It's with Robert Rodriguez-esque cunning that Dark Sector seamlessly switches direction at every tantalising corner. One second, it's a Splinter Cell-style infiltration mission, the next it's a military shooter involving the X-Men. Then, suddenly, you're ankle-deep in dank sewers, fending off a tirade of sprinter zombies, before - BANG - everything blows up in your face and you're rucking with hordes of fire-spurting, club-waving, going-invisible super mutants in massive free-for-all skirmishes. Explosive gaming plot twists, for sure.
If there's one thing you can't knock, it's Dark Sector's endeavour. Developed by the co-creators of the Unreal franchise, this third-person action blast attempts to bypass accusations of generic gunplay by way of reluctant super powers. It begins with your Special-Ops agent on a quest to waste a mad scientist in an East European hideaway, when a virus infection grants him inhuman powers. We're talking metal arms complemented by a lethal three-bladed boomerang (known as a glaive, but which resembles a mammoth Shinobi shuriken star), before later leading on to further nifty add-ons such as force fields and temporary invisibility.
It's with the glaive though that Dark Sector's unique selling-point centres. As well as being able to pop targets with a pistol in your left hand, the fun comes from chucking this sweet piece of metallic brutality with your better right. An 'after-touch' button switches perspective, thus allowing the weapon to be guided mid-flight via analogue for more accurate slicing. And when this thing strikes, it does so with gruesome panache - legs drop, torsos rip, faces cave, blood fountains - and if your throwing is from the Fatima ('male-like' lady javelin star) Whitbread school of power, you can eliminate multiple enemies in one mean, meaningful throw. Listen to the loud, distorted screams that rupture out of your speakers - this thing hurts.
But metal has its limits, so exposed electric points, open fires and such like can all be used to 'power-up' respectively, giving you the ability to electrocute and explode on a far wider scale - a total essentiality when introduced to the armies of the other infected nasties. Because rest assured, these mutant mothers are tough, relentless cookies who'll rip your face off in a flash.
And with such adversity, able handling is a must, and it's here where Dark Sector slips up. Sometimes while applying 'after touch' to your airborne glaive, the piece seems to develop a mind of its own. This reviewer actually spent close to 20-minutes trying to steer the damn thing over a fence and onto a 'door open' button, but it kept haring off like a golf ball in a gigantic gust of wind.
Throwing it mid-combat can get decidedly messy and time-consuming too, especially as it often involves relinquishing cover. The more effective (and often required) tactic is to 'steal' dropped firearms, which gives you the benefit of unloading some proper firepower in someone's mug, albeit temporarily, before your arm returns to its infected state. There's also a minor issue with the way cover is used too, with the same button functioning for both 'hiding' and dodging out into the open. Thus it becomes frustratingly easy to acrobatically roll into a line of oncoming gunfire when all you're looking to do is prop your rumbling backside up against a brick post. All in all, your glaive is not the powerful beast it should've been while tactical stealth is a nigh-on impossibility.
There are elements of old Xbox classic Psi-Ops in the way Dark Sector successfully melds standard shoot-outs with powers not traditionally bestowed to your average human hero. Overall, it's a bruising fast-paced action shooter with some grim horror atmospherics and decent enemy AI. But dodgy controls and a relatively tough difficulty level aside, for all its attempted X-Men-esque innovation, its ultimate error is that it still can't quite shake its tag of 'just another generic action shooter'. But it sure as hell gives it a try...
Brutal shooting with iffy handling
- Glaive-throwing is a gory twist
- Fast, meaty shoot-outs
- Smart visual style
- Frustrating handling
- Still feels very generic