Plugged In

Review: ‘Dark Sector’

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What do you get when you combine zombies, government conspiracies and Russians with the suit from “Guyver” and one of the coolest weapons in video game history? You get “Dark Sector,” of course.

Developer Digital Extremes has managed to blend these ideas, along with a heavy dose of third-person shooting and a little puzzle solving, to create an enjoyable — and sometimes frustrating — gaming experience for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

In “Dark Sector” you are Hayden Tenno, a government agent with a troubled past called back into action to stop Robert Mezner, a fellow agent who has gone rogue in the fictional Soviet country of Lasria. Mezner has taken control of a deadly virus that changes people into zombies, among other things. But after an early run-in with Mezner, Hayden becomes infected with the virus and soon begins transforming, not into a zombie but into a weapon of mass destruction. You spend the next 8-10 hours trying to locate Mezner, track down the origins of the virus and save mankind. Oh, and you get to slice bad guys in half with the glaive.

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Ah yes, the glaive. It is what sets “Dark Sector” apart from any of the dozens of shooters on the market. The glaive, which grows out of Hayden’s arm after he is infected with the virus, looks like a three-pronged boomerang. Hayden can throw the glaive to eliminate enemies at a distance or use it as a melee weapon in close quarters.

Once you acquire the Aftertouch skill, you can control the glaive in mid-flight, altering its course to ensure the most brutal kills. You’ll be chopping off arms, legs and heads in no time. You’ll also use the glaive to solve some environmental puzzles, which is pretty cool.

In addition to the glaive, Hayden can carry one traditional weapon like a pistol, shotgun or rifle. You can also pick up weapons that are dropped by enemies, but they self destruct once you pick them up.

Graphically, the game is one of the best looking out there, although the environments are a little bland and there’s not a lot of variety among the enemies you fight.

“Dark Sector” has been compared to “Gears of War” for its third-person shooting and cover system, but really the comparisons end there. “Dark Sector” stands on its own as a solid game, though it does have a few issues.

First is the story. An “X-Files” episode is simple to understand by comparison. After finishing the game, I had just as many questions as answers. Yes, the door is open for a sequel but a little closure here would have been nice. Another problem lies with the boss battles. Is it asking to much for a little hint now and again? Expect to spend plenty of time using trial-and-error to figure out how to get past many of these guys. My final gripe is with melee combat. It basically becomes a button-masher when you get close to an enemy. There are no combos or special moves to speak of, but the finishers are especially gruesome.

Despite its flaws, “Dark Sector” remains an extremely fun game. There’s not much beyond the single-player experience — defeating the game once unlocks a new difficulty level and there is limited online multiplayer — but what’s there is definitely worth $60.

Rating: 7.9 out of 10