I can distinctly remember taking afternoon off from work at my first job in order to play Perfect Dark on release day back in June 2000. Built upon a much improved engine from Rare’s previous title GoldenEye; Perfect Dark was a very successful attempt to outdo Valve’s Half Life on inferior gaming hardware. So almost ten years later the same game has arrived on XBLA with updated visuals and online play. Let’s find out more in a review of Perfect Dark for XBLA.
Perfect Dark is a futuristic first person shooter that was originally released back on the Nintendo 64. Initially set on Earth in a Blade Runner inspired cityscape complete with neon lights and flying cars, you take on the role of Special Agent Joanna Dark as she steps into her first mission for the Carrington Institute. It doesn’t take long before things go pear shaped and Joanna becomes much deeper involved when it appears that her employers and the evil DataDyne organization are in contact with extra-terrestrial life.
Is the Earth really ready for first contact or will power mongers attempt to harness alien technology for world domination? Well it wouldn’t be much of a game if things went smoothly so hopefully it’s not too much of a spoiler to say that you need to kick plenty of Human and Alien ass if you want to save the world.
Perfect Dark features 17 or so varied single player missions ranging from an Office Complex to Area 51, a giant Frigate to Air Force 1 and even an Alien UFO. Just as with GoldenEye; each level features a number of objectives that need completing before you reach the end – racing through without completing the requirements will result in a mission failure and force you to restart. The clever tri-difficulty system has also been carried over from GoldenEye; you can attempt a mission on Agent (easy) Special Agent (medium) and Perfect Agent (hard). Not only do higher difficulty modes modes make the enemies harder to kill and more accurate with their guns, they also introduce more compulsory objectives into each mission. This can greatly change how you approach each mission, from what weapons you use to what path you take through.
It’s actually very surprising to be reminded just how much content is in Perfect Dark. The extensive single player game is not only chock full with action but there are a ton of weapons to pick up too. Each weapon not only has its primary fire mode for standard usage, they all have an impressive secondary fire mode too. It must be said mine (and everyone else’s) is the Laptop Gun. Not only does this gun look like a laptop computer to the untrained eye, it can also transform into a computer controlled turret which can stick onto a wall and slice up bad guys like nobody’s business.
Before we move onto the Perfect Dark multiplayer we still have yet more single player stuff to talk about. Not only is there a full Shooting Range where you can test every weapon in the game and try to earn Bronze, Silver and Gold stars – there is also a Simulator suite which can test your skills in a series of hologramatical tests designed to test your combat skills.
So now onto the multiplayer modes; back on the N64 just being able to play split screen with up to three other people was cool. As you’d expect you have a selection of multiplayer modes to choose from including; Death Match, Capture the Flag and King of the Hill etc. Rare truly outdid themselves here and even managed to squeeze the ability to add cpu controlled bots into the mix. Almost every aspect of the multiplayer game can be tweaked to provide your ultimate scenario; Teams, Weapon Layouts, Bot AI and much more. To top it off there is even a tough Challenge mode to keep you going after the main story is done as well as full cooperative and counter operative modes for the main campaign.
In short Perfect Dark is still as much of an extensive package today as it was ten years ago – so what does the transition to XBLA actually add to the experience? Well to start with almost every texture in the game has been redrawn and improved to scale up to HD resolutions. Don’t go expecting Modern Warfare 2 visuals but everything looks crisp and sharp rather than a blurred rescaled mess. Most importantly the multiplayer code has been revamped and it’s now possible to play over the interwebs. Up to 4 players on a single console can venture online split screen to battle another four people for some intense 8 player retro action. One thing I didn’t expect but glad that is possible is the ability to take the cooperative and counter operative modes online to play with a friend, this is very cool and I enjoyed it much more than Army of Two.
So is Perfect Dark for XBLA worth a purchase? Well for me the answer is most definitely yes. Whilst the gameplay, graphics, motion capture, voice acting and even the controls are all very basic to what you’d expect nowadays, there is just a solid and slick 60FPS gaming experience to be had here. For just 800 points (less than most DLC on XBL) you can own a terrific full featured game as well as a handful of achievements to boost your Gamerscore. 8 out of 10.
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