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Cutting Edge

Let me describe for you the almost-pretty place where I’m standing. I’m in the middle of a dingy courtyard in Russia. Pretty flowers sway with the breeze. Green vines cascade from brick balconies over ornate archways.

And I’m covered in toxic sludge.

Here in "Dark Sector," some jerkwad named Mezner with too much time on his hands decided to use biochemical something-something to metamorphose regular people into zombies, snarling dogs and killer soldiers who hate me.

Then Mezner injected my right arm with toxins, too, so here I stand, polluted. But the joke’s on him, because his toxins turned my arm into a murderous slime weapon that throws a toxic boomerang at his idiot henchmen.

This boomerang weapon, a spiky glaive, is one of the coolest military arms you’ll ever see. You throw it at someone, and while it’s midflight, you control where it goes in slow motion, and the camera point-of-view changes to the blade’s perspective.

This means you carefully guide a flying blade to cut off someone’s legs or head, causing this dying prey to scream, "Arrrgh!" Which sounds frightening on my home theater system.

Also cool: You can combine the glaive with fire from burning cars, electricity from shorted-out circuitry boards, or ice from frozen barrels. You can throw your burning, electrified or iced glaive at villains and detonate it like a bomb on top of their heads. Then the boomerang returns to you in one piece.

That glaive helps make "Dark Sector" stand out from the crowded field of chop-shop blood fests. The game also is playable for its intense and detailed battlefields. You see every line in every brick and burning car littering this guerrilla war zone.

The difficulty range of "Sector" hits a sweet spot. If you’re a hard-core gamer, you’ll find it frustrating at first, then pretty easy to beat within a day. If you’re a casual gamer, I bet it could take you a month to solve all of the puzzling challenges.

It’s a good thing that villainous henchmen aren’t easy to slay. They are fairly powerful and resilient against your handgun bullets and glaive. So as bad men try to stop you on your quest to kill Mezner or whatever, you really have to pay attention to your surroundings to avoid machine gun fire and swinging sledgehammers.

The downsides: You can do more damage by glaive-ing someone’s legs off than if you slice him through the heart. Chalk that up to video game illogic. It’s also less fun online. Plus, the turret guns are bad. And you can barely run; you end up walking a lot.

There are the many puzzles, which can confuse you without annoying you. At one point, I was stuck for a half-hour trying to figure out if I should turn my glaive into a fireball to break into a building along my route. Finally, I realized I could just open the door with my hands. Duh.

That’s the joy of an entertaining game like "Dark Sector." It makes you learn so many tricks to succeed, you begin to overthink a level or two and psyche yourself out. It can make you feel dumb, like watching "Jeopardy!" But that’s OK.

 

("Dark Sector" retails for $60 for PS 3 and Xbox 360 — Plays quite fun. Looks great. Challenging. Rated "M" for blood, gore, intense violence, strong language. Three and one-half stars out of four.)

 

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