On the last night of TGS, the official Destructoid Peace Summits between the Nick Chester Anger Society, its eponymous antagonist and the diplomat Dale North took place, and like many such summits, we all soon found peace by wildly gesticulating with our middle fingers in the direction of a common enemy… in this case, none other than that swarthy Cuban wearing nothing but a smile, a pimp suit and a gay robot for a hat. We refer, of course, to Mr. Destructoid himself.
Grievances were naturally aired.
“Get this,” Eliza complained over her fifth mayonnaise margarita. “Did you know he actually told us we had to censor f*ck above the jump?”
“And yet we can say fuck as much as we want below the fold,” I continued.
“This is from the same man,” Eliza cried, “Who posted a story on the front page on the very first day of TGS in which he wildly enthused about the sensation of taking a steaming diarrhea dump on the sunken chest of a Tamara Tomy booth babe…. which, if you think about it, is way more objectionable than the physical act of love.”
Dale and I looked at each other meaningfully. We felt the opposite: certainly, a steaming slurry of excrement running down our chests was only half as revolting as the concept of making love to Eliza, who was a steaming slurry of blue-haired excrement herself. Imagining the prospect, Dale threw up in his mouth a little.
If the silence had been allowed to linger any longer, giving our imaginations scope to fully explore the carnal nightmare of hypothetical Eliza coitus, the whole party might have soon devolved into a scene very much like the Blueberry Pie Eating Contest in Stand By Me. But luckily that leader of men and my new best friend Nick “Fuck You Lemon!” Chester was deftly able to turn the tide of the conversation by proposing a toast.
“Ha! Yes, it’s true! I’ve always hated him! I’ve always worked to his ruin! Gentlemen! To Niero! To Insubordination! To My Undying Hate! Gentlemen! To Evil!”
“Ha ha ha ha ha!” we all chortled maniacally, clinking our glasses.
We laughed so hard that our eyes bulged from our sockets like hard-boiled eggs popping from their shells, so that our faces bloated and turned purple with blood, so that several small, nervous-looking Japanese around us simply dropped dead of heart attacks right then and there, like terrified baby swallows taken to a death metal concert. We just laughed and laughed and laughed.
Finally, when we were all laughed out, just lying on the floor gasping like jelly fish, there was a couple minutes silence.
“Speaking of steaming diarrhea dumps congealing in the sunken chest cavity of the pro gaming journalist,” Dale asked, “…did any of you see Jim Sterling’s post on Dark Sector?”
But Dale knew very well that we all had. Why else were we drinking? And this just started us laughing again, so hard and fast that anyone passing by the scene would have immediately mistaken us for a pack of tubercular hyenas. Cumulus clouds of blood drifted lazily through the air with our every “Ha!”
Nick “Fuck You Lemon” Chester jumped up on the table, pulled the band of his pink lace panties up over his ears and, in a high pitched falsetto, began to lisp Sterling’s Dark Sector money quote while the rest of us rapidly tintinnabulated our spoons against the rims of our drink glasses. These were the words of Sterling that Nick deigned to quote:
It would be a shame to forget about Dark Sector as well, because I feel we might have quite the sleeper hit on our hands here… This could be a hot one, and you’d do well to keep it in the back of your mind somewhere.
“What a mo!” cackled Eliza giddily.
We all nodded. We knew the truth…Dark Sector was not really worth keeping in the back of your mind at all. We’d all played it, you see.
Now, look. Before Jim Sterling’s eyes well full of tears, we all want to make very clear that we appreciate his earnest, wide-eyed credulity. Unlike Destructoid’s TGS staff, Sterling’s soul is full of hope. We appreciate that. We need less cynical gamers. If TGS teaches you anything it’s that there aren’t enough giddy amateurs in games journalism; there is an absolute requirement to attract more talent into the field who will be just frankly thrilled to get the chance to play third party PR and suck dick at the Sony press booth.
In fact, everyone representing Dtoid at TGS this year demands that Sterling be sent to the next convention: he’s the kind of starry-eyed gamer who would post thirty or forty times a day at a con, giving the rest of us ample opportunity to go to Harajuku, get drunk, then stumble into the con the next day at 5:30 pm, just in time for the next Tecmo prostitute party.
But credulity and optimism only go so far, and If Jim Sterling is a tiny puppy wagging his tail expectant of a treat, Dark Sector is a moist burlap sack full of wrenches, and D3 is the enraged meth addict ready use that sack to beat Jim Sterling clean to death.
From what I remember, Dark Prokect is the game’s been in development so long that the platform it was announced for was the XBox 2. Some of you will not be bothered by that: that’s surely the sign of an ambitious project, you’ll say. Digital Extreme is clearly trying to do the concept right.
But that’s not the way Dark Sector feels. Rather, it feels like a game that has spent four years of development time creeping along the feature list of other, better games that have been released in the meantime, without quite grokking what made those games so great.
For example, your protagonist in Dark Sector looks exactly like the protagonist in the Splinter Cell games from behind. It also seems to take place in Half-Life 2‘s City 17, while incorporating S.TA.L.K.E.R.‘s gas-mask wearing Russian freaks as enemies. Your view point is behind the right shoulder, like in Resident Evil 4, but unlike in RE4, the controls feel awkward and loose, and the enemies are fast enough to allow you to appreciate how poorly the controls are suited to games without slow moving zombies as the primaryenemy. The battles are filled with obstacles you can crouch and hide behind, like Gears of War, but unlike Gears of War, the mechanic doesn’t work very well. And although it wasn’t in the demo we played, the trailer that runs before the demo made extremely clear that you could paralyze enemies with a burst of electricity from your hand or blow them up with a pyro blast, just like in Bioshock.
Of the 4 Dtoid editors who played Dark Sector, only one of us liked it even marginally, and that was Eliza. It wasn’t really because she thought it was excellent, but because she very quickly discovered the one very cool thing about the game: you are armed with a razor boomerang, it is the best weapon in the game and, if you aim it right, you can lop off legs with it, causing enemies to roll around the ground, pointing the arterial spray from their stump in several directions. I watched Eliza do this for a good ten minutes and I can tell you, it never gets old.
But are arterial sprays enough to carry a game? For that matter, is the TGS demo indicative of the game that will be released in January? I don’t know. The only thing I do know is that there isn’t any basis to believe Sterling’s hopeful assurance that this game will be a “sleeper hit” based on what I played. 4 years of development time that garners three collective Destructoid yawns (juxtaposed only by Eliza’s excited belching?) Optimism never seemed so superstitious.
The bottom line is it’s pretty hard to tell you what to think about a game that hasn’t been released. There’s a reason previews aren’t very critical and it’s because everyone knows they are looking at an unfinished product… and usually only for about five or ten minutes.
Are Dark Sector’s controls really bad, or do I just need ten minutes to get used to them? Is the game really as creatively bereft as it seems, or is there more imagination in it than I’m giving it credit for? I don’t know. But previews are meant to hype, to get people excited, and at this, Dark Sector failed TGS as far as Destructoid was concerned.