This would be enough to be getting on with, but the game also throws in new abilities as you progress. You can power up the Glaive using electricity or fire, then use these to increase the damage or (more commonly) solve simple door puzzles that lock your path. A later power-up then allows you to charge up one of these elemental powers then explode it for an area effects – ideal for tricky enemy groups when used in combination with the aftertouch power. After this, ice powers are added, while your hero develops the ability to throw up a force shield and deflect missiles back at his attackers. Despite all this complexity, the controls are surprisingly intuitive.
On top of the Glaive, you still have access to a handgun and any rifles you can scavenge from your foes, though the game initially encourages you to stick with the Glaive by putting a limiter on weapons that prevents anyone infected (i.e. you) from holding them for more than a few moments. This changes with time, as Dark Sector throws in black markets hidden beneath the city streets, where you can purchase new weapons then upgrade them in a distinctly Resident Evil 4 style. Dual-wielding the Glaive and a handgun opens up more possibilities. Annoyed by those gits who wander towards you with a heavy riot shield? Knock them off balance with the Glaive, then shoot them while they’re fumbling. How do you like them apples, eh guys?
This all comes together in some fantastic shoot-outs early on in the game, along with some mutant encounters worthy of RE4 or Gears of War. What’s more, the game looks, sounds and feels great. The environments riff on the Gears style of ‘ruined beauty’ but it works every bit as well as it did in Dark Sector’s inspiration, and the game’s Evolution engine handles equally superb lighting, character models and rich, textural detail. It’s a shame that more of the environment isn’t destructible – windows that shatter should be a given in this day and age – but the world always feels solid and believable. Meanwhile the audio, ranging from the rattle of machine-gun fire to the swoosh and thud of the Glaive to the urgent radio messages sent out by your soviet foes, is excellent. On a technical level, there’s little to complain about at all.
Yet as my time with Dark Sector went on, things began to turn sour. The game designers seem to have suffered from what I like to call Prince of Persia disease – the mistaken belief that if fighting five enemies is fun, then fighting 10 or 20 must be twice as much, especially if they come in wave after wave after wave. As a result, the snappy combat encounters that at first proved so thrilling, turn into long, tiring battles where you dread dying for the simple reason that you hate the thought of having to go through the whole bloody thing again. On top of this you get grinding close-quarters scraps against what seems like an endless stream of zombies, plus some annoying bits involving Resident Evil mutant dogs where you’ll be fighting more against the camera and controls than against the demonic mutts themselves. A flaming Glaive makes such things move a little faster, but these bits do get in the way of the fun.