James Cameron's Dark Angel Played by Someone Who Never Saw Dark Angel
It’s been over 20 years since Dark Angel was cancelled, and as it turns out it’s been exactly 20 years since James Cameron's Dark Angel came out on Xbox and PlayStation 2! The 22nd of November 2002 it arrived in North America, though it was a bit longer for Europe as it was released on the 21st of February 2003.
While I didn’t watch the Dark Angel show, which aired from October 2000 until May 2002, it wasn’t for any specific reason, I just didn’t. It’s been something I’ve meant to check out over the years but never gotten around to it.
So, my first experience of the IP was through this videogame developed by Radical Entertainment, which takes the form of a beat ’em up, and is set between the first and second seasons of the show. You play as Max, some kind of genetically augmented super soldier who’s on the run from the corporation that created you. As the game begins, you’re being hunted as you head back to your apartment, and it progresses on to Max looking for more people like her and infiltrating -I- Corporation facilities.
The combat can be cumbersome and enemies really take a pounding before going down. You can be fighting any given group of enemies for over a minute, and I’ve never heard of that in a beat ‘em up before. You can equip tonfas to hit harder, but those break after a short time, so getting spotted and swarmed by every enemy in the immediate area is a real drag. This isn’t helped by the poor stealth mechanics, especially as several sections of levels rely on you not being spotted at all. You can grab enemies who haven’t spotted you and take them out, but if you grab someone from around a corner on a stealth section you fail because I guess they see you before you break their neck? On at least three sections the briefing you are given is to not be seen, only for the level to begin with enemies spotting you. Stealth in this game is hardly on Sam Fisher’s level.
You are given a Stealth Gun which fires special ammunition — of which there is a very limited amount — to incapacitate enemies. I’ll be honest, I was very glad that I kept most of it for the forced stealth sections like the train. There are other items to pick up, but they are only to give you access to new areas, though it would have been nice to be able to use some C4 during fights I won’t lie…
There are about 20 missions in James Cameron's Dark Angel, but apart from the occasional boss fight and the ratio of enhanced enemies compared to regular ones, they’re pretty much the same. Defeat enemies to get key cards to progress. There’s the stealth ones too, but even then you need to get rid of enemies to obtain a key card, it’s just even more difficult!
Honestly, the story feels rushed and we barely learn anything about Max or her man-in-the-chair Logan. We meet two other characters that I guess are from the show, but are they Max’s friends or just people she knows? One of them had a kerchief tied around their jeans leg which was notable because this game was set in 2019 and I was pretty sure we stopped doing that in the 1990s. The characters were Original Cindy and maybe Kendra? I only remember Cindy as she returned in a post-credits dance scene.
Included on the disc with James Cameron's Dark Angel are a short Behind The Scenes of the show, an interview from a Japanese press conference, a photo gallery, a trailer for the DVD, and two chapters of Dark Angel: Before the Dawn. It was one of the tie-in novels, and for some reason the game only gives you chapter one and chapter eight?
James Cameron's Dark Angel is repetitive and doesn’t do anything interesting enough for regular players to have bothered with it. I’m sure as a tie-in to a show that you enjoy, it’s a great extra thing of what you liked. Lots of one-liners (usually double-entendres), wall-flips, Logan going on and on at you… I have to say, as my first exposure to the world of Dark Angel this has made me less interested in watching it. Not that it matters since it’s not streaming anywhere currently in the UK, but still. Definitely one for the fans who don’t mind janky stealth and beating people up. But hey, it sells for only 50p, so go nuts.