Interview: Dark Sector Infects PS3 & 360
It's one of the best-looking games we've seen on the new systems to date, but will this-gen's first ever announced title deliver or fade to black? Producer Josh Austin talks.
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By Adam Doree
Resident Evil and Zelda are the two main influences for an intriguing new action game coming out later this year on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Dark Sector promises to combine innovative weapons and crafty play techniques with a compelling puzzle-solving element, and a 'superhero origin' story that could turn Dark Sector into a big series. We recently got an advanced look at the promising game, and had the opportunity to get some details directly from the game's producer at D3 Publisher, Josh Austin.
The developer is Digital Extremes, who worked on Unreal for several years with Epic Games - creators of Gears of War. After a while, they split apart and both wanted to do singleplayer games. But Dark Sector doesn't license the popular Unreal Engine from Epic, instead opting to use its own 'Sector Engine', built specially from the ground-up by Digital Extremes, after something of a fall-out with Epic.
The story behind the Dark Sector's development is perhaps as interesting as that found in the game itself. Dark Sector was the first title to be announced for any next-gen system, way back in April 2004, so we asked Josh why it was announced so early - sometimes a strategy employed for less impressive titles that want to cash in on some early buzz and attention. "Originally when they started this title, there was no Unreal Engine 3, and it was heavily sci-fi. When they were pitching it around [to potential publishers for the game], nobody was buying it, because at the time this sci-fi theme in the game was just not working very well for them." He said that a stronger emphasis was put on the ever-popular superhero theme, and it seemed to pick up momentum again. "Then D3 Publisher picked it up two years ago, and really got it going," Josh told AOL Games.
"Steve Sinclair is the main visionary behind this game," Josh smiled. "He is the guy who pretty much made the code and everything. He worked on all the Unreal Games, he's one of the guys who got it running on Xbox a long time ago! And he's been working with Digital Extremes and created this Sector Engine."
Players start the game as Hayden Tenno, a morally confused CIA Agent on a mission in a fictional eastern bloc nation. "He's kind of like a Jack Bauer, if you watch 24, one of those guys that runs off on his own," Josh explained, "it's all stuff we're revealing in the story, and there's a lot of cool back story too - he's in contact with the agency until he gets infected, and the whole city starts changing around him... he's left on his own and this all affects how he grows as a character."
Hayden awakens to discover his right arm has mutated into this metallic growth - and the first thing that extends from it is your first weapon in the game - one that puts Wolverine's firmly in the shade! The glaive is a sharp-edged, three-bladed projectile that behaves like a boomerang, not dissimilar to the Windmill Shuriken used by Ryu Hayabusa in the Xbox classic Ninja Gaiden. The early parts of Dark Sector that we've seen are useful for the player to familiarise themselves with this early, but deadly weapon.
The glaive is also enhanced when combined with elements like fire and electricity, and a range of others yet to be revealed. The really cool thing about the game is the way these combinations allow you to solve some surprisingly imaginative puzzles to pace out the combat, and we can certainly imagine how rewarding it might feel to the player when some are accomplished.
Josh demonstrated this on level four: the 'monster virus' that's spreading rapidly in the game manifests itself as 'technosyde webbing' - a thick, membrane-like substance that Hayden can't break through because it's made from the same viral material as his mutated arm. But players will learn that it can be broken down with fire, and in this level, we also notice a leaking gas pipe in another area. The challenge is for the player to figure out a the puzzle: striking a nearby fuse box to gives the glaive a strong electric charge, then combining the charged glaive with the leaking pipe ignites the gas, so that the glaive is combined with fire, and then, retuning to the technosyde membrane, it can be burnt down and we can progress through the level. The membrane lets out an eerie, beast-like shriek as it's burned. This place makes us shudder! "You'll be revisiting areas, and some of the puzzles will help you later, so anything you do will be affected when you come back to it," said Josh.
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Game engine demonstration (April 2004)
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