very Splinter Cell-style vibe, the prospect of sneaking around a space station in an advanced suit that could disarm opponents by magnetically levitating the gun out of their hands was incredible; we couldn’t wait to play this game.
Flash forward a number of years ago and Dark Sector finally emerges in a post-Gears of War video game industry. The entire project had been revamped, the focus shifted from space to Russia and had donned a quasi-survival horror identity.
Dark Sector should be commended for one thing: The damn game came out! It went from one of those games that ended the phrase “What ever happened to…?” to actually being a game we could all enjoy. The game failed, however, to live up to any amount of hyped that it generated back when we saw the first sneak peak.
According to the devs, Dark Sector’s original space setting was scrapped as they felt that game culture had tired of such worlds and preferred more gritty, realistic ones. Apparently no one at Digital Extremes heard of Mass Effect, Halo, or even Dead Space.
Though the experience of what currently exists as Dark Sector isn’t necessarily a terrible one, it is perhaps one of the most glaring examples of plagiarism in gaming. Holy shit does this game feel like Gears of War and Resident Evil 4. It’s a shame that the developers showed no interest in originality outside of a fancy Xena-like weapon. I won’t even grant the story some originality, since there’s nothing original about creepy Soviet-era experiments driving a plot.
There is one level in particular, which features a courtyard with a fountain in the center, with two higher corridors on the left and right where enemies charge at you from, that I swear is identical to a part in either the first or second Gears of War. If anything, Dark Sector wins an award for being the first game to trigger deja vu within the game.
Sluggish controls are perhaps the biggest offense here–that and monotonous game design. Countless parts of the game consist of nothing more than fighting off wave-after-wave of enemies—with very little if any of the thrill found in hoard-like modes started by Gears of War.
Fighting with the glaive, however, is a pretty fun experience from time to time—sadly it’s mostly a one-trick pony. The other powers gained, a bullet shield and invisibility, simply aren’t utilized very well. The shield always seems to quit on you several seconds too short, and there are times where I could swear the invisibility simply wasn’t working.
There are even moments where it feels like your cover isn’t working. If a tiny part of you is exposed, it can be shot at. Points for realism, I guess, but it’s largely annoying.
With a bit of patience, virtually any threat can be eliminated quickly. Head “slices” are easy to pull off since you can control the flight of the glaive, and all bosses involve some usage of the environment to trigger their fatal flaw.
Most of the game, sadly, feels very lazy in terms of development. There are, I would guess, maybe two or three different “finishing move” animations. Brutal finishers, and maybe some combos, would’ve actually been enough to make this game a bit more unique, so it’s kind of disappointing to keep seeing the same shit over and over again.
This is the same with the enemies. There are predictable human ones: Enemies that have assault rifles, ones with shotguns and ones that have shields that get up close to you. All are pretty easy to dispose of. Only the heavily armored ones with chain guns pose any real threat.
The non-human enemies are mostly annoying and, again, there are about three or four variations on them—and they mostly do the same thing. And there are waves, and waves of them. There were times where I literally wondered if it was ever going to end, or if I had stumbled onto some infinite respawn part where I simply had to escape.
The story largely appears wrapped up in its own little world, and isn’t very much interested in inviting the gamer in to tell a story. Some character relationships you never fully understand because it’s clear that something happened before the beginning of the game, but they never really tell you what it is—only that it makes the main character a little untrustworthy.
I will say this about Dark Sector: as I got further into the game, I began to pick up some of its rhythm and enjoyed, I think, a portion of what the vision for the game really was. For anyone who is interested in the history of video game development, and especially how trends set into motion from titles such as Resident Evil 4 and Gears of War influenced other games, it’s an interesting experience. It also remains the cheapest I’ve ever paid for a game: $1.08 used at GameStop.