The same goes for the boss battles. They’re not impossible (like some of Capcom’s) merely time-consuming, overly intricate and not obvious enough in terms of what you’re actually meant to do. A fight against a huge mutant in a ruined church stretched my patience, and at first I thought a subsequent battle against a Metal Gear-style mech would tear it to pieces until I realised that, having jumped through several hoops, it wasn’t a boss battle at all and that I simply hadn’t worked out what I was meant to do while the bothersome bot was disabled. This was lucky, because I’d had to fight the temptation to give up there and then. FAQs will doubtless solve these issues in time, but you have to wonder whether anyone serious play-tested (not just bug-tested) the game.
This is a shame, but I’ve tried not to get angry and lose perspective. For the most part Dark Sector’s core – the action – is perfectly solid and enjoyable. The more you find imaginative ways of using the Glaive, its abilities and the environment to your advantage, the better time you’ll have working through the soviet forces, and the more you’ll be able to ignore things like the disjointed, barely explained plot or the fact that the designers seem to have run out of ideas two thirds of the way through. It’s not the killer single-player campaign it could have been with a bit more work and fine tuning, but it’s a fine way to keep yourself occupied if you’ve finished last year’s big releases and you’re waiting for this year’s to turn up. It’s not that Dark Sector’s great, but at least it’s pretty good.
The online options also show signs of a little care and attention. I fully expected a dodgy deathmatch game featuring teams of infected super-spys, but instead we get two specially designed game types: Infection, pitting a team of grunts against one glaive-packing infected, and Epidemic, a team game where each side has one infected hero and the objective is to snuff the other side’s out. It’s unlikely that either mode is strong enough to survive for long in today’s competitive online battlefield, but Dark Sector’s fans – and there will be some – will get a little more of their money’s worth here.
During the first few hours of play I had high hopes that Dark Sector was going to be this year’s The Darkness – a game that I hadn’t begun the year in eager anticipation of, but would end the year remembering fondly. Unfortunately it didn’t quite end up that way, but for all its rampant idea-grabbing and moments of ill-judged design, it’s still far from being a disaster. If you don’t get it then you won’t miss out on anything that special, but if you’re a fan of good action games, then you wouldn’t regret shelling out for it either. Just prepare for a few ups and downs, and enjoy the affair while it lasts.
While hardly original and packed with causes for irritation, Dark Sector is a decent action game with fine graphics and a handful of brilliant features. If you like the games it apes, it’s well worth picking up.