previews\ Dec 10, 2006 at 7:00 pm

Dark Sector - 360 - Preview

Occasionally a game comes along, in demo mode, that is just so tantalizing as to make the gaming enthusiast want to run forward, grab the controls from the one demonstrating the game and have a go.

Dark Sector was one of those games. Demonstrated at a D3Publisher event in San Francisco, in some ways the game – from Digital Extremes – follows a tried-and-true third-person action course through its 15 or so hours of gameplay.

There are interiors full of pop-out monsters and enemies, minor puzzles that must be reasoned out, exterior skulking and gun battles … you know, the stuff that makes up a good title. But where Dark Sector detours is the concept department and is graphically stunning.

Dark Sector screenshots

The story follows Hayden Tenno, a CIA cleaner – the type of guy that is sent into certain situations to clean up other people’s messes and then disappears without a trace. Hayden’s specialty is biological disasters. He is sent into an Eastern European country (reminiscent of a Soviet satellite nation) to clean up the mess, but this time around things go slightly awry. Whatever was the problem has infected Hayden. His right arm is no longer human, but is instead some sort of metal, complete with a clawed hand. Attached, or bound, to the hand is a glaive-type throwing device, with three bladed arms, that has a boomerang quality … he throws it, it does damage or whatever he intends it to do (more on that in a moment) and then returns to his metal hand.

The environments are somewhat destructible and because of that, Hayden’s bound weapon can do more damage. For example, you may see a fire in an outdoor setting. Soldiers are behind another barrier firing at you, but that barrier looks like it might be flammable. You throw the weapon into the fire, it comes back burning and holding the flame, then you throw it at the soldiers. The result? … well, you get it.

The game uses rag-doll physics and the hero (the game’s “design pillar is the evolution of a superhero,” albeit a very dark and gritty tale) can make use of cover to survey his surroundings. Taking the game to the next level of next-gen gaming means that Digital Extremes has done away with a health meter. Instead, the game becomes more of a visual experience. When you start getting low on health, the screen starts to go red. If you are disoriented by gas, the game’s visuals reflect that with a color skew and multiple images. All in all, it is an impressive effect – as are the dynamic lighting scenes.

Dark Sector screenshots

At one point in the demo, Hayden is working through a building. One wall has windows that have had slats nailed over them. The lighting from outside cuts through the slats to provide bars of light that wrap around Hayden as he makes his way across the floor. Stunning realistic effects add to the drama and the immersion.

The game also uses regular world weapons and Hayden can slot/carry three into a scenario, adding to the tactical elements of the story.

Still about a year away from release, many things were not addressed during the demonstration, but regardless, Dark Sector is – at this point – an amazing looking title that should bear the standard of ‘next-gen gaming’ very well.

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