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Dark Sector - updated hands-on

Forget what the ESRB says - dismembering monsters and punk-ass soldiers with a living steel boomerang in Dark Sector is neither "excessive" nor "offensive." It is awesome. A little disturbing, maybe, but if you don't want to see some bad guy rolling around on the ground clutching at a bleeding stump instead of trying to kill you, then why are you hurling sharp hunks of metal around in the first place?

OK, yes, Dark Sector is pretty gruesome, and its spurting gore - brought on mostly by tosses of the Glaive, a big bladed Frisbee that's the signature weapon of the game's hero, Hayden Tenno - is made all the more distressing by the desolate Soviet Bloc cityscapes you'll explore. But it's really just one element of a spectacularly detailed game that sees Hayden - a "cleaner" for a CIA-like agency - hunting down creatures who, like him, have been infected by a mutagenic virus.

In Hayden's case it's pretty beneficial - the contagion has taken over his arm, turning it into living metal and enabling Hayden to use the Glaive - but the stunted zombies and mutants arrayed against him weren't so lucky. What's more, the eerie-looking soldiers of the fictional Republic of Lasria aren't differentiating between him and the other creatures in their efforts to wipe out the infected and cover up the contagion, so to be on the safe side, Hayden will have to take out everything that moves.

The Xbox 360 demo level we played featured minimal plot - there's a beacon that's calling the infected to it, Hayden included, and he needs to track it to find out what's at its source. But it did give us a good feel for the game, and if you've played Resident Evil 4 or Gears of War, you already have a decent idea of what to expect. The action unfolds from a tight over-the-shoulder perspective, with Hayden able to aim his default pistol (and any other guns he finds) with the help of a laser sight.

Aiming the Glaive works exactly the same way and feels largely identical, except that - like the boomerang in Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess - it'll lock onto points of interest as you drag its targeting sight over enemies. Let it fly, and you'll usually be rewarded with a burst of dark blood (some of the Glaive throws aimed higher on enemy bodies produce such spectacular blood explosions that it's hard to make out exactly what's been cut) and one less enemy to worry about. It was as simple as firing a gun, which was actually a little disappointing given the "golf-swing"-style mechanics we were promised the first time we saw the game in action.

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