- Xbox 360
When it was originally released on the N64 way back in the year 2000, Perfect Dark was one of the most ambitious first person shooters to date. Building on the success of its spiritual predecessor Goldeneye, developers Rare created a game with a rich world, incredible depth and, for the time, an outstanding multiplayer. It looked great and (for the cartridge based 64) sounded great, there was however one major problem; it was simply to ahead of it’s time for the console. Despite pushing the available technology to its limits, Perfect Dark regularly suffered from slowdown which could frequently hamper performance.
Things are very different now however with this shiny new HD update for Xbox Live courtesy of Scottish developers’ 4J studios. The game now runs like a dream and while not much in the way has been done to alter the initial product beyond revamped visuals, the true quality of the original is allowed to shine through.
The main game follows protagonist Joanna Dark as she becomes involved in near future corporate warfare and uncovers a growing conspiracy with otherworldly involvement. It’s all rather silly with some seriously cheesy dialogue and two characters that seem to be based so heavily on Sean Connery and Morgan Freeman that they may as well hang from a metaphorical lawsuit fishing rod, but this is half of the fun. The gameplay is fast paced and visceral with loads of neat touches from guards screaming ‘why me!?’ as they slump to the ground or the fact you can shoot their guns from their hands, forcing them to raise their hands in surrender.
It’s a satisfying change from many modern shooter conventions as well. You’re left to pick your own way through several levels rather than have your hand held by constant checkpoints and it’s nice to have a health bar back after too. Moreover in Perfect Dark you can carry as many guns as you want, none of this wimpy two gun inventories modern shooters obsess over. You’ll want to carry a lot of guns too since Perfect Dark continues to have one of the best arsenals of all time, from the fifty bullets a second Cyclone to the deployable Laptop Gun.
The single player campaign comes equipped with a neat co-op mode and the wholly original Counter-op mode where the second player takes control of one enemy guard after the other to add that extra element of difficulty for the main player. The multiplayer, revolutionary in its day, does seem a little dated now but there is still a lot of fun to be had with the four player split screen, something that is depressingly becoming rather uncommon these days.
The conversion, while tight and respectful, does allow itself a few bugs. Aiming can sometimes be rather difficult as the looking with the right stick is rather imprecise and while there is an option to bring up a detailed reticule for greater clarity, it’s hard to keep it in its exact place when pressing the right bumper immediately behind it. Also while the visuals have been neatly updated, both the music and sound effects sound severely dated and given their cartridge roots can grate at times.
That said however, Perfect Dark was ahead of its time a decade ago and as such still continues to shine today. You’ll notice an absence of some modern conventions which could annoy the odd newcomer but as a piece of nostalgia that will occasionally surprise and impress, Perfect Dark is a fantastic wee package for 800 MS points.