Dark Sector is a third-person shooter video game for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Windows developed by Digital Extremes. The game was released on March 25, 2008, in North America, March 27, 2008, in Japan and April 4, 2008, in Europe.
Set in the crumbling infrastructure of a fictional Soviet-bloc country in the near future, the game features both single and multi-player action, with players working their way through a world where biological weapons are a hellish nightmare, let loose on an unsuspecting populace.
The game's main character is a man named Hayden Tenno (voiced by Michael Rosenbaum of Smallville fame), a morally ambivalent clean-up man employed by the CIA. He has congenital analgia (a real-life disorder) which renders him unable to feel pain. On a mission in a fictional former eastern bloc nation, he is exposed to a biological compound which mutates him, dramatically changing his right arm, and giving him the ability to grow a three-bladed throwable weapon called a glaive at will. As explained in Game Informer magazine, the glaive is a part of his body, can be used to generate light, and can be controlled remotely by the player.
Dark Sector was met with mixed reviews. Many critics compared it to Resident Evil 4 and Gears of War due to the similar style of play and story, yet it was praised for its originality of action and weapon-based gameplay.
In Dark Sector, the gameplay revolves around the use of the glaive. The glaive is a three-pronged boomerang-esque weapon which returns to Hayden after every throw. The glaive can be used for long-distance dismemberment, solving environmental puzzles, and picking up various items. When up close to an enemy, context-sensitive actions may appear, allowing the player to execute enemies with "finishers". Environmental puzzles in the game usually focus upon capturing various elements (fire, electricity, ice, etc.) with the glaive. For example, a web that is blocking your path can be bypassed by capturing fire with the glaive and then launching it at the web to burn it down. The glaive is dual-wielded with a gun in Hayden's left hand. This allows for combos like stunning an enemy at long-distance with the glaive, running up close, and then shooting them down. As the game progresses, the glaive is given several new abillites; it can be guided through the air, being able to kill multiple enemies (This feature is controlled via the Sixaxis on the PlayStation 3 and by analog stick on the Xbox 360); a charged up throw for deadlier attacks, and is able to make the user invisible for a short period of time.
The gunplay is similar to that of Gears of War, Resident Evil 4 and Dead Space. The camera is positioned over the shoulder for third-person shooting, and the player can also take cover by standing next to an object such as a pillar or wall. While in cover, the player can pop out and fire, and also throw the glaive; however there is no blindfire. There is also a sprint function, which works similar to that of Gears of War. The game has no HUD (except for the ammo counter); Hayden's health is shown by the screen flashing red when he takes damage. If the player takes too much damage, the flashes will be faster, and a heartbeat will be heard, indicating Hayden is "bleeding out".
Dark Sector also has an online multiplayer aspect. There are only two modes (titled 'Infection' and 'Epidemic' respectively) and they feature: One randomly selected Hayden character in a deathmatch against many soldier characters. Another mode involves two Hayden characters on separate teams; with one team attempting to kill the opposing teams Hayden first. In both modes, Hayden will have superior powers compared to the soldiers. Hayden will be able to become invisible, use the glaive, etc. whereas the soldiers cannot. The developer of Dark Sector, Digital Extremes, has also developed the critically acclaimed Unreal Series, well known for their frantic and robust multiplayer.
The development of Dark Sector was announced February 11, 2000, on Digital Extremes' own website. The game was originally proposed as a follow up to Digital Extremes and Epic Games' critically acclaimed multiplayer first-person shooter, Unreal Tournament. However, the original plan was scrapped and the game would not be spoken of for another four years, during which the game would undergo a massive change in focus (the original design had the game keeping in line with its predecessor as a multiplayer arena-style first-person shooter). An impressive in-game cinematic unveiled years later in 2004, gave viewers a brief look at potential storylines and environments, as well as the graphics of the game. Digital Extremes has specifically stated that the clips are not pre-rendered and are actual in-game footage. The game was shown as the first example of what a seventh-generation game would look like in-game. The game was originally intended to take place in a science-fiction environment, notably in outer space, with players taking the role of a character that inhabits a sleek mechanical suit with incredible powers. The game was officially revealed by Digital Extremes' in late 2005, the time around the original release of the Xbox 360.
In 2006, major overhauls to the game were revealed, showing the main character, and a noticeably less sci-fi setting, although Hayden will start to resemble the originally planned main character as the infection takes over his body. The developers (according to the November 2006 Game Informer issue) cited a shift in focus by other gaming companies and publishers as the reason for the change to a more modern setting and reducing its sci-fi elements; adding they wanted to achieve the realism that fans would enjoy. Another reason was that the tech demo was originally built before the team found all the maximum specifications of the Xbox 360 itself. An interview with GameSpot has also revealed that the change in setting is intended to make the main character stand out more, as well as making the story more relatable which they say has been written as a superhero origin story. He added: At the beginning of the game when we do the prologue he's just kind of this anti-hero kind of guy. And very simply, concretely in the game, there are certain types of barriers that he has to open with contextual stuff. And then when he changes, then he begins tearing those things off and becomes much more brutal. So what we're trying to do is convey that evolution on the inside, but also convey it on the outside so that those game elements that are around him are evolving as he does. Dark Sector was based on Sector Engine, later changed to the Evolution Engine, both Digital Extremes' proprietary next-gen game engines. Official statements about this being just a name change or a major shift in their technology were not released to the public yet. Speculations about this engine being an evolution of the Pariah engine, a heavily modified Unreal Engine 2.5 were posted at UnrealWiki but were not confirmed by Digital Extremes. Dark Sector's project lead, Steve Sinclair, stated that the engine was written from scratch. The producer of Dark Sector, Dave Kudirka said when they first built the engine, they didn't want it to look like the Unreal Engine 3, and they wanted their own perspective engine. When asked about the games' engine being made on Wii or PC, he replied "plausible".
The game went gold on March 7, 2008.
Initially a Windows version of Dark Sector was planned and was to be released on the same date as on consoles. But later it was dropped and there was no news on its release for a while. On January 19, 2009, some sites reported that a YouTube video was available, showing Dark Sector running on a PC. Later it was confirmed that the game was indeed ported to Windows and was on sale, though only in Russia and the language was Russian by default. After a while, hackers found ways to run the game in English. An English French version was added to Steam on March 24, 2009. The PC version's multiplayer mode is only available via Local Area Network play, as the game is a straight port of the console version with no extra code for internet connectivity.
When asked about a sequel by GameSpot, Steven Sinclair commented:.."I'd love to do one. In many ways I think we scratched the surface with the character and the glaive. But there is nothing definitive at this point..."
|Electronic Gaming Monthly||78%|
|Official Xbox Magazine||5.5|
So far, the game received mixed reviews. It has scored an average 72% from Metacritic on 45 reviews. On GameRankings, the average ratio is 73%. Game Chronicles praised the game saying "..Dark Sector will have your adrenaline pumping like no other game currently can.." Other reviews include the San Francisco Chronicle who said "...Dark Sector is a chill thrill.." and gave it a 'Positive'. 360Sync gave the game a A-. IGN gave it a 7.7/10, Gamer.tv gave it a 7/10 and GamesRadar gave it a 7/10. XboxFocus gave the game a 3.5/5, citing the game's combat and weapons as fun, but criticizing its paper-thin plot, Game Informer magazine gave it a 7.5 out of 10, GameTrailers gave it a 7.3 out of 10, calling it "an interesting concept, but bases itself around too many games which came before it." PlayStation: The Official Magazine awarded the game a 4/5. Hyper's Dirk Watch commends the game for "the Glaive and its aftertouch". However, he criticised it for its "patchy AI and steep difficulty curve".
Banning in Australia
In February ahead of the retail launch in March 2008, the game was banned by the OFLC (The Office of Film and Literature Classification) for sale in Australia.
The sales and product manager for AFA Interactive (the local distributors of Dark Sector), Adam Zweck, told GameSpot AU that the game was banned due to its high impact violence, in particular the finishing moves the player can perform. "Obviously we're disappointed in it." "We feel there is justification for an appeal. However, we're exploring several avenues at the moment to see what we can do to get the game on Australian shelves."
The OFLC responded stating, "Dark Sector contains violence that is high in impact and is therefore unsuitable for persons aged under 18 years to play." "The finishing moves and most violent game play includes decapitation, dismemberment of limbs accompanied by large blood spurts, neck breaking spurts, neck breaking twists and exploded bodies with post action twitching body parts. These moves are relatively easy to accomplish and once the player has mastered the moves and is able to get close to his foes, these violent moves can be executed," said the OFLC's ruling. "Successfully shooting an opponent results in the depiction of blood spray. When Hayden cuts off his opponent's limb with the glaive, large amounts of blood spray forth from the stump and the injured person screams in agony which increases the impact."
Dark Sector has been one the most recent games to be banned in Australia by the OFLC. However on July 22, 2009, the full version of Dark Sector was released on the coverdisc of PC Powerplay, an Australian PC gaming magazine, although this is the censored version of the game.