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Dark Sector Interview: Digital Extremes

Dark Sector is, in our estimation, one of the most promising games to date in this new generation, and we wanted to learn more. In order to satisfy our desire for inside info, we contacted Digital Extremes and Steve Sinclair, Project Lead for the game, was good enough to answer our questions. If you've been looking forward to Dark Sector , we strongly suggest you check out the following interview and educate yourself…this bad boy is shaping up to be one hell of an action title!

PSXE: About how long is Dark Sector? And do you agree with independent developers who recently spoke at the GDC 2008 in regards to "quality over quantity?" In our estimation, last year's Heavenly Sword is a good example of that; only about 6-8 hours long, but the length fit the story and gameplay perfectly.

Sinclair: "I think we’re closer to the 10 hour mark on a first play through. If you really look for the hidden cash and weapon upgrades (which is worth the time) it could be even longer. I do agree with cutting out filler and aiming for quality, we don’t really have backtracking and other such ‘filler’ content in Dark Sector. We tried to build the game with the notion of ‘learning as fun’, so as you’re playing through the game we’re constantly giving you something new to master – the Evolution of your powers, the upgrade system of the weapons and new enemies. When that stuff runs out, that’s pretty much when the game is concluded… with a freakish boss-battle of course!"

PSXE: We just heard about those Entitlements for the PS3. Are the Entitlements in Dark Sector PS3 exactly the same as the Achievements in the Xbox 360 version, and are they obtained in the same way?

Sinclair: "Yes – we were nervous about coming up with a unique set and testing all the permutations involved in that… so they are the same. We didn’t get time to work with the new system Sony is coming up with so it’s an in-game system on PS3. I would say though, that if you can pull off ‘Double Decap Latte’ using SixAxis after-touch you’re quite a stud."

PSXE: We've seen a ton of great videos for Dark Sector, which is one of the reasons we're so excited for the game. In some of those previews, we heard team members talk about a need for originality in action games…thus, the Glaive. As cool as it is, do you think a weapon is enough to make a game stand out in the crowd?

Sinclair: "No, a single weapon isn’t enough, but one that evolves with and also compliments your arsenal is memorable. The Glaive isn’t the only differentiation in the game but it is iconic and a focal point. I think it helps people attach and associate what Dark Sector is – 'Oh, that game with that jacked up ninja star?!?!'"

PSXE: Speaking of standing out in a crowd, what else about Dark Sector separates itself from the pack? In other words, what about it is unique when compared with other third-person action games?

Sinclair: "The Evolution aspects of the game are a big difference. This is a superhero origin story, so your powers are constantly evolving as you play and that includes which weapons you want to specialize in (and apply your upgrades to). In many 3rd person shooters your character is pretty much who he is at the beginning as he is in the end – with Dark Sector, Hayden is constantly evolving new powers that require experimentation and mastery."

PSXE: We can't wait to try out all the weapons in the game, but we only have one concern- will the Glaive outshine everything else? Basically, we're just wondering about the balance; we've seen footage for all kinds of sweet firearms, and we just want to make sure each is effective and we're not simply relying on the Glaive all the time.

Sinclair: "Great question, and certainly something we agonized over through development. The Glaive is different from the other weapons in some simple, fundamental ways. Its slower, potentially more deadly (if you master the throwing of it), it has some interesting evolutions that allow you to compromise cover. You can bank it off of walls and make with the chopping. But we had this fundamental problem where people would just sit in one configuration: all Glaive or all guns. The solution to that was simple (although somewhat painful): Dual-Wield. With pistols, you can throw the Glaive out and while you’re waiting for it to return you can be shooting the next guy. You can combo a stun with the Glaive and cap the guy in the head or move in for a gruesome finisher. The Dual-Wield fixed that ‘either/or’ problem and made the game flow 10x better. So we went back and re-spec’d all of our pistols in the game to accommodate play styles…"

PSXE: We're sure you've heard it before, but we want to clarify one last time: what are the differences between the PS3 and 360 versions, if any?

Sinclair: "Under the hood, tons of differences… as far as how it looks and runs… pretty much identical. We didn’t gimp texture resolutions on PS3 like I see a lot of games doing. We didn’t turn off shadows on one platform and not the other like I see tons of times. Both versions look great now – it wasn’t always that way and I have the ulcers to prove it… we had these roller coasters during development where all I would rant about was frame-rate or resolution on one of the platforms – obsessive ‘Rain Man’ styles. And we’d beat it into submission. Screen tearing was the final thing we fixed days before gold and now I can safely say the game runs and looks great."

PSXE: Where does Digital Extremes go from here? Do you currently have more next-gen projects in the hopper, and if so, could you tell us a bit about one of them? Oh, and can we expect a Dark Sector sequel?

Sinclair: "We’re keeping busy… I guess we’re not supposed to talk about future projects because PR people like to make announcements. As far as a sequel to Dark Sector – it’s just a common sense thing: if it does well, like it ought to, there will be a tremendous pull towards doing one…"

We'd like to thank Steve Sinclair for taking the time to answer our questions, and we're already getting familiar with the game. Our in-depth review is headed your way very soon, and in the meantime, be sure to check out our first impressions …as you can see, we can't wait to get back to playing!

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