After releasing the prequel-Perfect Dark Zero-back in 2005, Microsoft thought it best to recreate the N64 classic that started it all with improved textures, steadier framerate, and online additions to the already impressive list of multiplayer options. With nostalgia turning out to be a great cash cow, it seems expected for a publisher to sink their teeth into what many proclaim to be one of the best fps' of all time. In a world where the first person shooter reign supreme, is their a perfect niche to be found in this $10 (800 MS point) shooter?
The story to this cyber-punk setting takes place in the year 2023. Johanna Dark works for the Carrington Institute, a pseudo-business, espionage company founded by Daniel Carrington. Achieveing the rank of "Perfect Dark" from the company, Johanna's tasked with Carrington's most dangerous missions to go after dataDyne, and eventually an evil alien race. The overall story is essentially one cheesy idea to the next, but it can show signs of knowing what it's doing. It's fairly obvious to see that the story was really just a placeholder to the assortment of great locales Johanna visits throughout the game. Dwadling the line between funny in a campy sense and stupid, Perfect Dark is the posterchild for enjoying the journey, rather then adoring the end result.
Developer 4J Studious, the ones behind the XBLA remakes of Banjo Kazooie and Banjo Tooie, have really raised the bar on what can be done to revive what a game two generations can look like, without making it feel foreign to fans of N64's Perfect Dark. The sights and sounds are remastered to today's HD standards, although both aspects show some noticeable hitches. Despite all of the rigirous tasks completed by the developer on the technical side, this remake is going to be marked by the term "dated". If you understand the fact that the original required external RAM just to play 100% the game, it will be understandable to see Perfect Dark can be appreciated for simply keeping a solid framerate. Overall, the technical aspects may fall short thanks to there being no lip synching and questionable voice acting, but that's more at the fault of how far FPS have come since Perfect Dark's 2000 debut.
Being the spiritual successor to Rare's Goldeneye 007, Rare's "other half" FPS falls along most of the guidelines set by its predecessor while building upon those guidelines in almost every way. The seventeen missions are structured around the idea of adding more objectives and tougher enemies with each corresponding difficulty. This formula can feel fresh to most shooter fans since it's rarely used by many other games. These tidbits plus added "cheats" help to provide extras that feel like real incentives to go back through the campaign. The one aspect that can be found to be an annoyance is the lack of a clear marker to tell you where to complete the next objective. Although it does give into the sense of being non-linear, it may catch the unanticipated into getting lost from time to time.
Before the vision of Halo bringing a 2 weapon loadout, Rare's Perfect Dark stayed to the usual idea of switching through the entire arsenal. With this impressive arsenal comes a wide variety of weapons complete with their own alternate fire components. It's certainly a common thing to see in today's shooters, but hardly any game does it to better effect. With the gleaming side of shooting that any N64 fan will remember comes the AI that all will wish to forget. Regardless of difficulty, Perfect Dark's AI usually acts as more of being there for cannon fodder, rather than acting as trained guards. The term dated is not restricted to PD's visuals and audio design, but to the gameplay as well. What should be more shocking is the fact that some of Perfect Dark's single player features are hardly used in today's plethora of shooters. Don't be suprised if there's something in PD you may have never experienced before if you have only played a handful of today's modern fps.
Where Perfect Dark may feel old in technical aspects, the grocery list of cooperative and competitive options propeled further by the added online option make Perfect Dark stand above many of today's competitors. Whether it's from 4 player splitscreen or 8 players online, Perfect Dark's competitive online options are nearly infinite. With a maximum of 12 characters allowed in total on one map, you're able to either play solely against bots or have eight human players with four bots in combat. Add this impressive showing of competitve MP with the coutner-opertive option, which has 2 players (through either splitscreen or online) face against each other throughout all the SP missions as either Johanna Dark or one of the respawning enemies, and you have an amazing amout of value for just 800 Microsoft points.
In conclusion, the XBLA version of Perfect Dark feels like the absolute package that could have arguably been called better than the original had it released during a less competitive timeframe. Although Perfect Dark Zero may have left an aftertaste that was a bit bittersweet to most fans, this re-entry into the Perfect Dark universe exceeded my expectations right out of the starting gate. If you can manage to cope with the noticeable signs of age in Perfect Dark, you're in for a revision that just might be one of the greatest remakes to be released for this-gen consoles (X360, PS3, Wii).
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Perfect Dark (N64): 9.5/10 and coolbeans' *Certified FresH* badge