Dark Sector

“Dark Sector” is an unlikely blend of special-ops-themed action and horror survival that initially lulls players into a sense of mediocrity, delivering very little new or polished.

“Dark Sector” is an unlikely blend of special-ops-themed action and horror survival that initially lulls players into a sense of mediocrity, delivering very little new or polished. But as the story unwinds, the game stretches its legs and hints at a level of promise it unfortunately never fully attains. For each bit of innovative gameplay and surprising level design, there are just as many technical issues and a sluggish storyline that keeps it from becoming a well-made work and a likely hit.

The game opens as a young black-ops agent is sent into an Eastern European city on an assassination mission. While the story introduces a cast to supplement antihero Hayden Tenno’s journey, including a scorned woman and two professors — one doddering, the other over-the-top evil — the plot is ultimately trite and weighed down by hackneyed dialogue. After a few lackluster training missions, “Dark Sector” is focused on Tenno’s infection, which leads to an array of new abilities, like being able to grow a three-bladed, scythe-like throwing knife out of his right hand.

One of “Dark Sector’s” chief liabilities is that these often quite unique powers unlock only slowly over the rather lengthy game. It isn’t until several missions after Tenno obtains his throwing disc that it starts to gain the abilities that make it actually fun to use.

When the weapon gains the ability to absorb electricity, fire and ice, it also becomes instrumental in solving puzzles. In one level, for instance, the frozen scythe is used to first freeze over a pool of water and then to turn waterfalls into ice columns, which can be used as cover in firefights.

It’s in these complex puzzles that “Dark Sector” most shines, forcing players to think as much as fight their way through the sometimes labyrinthine levels. The game also has a varied and unusual selection of enemies, which makes defeating them more about picking the right weapon than having dead-on aim and a trigger finger.

The levels and the menagerie of evil creatures are solid enough, but the overall look of the game is largely generic and dull. The appearance of Tenno, who is more emo rocker than secret agent, is particularly off-putting.

“Dark Sector” also suffers at times from some distracting technical glitches. The most common of these is the occasional slowdowns that bring what should be spectacular, almost cinematic gunfights to a chugging crawl.

The game’s lengthy single-player campaign is offset by a surprisingly sparse multiplayer selection offers only two competitive modes.

Dark Sector

Rated M. $60.

Production: A D3 Publisher presentation of a game developed by Digital Extreme for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. Reviewed on Playstation 3

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