Three years ago Rare released the 3D first-person shooter GoldenEye 007 to software starved Nintendo 64 owners and a classic was born. Based on the James Bond movie of the same name, and employing all sorts of realistic spy weapons and gadgetry, not to mention a brilliant multiplayer mode, the game immediately took to the top of the sales charts and its popularity hasn't really slowed down since.
Now as we approach the final stage of Nintendo 64's five-year life cycle, the England based developer has returned once more with a sequel to GoldenEye in everything but Bond license. Perfect Dark features more weapons, more levels, more multiplayer arenas, bot challenges, cooperative missions, counter-operative missions, more cheats, better AI, more in-game options, and a single-player storyline that won't let you put the controller down. GoldenEye has been with us for a long time, but it's time for Nintendo 64 owners to retire the shooter and make room for the new king -- because Perfect Dark is all that and one big bag of chips too.
- Running on an enhanced version of the GoldenEye engine
- Play as beautiful agent Joanna Dark
- Epic storyline that unfolds with intense cinematic realism through in-game cut-scenes
- Guide Joanna through 17 single-player levels (plus four bonus) including a futuristic Chicago, an alien crash site, the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, Area 51, and Air Force One, to name a few.
- Compete with up to four players on a number of specially designed levels in the multiplayer mode
- Program computer-controller "Simulants" (bots) as additional multiplayer opponents for a total of 12 combatants
- Advanced AI over GoldenEye -- enemies are smarter, and will actually identify you as friend or foe depending on the situation
- Four different level difficulties -- Agent, Special Agent, Perfect Agent, plus one bonus, all with different objectives.
- Combat Simulator -- create your own customized multiplayer battles; choose everything from number of bots to skill level, arenas, weapons, skins, and more
- Extensive training level with shooting range
- Four-player support -- different deathmatch scenarios like King of the Hill, Capture the Case, Hacker Central and more
- 16 multiplayer arenas including three classics from GoldenEye
- 40+ weapons including the GoldenEye classics
- Tons of in-game options from 'fast movement' to 'no radar' and 'player highlight'
- Character ranking system -- full statistic tracking, etc.
- Cartridge back-up and the ability to save to Controller Pak too
- Optional high-resolution mode, 16x9 widescreen, letterbox, and full Dolby Surround Sound support
- Rumble Pak support
- Eight different controller setups -- four regular and four double
- 4MB Expansion Pak Required for the single-player missions and full access to the multiplayer mode
IGN64 Articles on Perfect Dark
- Breakdown of PD's Mature rating
- Breakdown of PD's artificial intelligence
- A look at PD's multiplayer mode
- Listening to PD's audio environment
- PD's Counter-Operative mode
- PD versus GoldenEye
- PD level breakdown
- PD weapons breakdown
- Lots of PD movies
- More PD movies
- Nintendo's PD Commercial
- PD wallpaper
- PD box-art
All Hail the New King
Perfect Dark is not a clone of GoldenEye, but rather the evolution of the game. Admittedly, it runs on an enhanced version of the original Bond engine and does indeed feature a lot in common with its predecessor. But at the same time Rare has spent the last two years making sure that Nintendo 64 owners get the next logical step in first-person shooters and it shows; think beautifully constructed new levels and better AI for starters. Think about a single-player mode that is laid out in such a way that it truly varies depending on what level of difficulty it is played upon -- Agent can be beaten in a day, Perfect Agent will take months. Imagine an intriguing storyline centered around little green men and government cover-ups. Now think about a massively expanded multiplayer mode that enables complete player customization, bots, different bot settings, spectacular new weapons, different player models, nearly 20 deathmatch arenas and more. Perfect Dark is a game about sheer options and control. And it's a title that's much more likely to be favored for its intricately detailed, expansive multiplayer mode and bot missions than it is its challenging single-player quest.
In the game, you play as Joanna Dark, an agent who is dispatched by The Carrington Institute to infiltrate the mysterious dataDyne corporation, which is suspected of taking part of a dirty government cover-up involving aliens and advanced technology. The adventure begins with Joanna working her way through dataDyne in search of Dr. Caroll, a scientist who is being held by the Big Brother-esque company against his will. It isn't long before Joanna encounters the good doctor, who turns out to be a hovering laptop computer. And things get weirder from this point on. There's no doubt that breaking from the Bond license has afforded Rare certain liberties as certainly Perfect Dark features a much more creative back-story than GoldenEye did, and this is most definitely a good thing. In a genre that is rapidly overflowing with "You are a space marine..." clones, it's good to see at least some attention paid to the setup, as well as the action.
Like in GoldenEye, Joanna has at her fingertips a variety of different weapons and gadgets, and she accumulates more of each as the single-player missions are completed. Impressive guns include everything from the FarSight, a devilish creation that enables you the ability to zoom in on enemies through walls via an x-ray-like scope, and the Cyclone, a futuristic automatic that bursts out powerful bullets. Thoughtful weapon balance keeps the action intense. The FarSight, for example, while being able to home in on foes through walls, is decidedly slow moving and therefore very difficult to target moving enemies. And the Cyclone, while deadly as it unloads entire rounds into those unlucky enough to encounter it, leaves its user at a disadvantage when the time comes to reload as the procedure takes a few seconds. Obviously the selection is much grander than the standard spy selection in GoldenEye. Perfect Dark's theme allows for morphing alien guns that fire lasers, as well as automatics and shotguns that spray good old-fashioned bullets. As for brilliant new gadgetry, what about the CamSpy? Joanna can dispatch a hovering camera system around levels to film hard to reach environments -- like rooms overflowing with poisonous gas. But she must be careful not to let the CamSpy linger around guards or, as we found out, they'll examine it for a second and then begin shooting.
The single-player game is very well put together and a lot of fun. We don't want to give too much away here, but you'll be happy to know that Rare has thrown in one or two plot surprises and level design is extremely varied. You'll travel from the dataDyne Corporation's HQ to an alien crash site, inside a UFO, through a futuristic Chicago and even to another world. Each environment is filled with different guards and enemies. And the faces of foes are randomly generated so that you'll not get tired of shooting the same person over and over again. If you play through Perfect Dark on agent mode, you're going to have no trouble whipping through it in a matter of hours. But if you consider that finishing the game then you're cheating yourself. You're not playing the real adventure, with all challenges and maximum difficulty, until you jump up to Perfect Agent mode. For example, if you're playing the Deep Sea level on Agent (easy) mode, you'll only have to accomplish three objectives -- (1) reactivate the teleportals, (2) disable Cetan megawapon and (3) escape from the ship. However, if you've got the guts to give it a try on Perfect Agent mode, you'll also have to secure the control room and restore Dr. Caroll's personality before exiting the ship, which is no easy task. And obviously you won't unlock all of the game's many extra cheats unless you play through it on the most difficult setting, which is sure to separate the men from the boys.
Everything is Optional
Perfect Dark has the most replay value of any console game we've ever played -- period. Rare has crammed so many options into this cart that we're surprised the thing doesn't physically explode. You've got The Carrington Institute, which teaches you the basics of gameplay and also includes a spectacular shooting range -- if you can score gold stars with each gun you might just unlock something 'Golden'. Then there are the Solo Missions -- the single-player adventure -- more than 17 in all and filled with different objectives and plot twists depending on difficulty. Next we have the Combat Simulator, which any lesser developer would simply release as a game of its own. This baby enables you to go through 30 different, and increasingly more difficult "Simulant" based challenges. Or, if you prefer, you can simply jump into it and customize a full bot experience to your liking. Set the scenario, arena, exactly what weapons will be used, how smart the bots will be and what personality they will use. In addition, you can set what teams they will play on, if radar will be used, if fast movement will be used, if there will be a kill score, etc. -- it goes on, and on, and on some more. And of course you can do all of this with multiplayer players too. Quite frankly, if you never so much as looked at the single-player adventure that Perfect Dark had to offer and just played randomly generated setups with Simulants, Perfect Dark would still be one of the best damn pieces of software you've ever experienced on Nintendo 64. But there is more. We can't forget about the game's cooperative mode, in which you and one friend can team up and play through the single-player missions together. And finally, the Counter-Operative mode -- a scenario that seems borrowed from The Matrix, and enables you and a friend (?) to play against each other in the single-player missions -- one person assumes Joanna and the other jumps from enemy to enemy.
Move Over GoldenEye
Perfect Dark's multiplayer mode is no hype -- it actually surpasses GoldenEye's in every single measure. Superb arena design, clever weapons and with Fast Movement turned on, which we suggest, a very impressive sensation of speed. And let us not forget about Simulants -- up to eight in all which ultimately adds up to 12 different gunman in four-player mode. Trust us, you'll forget all about Bond once you take out two camping friends with the FarSight, and you'll laugh for minutes on end after dropping an N-Bomb into a room with a few buddies, who will soon find out what it's like to play blind. But the best thing about Perfect Dark's multiplayer modes is the immense number of options and a level of customization that's usually reserved to PC first-person shooters. Want the loser of the last battle to be the only player who can pick the next multiplayer arena? No problem. Want to create a custom selection of weapons? Want to name your character and team and back it all up to a Controller Pak? Want to play without radar? Want to see accurate stats on how you performer over the last weeks of gameplay? It's all in there.
In two-player mode with several bots thrown in, the action is still very fast moving and brutally intense. Throw in a few more Simulants and the fluidity takes a hit, but it's all still playable, and more importantly, still a lot of great fun. The four-player situation is a mixed bag though. With just four people and no Simulants, the game runs with a respectably solid framerate most of the time -- a GoldenEye-like framerate. But as we start to pop more and more bots into the action, the motion takes a serious hit to the point where it all becomes nearly unplayable. Rather than restricting several bots in four-player mode, Rare has simply decided to let you, the player, decide what you can and cannot take in terms of fluidity. And that's probably a good thing considering that there are a good number of game players out there who not only don't care about poor framerates, they are unaware of them.
Both the Cooperative and Counter-Operative modes are choppy. There is no other way to describe them. And yet, admitted framerate tarts that we are, we find ourselves having a great time with them regardless. The fact that we're having so much fun that we're willing to bear a sluggish framerate is a testament to Perfect Dark's design.
There is no doubt that Perfect Dark's visual style is similar to GoldenEye's in many ways. From color schemes to character models and guns, the Bond influence is visibly evident. In fact, many uninformed observers could even be fooled into assuming that the game is GoldenEye. But there are major enhancements all the same that will still work to impress. For starters, levels are much more detailed. The architecture is extremely complex at times, with multiple levels of transparent stair-cases, painstakingly designed texture maps that give the illusion of illuminated hallways without the need for processor-hitting light-sourcing. And that's not to say that PD doesn't feature dynamic lighting because that's simply not true -- the fact is, it's everywhere. You can even shoot out lights and the immediate area will grow darker.
Additionally, not only is the polygon count higher, but textures are much more crisp and varied too. Perhaps the best examples in this respect are the differences between GoldenEye's classic Temple and Facility levels and Perfect Dark's updated takes on them. PD's Temple is now not only fully retextured and eye-poppingly beautiful, but features real-time light-sourcing (and of course the option of walking off ledges), and moves faster.
The polygon character models in PD are wonderfully animated, as are the weapons. Joanna reloads the FarSight with a gelatinous ball that morphs into the gun and refuels it -- and all of this is animated without a hitch. The Cyclone's clip glides through the gun and is then ejected, again, all with a fluidity and realism that is sure to make you say "Whoa." Gunfire lights up hallways, bullets leave marks on walls, objects explode with GoldenEye-like flames, so on and so forth. Perfect Dark also features its share of blood, which is something GoldenEye strayed from. Now when you shoot an enemy, you'll notice chunks of red spraying around their wound and, if they happen to be close to a wall or object, it will be coated in a thick red. Rare has even included some very, er, annoying motion-blurring effects that kick into action after you've been slapped or shot with a tranquilizer by an enemy. Note to Rare: You must pay for not resetting these visual nuisances after a player dies!
Again, the framerate can be sluggish in certain wide-open areas or when there are lots of enemies on-screen, but for some odd reason it's never really bothersome. Most of the time you're so caught up in the game that you don't notice it, and when you do, you're willing to forgive it as Perfect Dark is just too much fun to dwell on such an issue. But with that said, we can't wait to see Perfect Dark 2 for Dolphin without any slowdown. You got that Rare?
Everything said and done, you'll be able to tell that Perfect Dark is related to GoldenEye, but at the same time there's no doubting that it looks a whole lot better.
From the moment you boot up and the PD logo kicks into action, accompanied by a moody chorus and the Dolby Surround Sound trademark, you know something very special in the way of audio is in store. Perfect Dark features hours of in-game speech, ambient musical scores that sound like a mixture between Vangelis' Blade Runner theme and the old GoldenEye tracks -- and some seriously brilliant weapon noises. Shotguns boom, automatics drill, and alien weapons output a variety of odd noises from low hums to laser blasts. When you shoot somebody, you'll hear a thump, a scream, and slump as they fall to the ground. Or you might even catch hold of one of their dying comments such as, "Why me?" and "I don't want to die!" or even, "You bitch!" It's all there, it all sounds terrific, and it's all in full Dolby Surround so if you've got the proper stereo equipment, we definitely suggest using it.
|out of 10||Click here for ratings guide|
The entire Carrington Institute, voice cut-scenes, awesome futuristic menus and more really bring PD to life.
Amazing 3D architecture, beautiful texture design, real-time lighting, solid animation, etc. Framerate suffers now and then.
Dolby Stereo Surround Sound, tons of in-game speech, great, ambient music soundtrack and more.
Whoa. So much to do, so little time. Intense single-player adventure, gripping storyline, and so many objectives. Amazing control and options will hook you.
The most replay value of N64 game ever made -- period. If we need to explain why, you haven't read our review.