Then:Tomb Raider: Legend
Tomb Raider: Anniversary
Lego Star Wars
Spiderman: Web of Shadows
Grand Theft Auto IV
Saints Row 2
I won darkSector
from a local radio station by accident. I had no idea they were giving it away that day, so when I finished my long-winded political point and the host asked if I had a 360 at home, the question was such a non sequitur that I answered, "Yeah, I keep it right next to my Anderson Cooper." darkSector
is a third-person shooter in which you play Some Guy on mission to navigate a series of narrow corridors to reach the next cutscene about his friends Old Man, Sultry Lass, and Bad Guy. They all seem to know each other, but since this game labors under the belief that it's the latest sequel in very popular, very imaginary franchise, there's nowhere near enough exposition for me to guess what the hell they're all talking about most of the time.
This much is clear: there's a wicked virus that mutates people into zombies with metal skin
, so the U.S. military deploys Some Guy to take down the facility experimenting with the disease. This first chapter plays like a pretty conventional third-person shooter with a passable cover system -- decent, not too imaginative -- until Some Guy gets gouged in the shoulder by an infected lance and gains the ability to grow a bladed frisbee out of his right hand.
And that's where things get good. For all the complaints I have about darkSector
's disjointed narrative and linear level design, the developers score really high marks for the balance and breadth of actual gameplay. The
glaive is an extremely potent weapon, able to curve around obstacles to find its mark before boomeranging back for another throw, but it lacks the range to strike distant targets or the speed to dispatch a group of enemies that gets too close.
Fortunately, you can always wield a pistol in your free hand or quickly sheath the glaive in favor of a shotgun or rifle for more power. Though firearms are satisfyingly lethal in their own right, here's the rub: the ammunition in enemy weapons self-destructs a few seconds after they're picked up by an infected soldier, so you'll need to keep an eye out for old ammo caches in the levels.
The pros and cons of each combat style results in an interesting equilibrium where you're freely switching between the two. Slice off a soldier's head, use the glaive to carry his discarded gun directly into your hands, try to empty the magazine into the nearest enemy forces before the weapon burns into ash, and try to avoid being flanked yourself. Add in the ability to toss grenades, charge up your glaive with fire or electricity from the environment, and upgrade your own purchased weapons in the black market, and darkSector
's combat system has a lot going for it.
I have a problem with a lot of third-person shooters where I'll constantly over-adjust my aim against enemies that come too close. It's been a problem in Gears of War
, and it's no different here. That aside, the controls are tight and responsive, making it easy to dynamically switch between weapons and zero in on targets while moving between cover. I think the only problem I had with the interface is that a couple of the powers Some Guy acquires later in the game give no indication how long they need to recharge after each use -- a small gripe that could have been rectified by adding a visible change to the character's infected shoulder.
There's no way darkSector
would have been worth its original $60 price tag: the levels are too constrictive and linear, the plot is too clumsily executed, and the enemy types too limited to warrant a replay. It was also so unpopular, the two multiplayer modes are all but devoid of activity. I think there's a core of about four or five people who are out there on the weekends, gamely tossing glaives and trading gunfire while they take a break from Halo 3
But at its current asking price of $10...let me put it this way: though nobody's going to be bragging about getting such a fantastic deal, I think people will find the gameplay nuances to be a pleasant surprise. I know I did.