March 16, 2010 -
Think of Perfect Dark on Xbox Live Arcade as a re-mastered album from your favorite band, or even a vintage film restored for re-release by the Criterion Collection. Microsoft and 4JStudios have dusted off our heroine Joanna Dark and given her a full makeover so her first adventure looks and plays better than ever. Perfect Dark was ahead of its time for console first-person shooters -- it required us to install a memory expansion pack in our Nintendo 64 just to run it, and even then the framerate would slow to a crawl when the action heated up. Now you can experience it as the developers originally intended, now with a smooth framerate and modern perks like online multiplayer and leaderboards. The game certainly feels dated by today's standards, but I was surprised by how much fun it still is. Perfect Dark was resurrected for the fans, and they're going to be pleased with this improved version.
Here's the gist for anyone sad enough (or young enough) to not have played Perfect Dark back in the day. Nintendo and developer Rare managed to make this spiritual successor to GoldenEye 64 the epitome of console shooters in 1999. PC gamers may have looked at it and scowled because it didn't do anything they hadn't been enjoying for years. Actually, it did less, because PC gamers had been throwing LAN parties and playing online before Perfect Dark was even a glimmer in Rare's eye. But, as far as console FPS games you played with a controller went, Perfect Dark had no peer.
If you never played Perfect Dark, this will probably just serve as a reminder of how much first-person shooters have improved in the past decade. But, as I said before, this wasn't brought back for the uninitiated -- this is for the fans, and they will be very, very happy. Perfect Dark on XBLA is one of the most impressive repackagings of a game I've seen and is definitely worth $10.
That said, I did encounter a hiccup here and there when playing with four players in splitscreen. Every so often the game would freeze for just an instant. It wasn't enough to break the game and it wasn't anything like the slowdown of the original, but it was noticeable.
There may be more to do here than in any other XBLA game. First you've got the 17 story missions, each with three difficulty settings that add objectives and make the enemies less dumb. Seriously, playing on the easy Agent difficulty is like running through a lobotomy ward and mowing down everyone you see. That's not to say it isn't fun -- on the contrary, I appreciate how Agent mode makes me feel like an incredible (hot chick) badass. But when returning and trying the missions on Special Agent and finally Perfect Agent settings you'll find additional goals that must be met.
Each time you complete a mission your time is posted to the leaderboards, and you can instantly compare your performance with your friends. There is bound to be a lot of heated competition in the coming weeks with people trying to post the most impressive speed runs.
All of the story missions can also be played with a friend cooperatively, or you can play for opposing teams in Counter Operative mode. Here, one player is Joanna and the other controls the guards. Joanna still has just one life to give, but the guard player will respawn as another enemy when gunned down. It's great fun. Note that both Cooperative and Counter Operative modes can be played in local splitscreen or online.
How in the hell did we ever play this game with the N64 controller? Perfect Dark plays like a dream now with two analog sticks and you have three button configurations to choose from: "Classic Style," "Spartan" for you Halo fans, and "Duty Calls" for the Call of Duty kids.
I can't imagine a better way to revive a classic. Perfect Dark has never looked or played better, and anyone who sank a significant portion of their life into the game a decade ago will happily sacrifice even more of their time to do it all again. There is more content to sift through here than just about any other XBLA game. Sure, the voice acting is terrible and its feeble attempts at humor will have you groaning. But Perfect Dark still has one of the best arsenals of any FPS and the gunplay is very satisfying. This version is even closer to perfection than the original was.
|out of 10||click here for ratings guide|
This classic has been lovingly updated for its fans. Perfect Dark on XBLA is one of the best repackagings I've seen.
Perfect Dark looks better than ever and now runs at a solid 60fps, but it is, of course, a 10-year old game.
The electro-spy soundtrack holds up pretty well, but the voice acting is just awful.
Perfect Dark has one of the best arsenals of any FPS and the gunplay is very satisfying.
There is an enormous amount of content to work through here, in both single- and multiplayer modes.
(out of 10)