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erfect Dark Zero has always been destined for a rocky reception. In development for years by Rare, a company with a great pedigree and problematic recent history for a publisher launching a new system, PDZ is a critical title for both Rare and Microsoft. In the past few years, the bar for first-person shooters has been raised to new heights by games like Halo 2 and Half-Life 2, and the Xbox has established itself as the console of choice for shooter fans. Does Perfect Dark Zero hit this high bar, redeeming Rare and providing Microsoft with the first-party hit it needs for the 360 launch? In a word, no. PDZ solidly fails to meet the benchmark set by recent shooters, emerging as a forgettable, by-the-numbers experience, rather than the milestone it should have been.
To be fair, Perfect Dark Zero is a perfectly passable game. There are a few technical shortcomings here and there, but there’s nothing glaringly wrong with it. By virtue of the fact that it’s on a new system with better graphics, that will be enough for some people. But there’s simply nothing new in the single-player campaign that shooter fans haven’t done a million times before. There are no exciting boss fights, no particularly compelling stages, and definitely none of the “holy crap” moments that made games like Half-Life 2 so memorable. Instead, there is a small selection of generic environments (science fiction-inspired bunkers, a forest, ruins, etc.), and an even smaller handful of enemy types, including a female guard model that looks suspiciously like Joanna Dark. Enemy AI is incredibly inconsistent – sometimes they’ll snipe you from afar, and other times they’ll stand around with their guns in the air when they have a clear shot at you.
The actual gameplay is a lot slower than most recent shooters, and lacking many modern conventions, such as a radar or more than one checkpoint per level. However, PDZ does feature a nice cover mechanic, as well as an evasive roll (instead of a jump). Fans of the original will like the weapons selection and the focus on multiple objectives per stage, but others will be completely put off by the ridiculous voice work, forgettable story, and downright boring action. However, online play is a lot more interesting. Deathmatches and Dark Ops games (which are more objective-based) are included, as well as co-op. As much as I love co-op conceptually, I found playing the same campaign with a second player just as boring as playing it alone. Deathmatches and Dark Ops games are surprisingly fun, despite bringing little new to the table. With headshots being the most efficient way to take someone down, deathmatches are a bit more skill-based than some other shooters, which is nice. But outside of some mildly amusing multiplayer, PDZ is an enormous disappointment. Perhaps due to its years in development, PDZ just feels antiquated and familiar. Had it released years ago, it would have been a monumental game. But as it stands, it’s just more of the same.


Perfect Dark Zero wears many guises. It’s one of those games that will have you singing its praises one minute, only to find yourself screaming expletives at it the next. Thankfully, most of its problems can be avoided, but this basically means that you have to steer clear of the single-player campaign. It’s a torturous and completely uninteresting excursion. The real meat and potatoes of this release is multiplayer. The campaign’s story may hold little weight, but it is fun to play through it cooperatively, as you are constantly pushed to use teamwork. Deathmatching is brilliantly devised. You can unload an entire clip into someone, yet not drop them. Hence, you have to use pinpoint precision to line up headshots. It really plays off of your skills. The maps are well thought out, and the assortment of unique weapon abilities opens up new avenues for FPS strategy. It’s not for the masses, but Perfect Dark Zero will definitely be a hit with those of you who want to put your skills on display.

The prequel to the excellent N64 game toplines the launch of the new Microsoft console. Shooting ensues
Inconsistent. Some environments look nice, others don’t. Character models look like crap
Many of the voice actors have an obnoxiously goofy tone, and the music is grating ‘70s porn-funk
The slower pace of the action will probably throw some players expecting another Halo-like experience
Single-player mode is forgettable, but the online modes are surprisingly lively
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