Dark Sector - updated hands-on

For the last year or so, most of our glimpses at Dark Sector have been centered around a dreary, crumbling Eastern Bloc neighborhood in the fictional country of Lasria, populated by a bunch of gasmask-wearing soldiers and a few zombie freaks. Last week, however, we finally got a chance to play beyond that crummy locale - which, it turns out, is the game's fourth level - and got a much broader idea of what lies in store when Dark Sector arrives in late March.

If you've been following the game at all up to this point, you already know that Dark Sector is a horror-tinged shooter/adventure in the Gears of War/Uncharted mold, and that it follows the story of Hayden Tenno, a CIA "cleaner" who's dispatched to Lasria to tie up a few loose ends for the agency. While there, he runs afoul of the Technocyte virus, which is slowly working its way through the local populace and turning everyone into shambling, half-metal zombies. In Hayden's case, though, it turns out to be beneficial, giving him crazy superpowers, a metal arm and a flying, telepathically controlled buzzsaw called the glaive.

A lot has changed since our last hands-on with the game, most of it for the better. The bouncing camera that follows Hayden when he runs is now a lot less disorienting, and while earlier versions enabled us to hurl the glaive at multiple targets by "painting" them with a reticule, that feature has since been canned. Instead, Hayden now controls the glaive's flight directly in a third-person, slow-motion aftertouch mode, guided by Sixaxis motion controls on the PS3, or with an analog stick on the 360. If you liked how motion-controlled aftertouch worked in Heavenly Sword, then you'll like it here; if not, well, at least you can switch over to analog-stick control.

Either way, tossing the glaive around can get crazy gory; guide the whirring hunk of metal into necks, arms or legs, and it'll usually result in a nasty-looking dismemberment. And if you charge up the glaive before throwing it - something that's also necessary for busting the locks off of certain gates - it's possible to chop your enemies in half, which is gross.

That's not to say it'll be easy. Your adversaries are pretty smart, and the human soldiers who saw the glaive buzzing their way immediately tried to either duck out of its way or run away screaming. If you can get close to them, though, you'll be able to deliver an instant-kill finisher, which varies depending on your enemy's species, but usually ends with someone getting stabbed in the head or gutted like a fish.