It’s a Rare thing.
Developers with a quality heritage and a reputation that has cemented them in the minds of different generations of gamers Rare know their business well. Anybody that writes about Perfect Dark likes to remind the world that it is the spiritual successor to their classic Goldeneye, yes it was a shooter in a similar vein, but the original narrative and science fiction setting of Perfect Dark makes it a different proposition altogether.
The XBLA release of Perfect Dark has been a long time coming and unlike other classic shooters that have been reborn on the Microsoft Arcade it has stood the test of time well, this version along with its revamped textures still has the playability and fun factor it had when the N64 cartridge was first ripped from its packaging. The reincarnation has been handled superbly, the game ported is perfect in its presentation and the only improvement required was the updated textures, which to be fair still have the same feel as they did back in the old days.
The game itself flows nicely and the challenge can be tweaked in the standard Rare format of higher difficulty levels having more objectives to overcome, this is something that makes a game enjoyable when you replay it, because your strategies and approach will more often need to change. The environments on offer while smaller than levels we have come to expect today are varied and fun to play, they more often than not offer multiple paths and the occasional secret to discover. rediscovering some of these levels has been a simple pleasure and it’s nice to know that some things never change, I will always get lost in Carrington’s Villa.
It is also great to revisit a game that had such playability for its time that it was streets ahead and in some respects still is a clear winner when compared to modern day titles. The enemies you encounter have some of the best localised hit detection ever coded, shoot them in the arm they will drop their weapon and grab the wound, shoot them in the leg and they will limp away, shoot them in the balls and they will hold onto their happy sack. The game also allows you to destroy the lights and add some stealth, a prerequisite in my books for fun in a shooter. These aspects are mainstay Rare inclusions and happily carry over from Goldeneye, it just makes me wonder what happened to game designers since then? How many times have you bought a next-gen shooter where a rocket launcher won’t even shatter a lightbulb?
On top of the fun single player you also get to free roam your base of operations the ‘Carrington Institute’, where a trip to the shooting range will open up a 3 tier challenge for each of the weapons you have used in the game. This is also the spot where I spent my first half an hour playing the N64 version, ringing up my oldest friend and waxing lyrical over the shiny floor in the foyer, graphically speaking you had to be there.
Then of course there is the multiplayer, which while it was based on the original Goldeneye multiplayer does not hold the long term appeal. There are a mountain of options available to the player, a host of maps, customisable weapon selections, a range of bots to play with, not to mention the Xbox Live functionality which runs pretty well. It will be a fair bet that apart from having a dabble with the x-ray rail gun, most of the people that pick up this game will be plumping for multi on the classic Goldeneye maps with the Goldeneye weapon sets.
There are also the co and counter-op modes, co-op obviously puts two agents onto a map ready for action, while counter puts one player in charge of Ms Dark and the second player in charge of the diminishing amount of enemies. Both modes were fun in the original and they still hold the same appeal today.
Perfect Dark should have been bundled with Perfect Dark zero back at the launch of the 360, it might have given modern gamers a valuable glimpse into classic gaming and may have aided Zero’s popularity issue. Here we have the original Joanna Dark, her cheeks may not be as rounded and her jumpsuit not so shiny, but the gadgets and the gameplay are there proving that Rare knew what they were doing all those years ago.
I recommend picking this title up if you want a game that appears to be a simple ‘run and gun’ experience on the surface, yet holds some fun replay challenge underneath. However if you pick it up in the hope of finding that Goldeneye buzz again don’t. Go and seek out an N64 for that, it is the only way to really enjoy the classic experience and if you are one of the few that has never enjoyed an all-nighter on Goldeneye with 3 friends then you have not lived.