And this isn’t the only disappointing aspect of Dark Sector. The dark environments melt into one shadowy blur - almost every other level is set in a cave, creepy monastery or graveyard. Then there are the undead creatures. Sure, they’re quite scary as they run at you, but when they make with the cloaking devices you end up in gunfights with invisible enemies.
Even though the range of weapons on offer is pretty powerful - from shotguns to sniper rifles - the system to upgrade and buy new ones is faulty. The Black Market can be found by finding manholes and slipping down to a secret gun shop. Here you can add upgrades to your current weapons with power-ups you find as you go (like Accuracy or Stopping Power) or buy and sell guns. As in RE4, you have a case to store your unused weapons, but from start to finish we only ever had about three guns because there just isn’t enough cash lying about for you to be able to afford them all - meaning you can only stare at the better weapons.
Many of the boss battles are exciting, though. Taking on the colossus monster, smashing up a church and burning him with your fire glaive is a thrill, as is using the glaive to freeze falling water and encasing an enemy in ice before blowing him into a million pieces. There’s a Jackal tank for you to jump in, which can plough through barriers, fire bullets and launch neat little missiles that will take down groups of enemies in a single blast. You even learn an invisibility skill later in the game that allows you to sneak up on a foe and do them in with an instant Finisher move.
It’s just a shame that, for all of the entertaining bits, there’s so much repetition and disappointment. Take the moment when Hayden finally gets hold of <mild spoiler alert> the special ninja suit toward the end of the game. A samurai soldier who easily duffs you up early on was wearing this, so stepping into it should turn Hayden into an invincible beast, right? Nope. The only difference is that he can take a few more bullets and looks a bit different, which squashed our hopes of finally becoming a sort of superhero <spoiler ends>. Oh, and the battle with the final boss will leave you cold.
Dark Sector will provide you with hours of relentless action that you’ll be more than happy to spend your time with, but this definitely isn’t Digital Extremes’ opus. The weapon selection is stilted because of the unbalanced way in which you purchase them, the puzzles are seriously hit-and-miss, and the plot fails to grab your attention because you’ve heard the stories of infection and biological warfare before - as recently as Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, in fact.
As it stands, this is a stunning technical achievement, a dark horse, a must-rent and almost a must-buy. Sadly, it lacks the variety, pacing or innovation to make it truly essential.
We’d love a sequel (which seems likely judging by the ending) to expand on the fresh ideas found here, but until they dare to rely on some of their own ideas, Digital Extremes will always be the bridesmaid and never the bride. They’ve got the tools and potential to be a respected force, but Dark Sector isn’t quite the finished article we were hoping for.
Mar 25, 2008