Hello all! Last week’s game was the best arcade beat-em-up ever made. At least, I think so.
Today’s game is a title I picked up years ago for like ten bucks. It’s got a neat weapon, and not much else.
So, I picked Dark Sector this week mostly because I saw it on my shelf randomly, and decided to throw it in and play. You play as a dude named Hayden Tenno, who can’t feel pain because story reasons, and who must stop the villain, named Menzer, from doing...something. Meanwhile, Hayden has been infected with a virus that mutates his arm and enables him to use a weapon called the Glaive.
The plot is a basic, paper thin premise, providing just enough motivation to get you moving. It’s not particularly interesting; the plot and game are overly moody and grimy. There’s not a single joke or moment of levity here; I mean, that’s fine in some cases, but geez. The game’s not even really dark. It’s just humorless, and cold, throughout the roughly six hours you’ll spend with it. Even Hayden doesn’t look particularly interested on the box art. Still, I could see how it could appeal to some.
Dark Sector plays like every game did at the time. It’s a third-person-shooter where you primarily take cover. The game plays very similarly to Gears of War, in its general take cover-shoot-sprint loop. You’ve got a decent amount of guns, and one interesting mechanic is, due to the virus Hayden is infected with, enemy guns will self-destruct within a few seconds of picking them up.
But you don’t need the guns anyway, because you’ll end up using the Glaive throughout the majority of the game. The Glaive is a three-bladed weapon you can throw at enemies like a Frisbee to slice them up. It’s at first a basic idea, but later on, the Glaive gains additional powers like a shield and the ability to control the Glaive in mid-air.
That last one, called Aftertouch, enables you to fling the Glaive and fly it in slow motion throughout the room, taking out several enemies in one throw. Honestly, it never gets old. There’s also light puzzles involving the Glaive; the silly blade Frisbee can hold things like fire and electricity, allowing you to, say, power a fuse box or whatnot. Or electrocute enemies.
During my first playthrough way back, I used the Glaive almost exclusively, because I never got bored with it. The second time I played (for this article), I did the same thing.
Here, Hayden shoots a dude instead of using the objectively more fun weapon in his right hand.
And I started wondering, could a game with a strong hook—even one as fun as the Glaive—still be good even if it leans heavily on that hook? Even if said hook is all it really has?
Dark Sector’s only hook is the Glaive. And indeed, it’s a riot to use. But during my playthrough, I didn’t really find a lot of meat here other than the Glaive. There’s not even any hidden collectibles, for example. And I realized that no, games can’t survive with just a gimmick, no matter how great that gimmick is. A game like Minecraft, for example, is an elevator pitch of a game. Gather materials and build things, and repeat. But. Minecraft features procedurally-generated exploration, it features creative enemies, and loads to actually do, despite that simple concept.
You can even take a game like Gears of War, Dark Sector’s main inspiration. While Gears’ most notable weapon is the Lancer and its chainsaw bayonet, Gears also comes to the party with other interesting weapons, varied if simple characters, and frankly impressive worldbuilding, relative to the kind of game you’re playing (shoot giant bug-men).
But Dark Sector leans far too much on its Glaive, and that’s why I’m so conflicted on this game. What a fun gimmick! But it’s just one gimmick. This recent playthrough of mine was kind of flat, although the graphics were still pretty good, and I enjoyed the art style, though it hewed too close to Gears of War.
I dunno. The game cost me ten bucks; I bought it at Blockbuster (so like 100 years ago), and so it was one of those games I’ve been intrigued by lately; the one-and-done B-Game that you’ll spend a few hours with and mostly forget until you see it on your shelf again. I don’t regret my time spent with Dark Sector(seriously, the Glaive is so fun), but it’s not something I’ll likely come back to again. PS3 copies are literally 99 cents at GameStop, so if you see it, grab it. You won’t get tired of throwing the Glaive, even if you get tired of everything else.
Next week’s game is basically Diablo with superheroes. Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, to be precise! (Plus others.)