During this past week’s Game Developer Conference, TGR was lucky enough to be invited to a D3Publisher event featuring a number of games, but of course the real star of the show was Dark Sector. Although we were shown some more single player footage of the game, the big news was the unveiling of the game’s multiplayer mode. It was clear from our time spent with the game that Dark Sector’s multiplayer component will be quite different from most multiplayer action games, and all of the main character Hayden’s powers will factor heavily into its gameplay.
During our playtime with our colleagues of the gaming press, there were a total of six players participating in the action, although the game’s developer DE (Digital Extremes) explained that the maximum will be 10 players in the final version of the game. We played two different modes, Infection and Epidemic, which also happen to be the only two modes that the game will ship with, but we were that told more are planned for future downloadable content.
When you first pick up Dark Sector, things will immediately feel a bit familiar as the game possesses a very similar control layout to that of Gears of War. There is the typical over the shoulder view of your character, the left trigger pulls up a targeting crosshair, and the A (or X) button is used for taking cover, as well as rolling and running. Even the B (or Square) button is used for melees and finishing moves on unsuspecting opponents.
Those guys have no idea what’s waiting for them
Some of the controls differ depending on if you are playing as Hayden or a soldier. When playing as Hayden, RB (R1) is used to throw your glaive, where as a soldier can lay down a proximity mine instead, as well as using Y drop a waypoint on Hayden for all to see. For the most part the controls felt pretty decent, but one thing we found a bit uncomfortable was the extreme sensitivity of aiming when zoomed in with the left trigger.
The first mode that we played was Infection, which works like a game of tag. There are five soldiers and one player as Hayden, the idea is that the soldiers must kill the infected player who is imbued with all the powers from the single player game, thus given quite the edge. Whoever takes out the infected player starts a new round where they are then infected.
In addition to carrying a gun gamers playing as Hayden will have access to the glaive weapon, cloaking (holding Y or Triangle), a shield (tapping Y ro Triangle), and the after touch control of the glaive, which does not have the camera following the blade as in single player. In order to activate after touch, the player must zoom in, hold RB (R1), and release it correctly upon a visual queue from the aiming reticule. Holding RB (R1) will also increase the effectiveness of the glaive, allowing it to slice your opponents in half instead of merely cutting them.
The first map we played with this gametype was known as Court, taking place in an outdoor courtyard that had the soldiers spawning on one end, and the infected player on the other. Even though Hayden may be much more powerful than the soldiers, there are still more of them, so it’s wise to try to outflank them by taking a side route around the courtyard and go for some gruesome stealth kills. The environmental power ups are also present in multiplayer, such as fire and electricity, that help increase the damage potential of the glaive. Overall, we found Infection to be a pretty interesting asymmetrical game. It’s important for the soldiers to work together to take down the more powerful infected player, but the greed of wanting to play has him next will surely test the cooperative incentive of those playing as the soldiers.
The next mode we tried was known as Epidemic, which pits two teams against one another, each with an infected player and soldiers there to protect them, so basically it’s VIP. This mode presented an interesting dynamic that requires teamwork again, as the soldiers must protect their infected player, but the infected player must also watch out for his friends who won’t last long against the enemy infected VIP. We played this mode on a slightly larger map that took place on a stone fort-like pier drenched in rain. This is also a good time to point out that Dark Sector’s graphics appear to be carrying quite well over to multiplayer, especially in the richly detailed and bloody finishing moves of the glaive that made us wince every time we fell victim to it.
Getting the drop on the enemy with cloaking
Again, it’s important to play smart as a soldier taking on an infected player. Rather than try to attack them outright, it’s probably better to avoid that glaive, which you can hear coming at you, and lure them into your trip mines. There were some intense moments when the infected players on each team got into a glaive throwing showdown, which made the soldier players a little jealous, yearning for more of this infected on infected combat. We were playing with six participants, setting each team up with only two support soldiers, so this game type will probably be more enjoyable when playing with the max 10, allowing for more varied strategies.
Although there was the ability to take cover, the gameplay moved pretty fast so we didn’t find ourselves making much use of it. Another issue was the identification of fellow players. When coming across a fellow soldier, we were unable to see that they were friendlies until we were zoomed in; thankfully, friendly fire was turned off. We still can’t make a final judgement on multiplayer given the fact that this event was not online, so it remains to be seen how matchmaking and overall network quality will turn out.
We all know how crowded the online action game market is, but the folks at Digital Extremes made it clear that they had no intention of competing with the likes of Call of Duty 4. Project Lead Steve Sinclair explained that the multiplayer experience of Dark Sector is meant to be specific to that of the franchise, rather than trying to emulate another. We can appreciate the developer being up front about not trying to cram Dark Sector into a shoe that won’t fit, but at only two different modes it just feels a little lacking. This isn’t to say we didn’t enjoy ourselves, but at the moment Dark Sector’s multiplayer appears to be the icing on the cake that is the game’s very impressive single player campaign.
Dark Sector is set to release on PS3 and Xbox 360 this March.