Five years have gone by between the releases of the original Perfect Dark for the Nintendo 64 and Perfect Dark Zero for the Xbox 360. Five long years that have brought us several upgrades to the console first person shooter genre that the original game helped shape. Joanna Dark is back with guns so big, bad, and destructive the National Rifle Association would think twice about her right to bear arms. Perfect Dark Zero has a good heritage, and considering it’s predecessor you can look forward to some very beefy multiplayer action, and on top of that add Xbox Live into the mix and you’ve got the recipe for one great gaming experience. But a recipe alone does not make for a great meal, it’s all about the skill level of the cooks involved, or in this case developers. We’ll see if Perfect Dark Zero is better on paper or if it really turns out to be a masterpiece in the next few paragraphs.While in essence Perfect Dark Zero is a “next generation” title it may not exactly look the part. Of course that’s not to say that at times it doesn’t look absolutely beautiful, it’s just saying that it cannot maintain said beauty over the course of the entire game. Some of the textures can at times look blurry, and clipping is a definite problem. Maybe the biggest problem is the character movement, they just don’t move with any sort of fluidity and while their death animations may be very different from one to the next, there can be nothing natural considered about them. That may not be such a big deal in the long run because the levels are huge with plenty of places to roam around and explore and lots of enemies to shoot dead. Add to that the fairly large amount of areas to visit and you’ve got not only a very good multiplayer game, but a good, if not average, single player experience as well.
The audio in Perfect Dark Zero could probably use a bit of work, if only because it seems to be underutilized. One of the key features of the Xbox 360 is the ability to pump out 5.1 Dolby Digital sound, and while the audio in Perfect Dark Zero is good it could stand to use more of it because a game of explosions and gunfire could probably never have enough. The voice work, however, is really good. The characters all have well produced dialogue, even if the writing isn’t on the same level. The music could stand to be improved, if only for the single player game because during multiplayer your main focus will probably be on whoever is shouting into your ear via the headset at the time. There is the added treat, however, of playing your own custom soundtrack during the game, so if you’re not exactly enthused by what the game provides you with you’re more than welcome to provide your own.
Where the game seems to falter is the single player mode. While you’ve got a lot of stuff to uncover and discover, the gameplay is pretty straightforward and somewhat linear. There are several objectives to complete throughout each mission and in many cases no particular rush to get through them, but still it feels like you’re just going from one area to the next with only the tiniest bit of story being revealed throughout. That brings us to the next issue with Perfect Dark Zero, the story is just so convoluted. There seems to be something going on with a scientist and his research and then there’s something about some other mad scientist with glow sticks in his head and something or other. It’s so hard to wrap your brain around the story that it may just be best if you don’t try.
One seriously major complaint is that the enemy artificial intelligence is way too smart. They always know where to shoot and will hit you with accuracy to boot. Well, it’s either that or they’re completely dumb and stand around while you shoot them in their extremities. There seems to be no in between to their intelligence. It’s really a shame because a shooter is only as good as the opponents that they provide you with and Perfect Dark Zero seems to be lacking in the AI department. When you shoot at your opponent they automatically know where to shoot whereas when it happens to you you’re completely clueless, so at times it doesn’t make the game very much fun. Overall, the game is fun, but it could have used some extra polish.
Juxtapose the single player game with the multiplayer and you’ve almost got two different games here. The multiplayer offers up a pretty big variety of modes to choose from whether it’s a simple every person for themselves, or team, or capture the flag, the multiplayer really picks up the slack that the single player game seemingly dropped. There’s even more modes for those people who like their games a little less run and gun and more tactical. There are several of those modes and of course all that makes the game infinitely replayable. Top all that off with a cooperative version of the game and you’ve got enough reason to pick up a game like Perfect Dark Zero.
Again, Perfect Dark Zero is far from, well, perfect, but it does a lot of things right. Multiplayer is fun, whether you’re online blasting away the competition or you’re alone playing against your friends or up to fifteen bots, you’re probably in for a good time. Sure the single player mode could have been better and less linear, but for a first generation title on a new system, it’s a good showcase of what things we can expect later on from developers. The Xbox 360 controller can’t replace the mouse and keyboard combination, but if that’s what you want you may as well play a PC game and not a console. Overall, Perfect Dark Zero is a good game for shooter fans who like a huge amount of options for their multiplayer games.
While the five year wait between games may have been a long time for fans of the first game, those same people will probably not be disappointed with Perfect Dark Zero. Xbox Live inclusion has made this one heck of a game for anyone with an itchy trigger finger and an Xbox 360. If you liked the first one at all, chances are you’ll enjoy this one just as much. Those looking for more depth in a first person shooter single-player adventure may want to look elsewhere.
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