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Perfect Dark Review (XBLA)

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Perfect Dark Review (XBLA)
Microsoft
One of the most anticipated Xbox Live Arcade titles ever is finally upon us with the release of Perfect Dark. It may be a port/remake of a ten-year old N64 game, but there is still plenty of magic in the title whether you are a PD vet or are playing the game for the first time. It still plays amazingly well, and in terms of the sheer volume of content, Perfect Dark XBLA is one of the best gaming values you’ll find for a mere $10. Find out all of the details here in our full review.
Game Details

  • Publisher: Microsoft
  • Developer: Rare / 4J Studios
  • ESRB Rating: “M” for Mature
  • Genre: FPS
  • Pros: Nice visuals; great music; best multiplayer around; tons of content; awesome weapons
  • Cons: SP campaign a bit confusing; imprecise controls

Perfect Dark is the tale of secret agent Joanna Dark, top agent for the Carrington Institute. The CI has received a distress signal from a Dr. Caroll, and Jo is sent into the evil dataDyne corporation on a rescue mission. That is just the beginning of the adventure, though, and from there things get a little crazy. Just a note: Perfect Dark Zero, released for the Xbox 360 launch, is a prequel to this game.

What you really need to know about Perfect Dark, though, is that this game offers an insane amount of content. Seriously, modern FPS should be ashamed for shipping with their pitiful amount of stuff to do. Perfect Dark gives you a full single-player campaign, full co-op, full counter-op, a huge training area (the Carrington Institute) to run around in that is actually fun to use even if you don’t need training anymore, and multiplayer with a huge list of options to play around with. And on the Xbox 360, all of these things are available in both local play as well as online via Xbox Live. For 800MSP ($10), this is one of the best gaming values ever.

Gameplay

Microsoft
First off, lets talk about the core gameplay. The game was ported over from the N64, and back in those days there was only one analog stick and you had to use face buttons to look around and strafe and stuff. For the XBLA version, the developers didn’t want to completely replace the feel of the game, so instead of giving us full 360 degree analog controls like modern games, they made the right analog stick’s movement roughly comparable to what we had on the N64’s “C” buttons. This means that at the same time the game does control a little smoother simply from the benefit of using a stick, the controls are not nearly as precise as modern shooters. At the same time, though, precise aiming (like when looking through the Farsight or sniper rifle or any other zoomed weapon), seems much more janky and difficult than it was before because instead of crisp, measurable “C” button presses to align your aim, the analog stick is a lot harder to make little adjustments with. During fast paced gameplay, the controls are fine, but when you slow down and really need precision, it doesn’t handle all that well. Thankfully, 90% of the game or more (especially in multiplayer) is fast and frantic which is where these controls really shine, so this isn’t a huge issue.
Fast and frantic really is the best way to describe the gameplay of Perfect Dark. It features some pretty heavy auto-aim (you can turn it off, but it changes the feel completely and I wouldn’t recommend turning it off in single-player, only in multi), which gives the game a really fast and arcadey feel. You enter a room, kind of loosely target enemies, pull the trigger and down they go. It makes the game move at a super fast pace that is completely different from any FPS released in the last several years.

Perfect Dark follows a couple of other old-school design ideas in that you don’t have recharging health or shields, and you can carry a huge stockpile of weapons around with you instead of 2-3 like most modern games. This, again, makes the game feel radically different from most FPS released in the last 10 years (mostly since Halo came around and changed everything).

Some other gameplay elements include dual wielding (long before Halo 2 made it fashionable), the ability to shoot the gun out of an enemy’s hands, and the fact that most weapons have more than one function. One gun turns into a sentry turret. Another one can be used as a proximity mine. This puts yet another unique spin on the game and ensures the game never feels repetitive.

Campaign

Microsoft
Another big difference in Perfect Dark is how the campaign is laid out. Instead of constantly holding your hand and directing you where to go, you are left to explore the levels however you want. In this same vein, the different difficulty levels do not merely make the enemies more difficult, but they add new objectives and even open up different parts of the level to radically change how you play. The three difficulty levels make it almost feel like there are three different campaigns to play through.

All of that is fine and dandy, but darn if it you won’t be confused as hell the first time you try to play a mission. You don’t have a map or anything to tell you what you are supposed to do other than some vague objectives. It is easy to get lost or fail missions because you don’t know what you are supposed to do. Don’t be put off by this, though, because by the second or third time though a level you figure things out and the game becomes like an epic, fun time trial test to see how fast you can do things. That is a key point, because in most modern FPS I rarely feel the need to play through the SP levels (other than a few select ones, looking at you “One Shot, One Kill”) more than once. But in Perfect Dark the varied objectives and the pace of the game and the time trial aspect of it all compels you to keep playing. By completing levels under specific times, you can also unlock cheats that give you unlimited ammo or all of the guns in the game (among many others) that all help to make the campaign even more fun and replayable.

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