Fifteen minutes into Dark Sector, scruffy Tom Cruise look-alike hero Hayden contracts a virulent infection, decides to find the source of his disease, and gorily sprouts a bladed Frisbee of Death out of his right hand. Upon observing this dramatic turn of events, I was struck with an assortment of responses. My inner Internet nerd screamed “WTF,” my inner jaded college student realized, “That’s kind of how I felt when I took my Econ midterm,” and my inner game critic immediately erected a barrier of skepticism.
The misleadingly ironic thing about Dark Sector, a game that can best be described as a cover-based shooter in the vein of Gears of War and Uncharted, is that it does not appear at first to be a rote, underwhelming drink coaster. In fact, on the surface, the game looks absolutely phenomenal, thanks to eerily realistic lighting effects and a glossy, detailed, and wholly attractive graphical sheen that coats the entire game. Even the opening cut scene, despite mediocre voice acting, hints at a compelling mystery plotline and does an admirable job of presenting the game as enjoyable.
Dark Sector certainly looks like a winner, but apart from the stunning visuals, it’s largely similar to the first semester of Lit Hum—oddly familiar, superficially interesting, and somewhat forced. The game’s sole attempt at innovation, the slightly gimmicky “Glaive” (read: Death Frisbee) weapon mentioned before, does spice up the formula and provide an entertaining twist. The device even allows the player to alter the weapon’s trajectory with the controller’s analog sticks. Admittedly, steering the Glaive directly into an enemy’s crotch is great fun, especially considering that enemy body parts fly off with comical gore at the slightest touch.
Otherwise, though, the game plays like a carbon copy of Gears of War. Stale pop’n’shoot game mechanics that have the players scurrying behind crates, walls, and buildings and sticking their heads out to fire a few rounds at their enemies plague the entire experience. For those players who have spent more time playing Gears than engaging in life-sustaining activities like sleeping, eating, or urinating and have since grown bored, the game will feel startlingly familiar. The inclusion of a single unique weapon is hardly be enough to distinguish the game from its obvious, two-year-old inspiration.
Contributing to Dark Sector’s Icarus syndrome is the fact that the game comes equipped with a wholly unreliable control scheme. Hayden moves like a tank—not like a sleek Abrams A1, mind you, but rather like an outdated piece of German World War I junk. Navigating the game’s environment is nothing short of a chore, thanks to Hayden’s unbearably slow walking and lumbering turning speed. Combat in general suffers from twitchy aiming sensitivity. In addition, the cover system never feels as snappy or responsive as it should, and I was often left wondering why Hayden tumbled into a hail of enemy fire rather than hiding behind a crate that the game should have recognized was right next to me.
All things considered, Dark Sector feels like a tired, trite mess that copies Gears in nearly every way, yet never manages to match Gears’ high points. Even the game’s limited multi-player, which features a paltry two modes, feels like an emaciated imitation of something greater. If you’re feeling overcome by a yearning for some Gears-of-War-type shooting, as well as a simultaneous urge to play some ultimate frisbee without getting off your couch, then Dark Sector may provide some entertainment. The coexistence of those two conflicting desires, however, might quite possibly signal the presence of some kind of serious issue, and if that’s the case, I recommend that you spend your money on a visit to Health Services, rather than on this game.