Dark Sector has so many similarities to Resident Evil 4 that it could be seen as an expansion pack for Capcom’s classic. Firstly, the plot focuses around a city infected by a disease. The infection, like RE4’s Las Plagas, turns regular folk into murderous zombies. There’s a shadowy figure attempting to create an army with these creatures. Then there’s the female double agent - she’s like Ada Wong, minus the sex appeal. And there’s even a blatant rip-off of the merchant - a mysterious bloke who hangs around an underground Black Market (more on this later). It’s that shameless. But while Dark Sector relies too much on RE4 for inspiration, it’s still a solid entry for Digital Extremes, and shows immense promise for their future projects.
Dark Sector is one of the best looking games around. Fact. The story follows the recently-infected Hayden Tenno, a US special ops bloke who’s been sent into the country of Lasria to cap a dictator who’s planning a revolution with the deadly disease. The way Hayden vaults over barriers realistically is impressive - and even the way he strides purposefully with his weapon drawn looks superb. The sun-drenched vistas that stretch across the game’s city of Larissa look great too, far more appealing than the jaggy brownness of, for instance, BlackSite: Area 51.
All of this beauty comes from the Evolution engine. Created by Digital Extremes, it feels like you’re playing a slick pre-rendered movie at times. It’s just a shame that most of Dark Sector is drowned in, well, darkness; while this creates a moody atmospheric feel it hides some excellent level design. The action’s weighty and visceral - hacking away at your enemy with your razor-sharp glaive before performing a Finisher move slices his arm clean off. Eugh.
We can’t help noticing Hayden is a slow walker, mind. Running is slightly better, though steering Hayden around enclosed areas is like riding a motorbike - he leans to one side when sprinting.
The best aspect of Dark Sector is the aforementioned glaive. It’s a boomerang/sword hybrid that you can fling at enemies while firing your pistol with the other hand. This makes for some pretty interesting battles. Down to your last three bullets and enemies moving in? No worries - a quick button tap and the glaive swooshes out, chopping one bloke’s arm off. Two perfectly aimed headshots take out the other two and finally - as the blade returns back to Hayden - it cuts the last one in half. Ouch. The glaive can be used for other things too, like retrieving ammo crates from far away, but it’s the moves you learn later that really sets the weapon apart from anything you’ve used before. You can even control the glaive’s flight path in slow-motion after it’s thrown. Alas, the puzzles that require you to perform this are increasingly annoying - you end up having to sling it through small gaps toward sources of electricity to charge it up before destroying magnetic door locks. There’s a bit too much of this throughout.