Dark Sector Preview
If you're all Gears of War'ed out, you might be wondering what's left for next-gen action games - where could developers possibly go from here? Well, D3 Publisher and Digital Extremes are working on a new 360/PS3 game called Dark Sector that they hope will answer that question authoritatively. I got to see a preview build of the game at a recent press event, and I came away impressed - yes, even after having played Gears and seen Resistance: Fall of Man on the PS3.
Digital Extremes contributed to Epic's excellent Unreal Tournament games over the last several years, and last year they delivered their first solo effort with their first person shooter Pariah. Now, that game got a lukewarm reception from critics, but it looks like this time they're leveraging next-gen hardware very well.
Dark Sector follows the story of Hayden Tenno, an ex-CIA guy sent into the former Soviet Union to investigate a town that has been infected with some sort of virus. Hayden himself becomes infected, but due to something in his genetics the infection doesn't affect him completely - his right arm and part of his right side and face has been mutated. Somewhere in there, Hayden has developed a few new abilities, the greatest of which is a rounded, bladed weapon called a glaive. Hayden's glaive is now a part of him, but he can use it in many ways - including throwing it like a disc to take out his enemies.
It's unclear for now who those enemies are, but it seems that more people than just Hayden have been sent to investigate the virus. In the process of figuring it out, Hayden will become a target and will have to defend himself against people who think he's just another infected victim. Digital Extremes insists that more than anything else, this is the story of a budding superhero and the plot will revolve around some of the choices he has to make. It remains to be seen just how much the story will play a role, and how much choice the player will have, but in the year remaining until the release I'm sure we'll get more information on that.
Not only has Hayden got a pistol, but he can take cover Gears of War-style and fire out from behind that cover. No, this system so far doesn't seem to look quite as robust as Gears, but the developers aren't focusing so much of the gameplay on firing from behind cover. Instead, the glaive seems to be the preferred method of killing - it's deadly accurate and returns to Hayden's hand when the player wants it. Other weapons were nowhere to be seen, but I think it's reasonable to believe that we'll see a nice range of abilities for players to mess around with.
And to add to that, one of the unique things seen in Dark Sector is the way the player can take advantage of the environment. Slice a power line with the glaive, and it will come back loaded up with electricity (and there are some great special effects showing this off) - this could allow you to solve one of the game's light puzzles that might require a flying ball of energy, or even kill an enemy with an electrocution. We were also shown how fire can be used in the same way, and while there will be plenty more abilities - including the ability to sneak up on an enemy and take him out quietly with the glaive - the guys at Digital Extremes are staying quiet about some of the more advanced things that can be done with it.
The engine Dark Sector is running off of is all new, written by Digital Extremes, and the graphics look to be on par with the best that we've seen out of the 360 so far. The streets of the town are filled with detail, and Hayden himself is animated very well and his arm looks really cool. He doesn't have a huge suit to wear or the bodybuilder-style bulk of many action heroes, so we're more likely to see a little more in the line of acrobatics than we've seen out of other action games.
So far, I'm really impressed with what we've seen of Dark Sector so far. The gameplay looks solid while the animations and graphics are impressive. The game's still got about a year left in development, so as long as Digital Extremes can flesh out the story and make using the glaive a giddy kind of fun, I think they'll really have a huge winner on their hands. Dark Sector is set for release on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 in late 2007.