Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Perfect Dark Zero (360) Review

Earlier today we saw comparison shots of the new Perfect Dark remake for Xbox Live Arcade to the Nintendo 64 original. Makes perfect sense to look back at one of my favorite games on the Xbox 360 which just so happens to be a launch title. It's Perfect Dark Zero.

A gun for every occasion.

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Perfect Dark hit Nintendo 64 consoles in the spring of 2000. Nearly five years later, two console generations later, and after Microsoft purchased Rare from Nintendo, Perfect Dark Zero premiers as one of the Xbox 360 virgin console titles. PDZ is the prequel to one of the greatest FPSes ever concocted in this reviewer's opinion in Perfect Dark. Set in the near future, 2020 to be exact, the trio of Joanna Dark-- who is for some reason American in this title-- Jack Dark, her father, and Chandra, their intel specialist, are essentially mercenaries for hire. Their current objective follows a human and gun smuggler in the form of Killian, one of the worst voiced bad guys I have ever heard. After a tutorial mission where players are introduced to various game mechanics such as rolling, melee attacks, crouching, and cover. Two of which are new to the realm of Perfect Dark.

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Cover brings a whole new form of strategy to the gameplay.

When moving, with the tap of the Left Button, players can initiate a roll. This is great to dodge enemy fire or just to keep your foes on guard. When near a wall, crate, or other means of cover, Joanna will either lean back against the wall or crouch behind the crate. So instead of turning around a blind corner only to be greeted with a profusion of gunfire (whatever happened to "Hey, I'm going to kill you if you don't mind." Now it's just immediate gunfire!) Joanna can now run up to a wall and look around the corner to see if the coast is clear. This is a great addition and it only feels like a natural evolution to the gameplay of the series.

Single-player doesn't take itself too seriously which may turn some gamers off considering the subject matter and the target audience Perfect Dark Zero is intended for. The story is very forgettable and much less serious than the original Nintendo 64 version. There are allusions to the previous game with returning characters such as the rich Scotsman, Daniel Carrington, and the scientist who we knew as only a hovering computer in PD, Dr. Carroll. The game is divided up in missions. Each mission includes various objectives that must be completed in order to finish the mission. These objectives range from destroying a security system to advance to another part of a level to locating another character. Nothing out of the ordinary. There's also support objectives that are not mandatory to completing a mission. When completed, these will make the job of completing your main mission much easier usually. Levels are for the most part non-linear. There's multiple ways of finishing a mission, ways to fail, and places to explore.

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Missions will have you infiltrating
a Pacific Ocean research lab...

Speaking of multiplicity, there's an abundance of weapons and gadgetry for our spicy spy to use at her disposal. Weapons have primary functions as well as secondary functions. Some even have tertiary functions, too. The Superdragon, for example, is a regular machine gun, but use its secondary function and you can use it as a grenade launcher. What kind of masochist designed these weapons, because if you're like me you'll have fun blowing yourself up unintentionally. There's approximately twenty-five weapons that Joanna can arm herself with, but there's a limit to how much she can hold. Weapon classes range from pistols, heavy weapons like rocket launchers and the ultra-cool plasma rifle, sub-machine guns, to assault rifles, sniper tools, thrown items like grenades, and close-combat weapons such as the shotgun. Combine these weapons with the second and third functions and you have a multitude of uses to kill the opposition or support the busty redhead in Ms. Dark. Furthermore, Joanna can dual wield some smaller weapons as made famous by Halo, but used in earlier games as well.

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...To mowing down enemies in the steamy jungles of South America.

I mentioned gadgetry, and what spy game lacks cool gadgetry? Certainly not Perfect Dark Zero. Ms. "Use your locktopus" Chandra recommends the locktopus often in missions. Got a locked door? Use the locktopus. Date stood you up? Use the locktopus. Accidentally get splash-back while peeing? Use the locktopus. By moving the left analog stick, the locktopus will change color. When it turns green, you'll know you're holding the stick in the correct spot. The controller will also rumble. When the locktopus stays green, the door will instantly unlock. Another tool Joanna will use in her repetoire is the datathief-- all one word. This is the gadget for the girl on the go who can't resist hacking a computer while checking out the latest dresses at Macy's. Pressing A while a cursor passes over a blue block will unlock one of three rings. Clear all rings while avoiding red blocks will give you control of a control panel or computer. For the girl who just likes to blow... I wasn't finished, perverts-- crap up, there's the demo Kit. Spin squares to form one continuous line to cause a weakened wall to explode allowing passage through. Other gadgets include the very cool camspy (a miniature bot which can be used to take photos or be attached with an explosive), the revive kit (used to pick up fallen co-op partners), and the audioscope (a gadget that would make former president Nixon cringe as it records conversations from far away).

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Sure, I'm a girl, but I know how to blow... things up.

There's four difficulties to single player ranging from easiest to hardest: agent, special agent, perfect agent, and dark agent. Agent and special agent missions have less objectives to them, body armor in some areas to increase Joanna's health, and less accurate AI. Perfect and dark agent modes include incredibly difficult AI, no checkpoints in mid-mission, and more objectives to complete. Some objectives are in different locations depending on the difficulty level. Only a seasoned and skilled gamer will be able to complete dark agent which is a great bragging right for achievement lovers.

Moving away from single-player, by far the most impressive portion of Perfect Dark Zero is the incredibly robust multiplayer mode. As of this review there are currently twelve maps (four of which need to be purchased) ranging from locations in Perfect Dark Zero and two retro maps from the original Perfect Dark. Most of these maps are enormous and need the services of one of the two vehicles that can be piloted in PDZ, the jetpack and the hovercraft (one person drives, another serves as the gunner). There are a multitude of paths, hiding spots, camping spots, and other nooks and cranny to merrily explore while you're fragging one another. There's also variants to each map which closes and opens certain parts of the maps. The twelve maps currently available are: subway, urban, desert, old town, tower, temple, [trench, rooftops, plaza, gasplant], ruins, and facility. The ones in brackets need to be purchased as part of a map pack. Each map has its own unique feel, places to hide, and offer their own ambiance. Very cool battlefields if I do say so myself.

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I'm in your multiplayer, destroying your team.

Locally, players can have up to sixteen other bots (something that I disliked Halo lacking). There's multiple modes, too. Deathmatch consists of killcount and team killcount (standard killing fare), capture the flag (which is a blast with thirty-two players online), and territorial gains (a take on the infamous king of the hill modes of other games). Darkops is more strategic. Eradication consists of killing the other team's members before they do the same to you. Onslaught is a mode where a team is forced to defend a base while another team attempts to wipe them all out. Then the roles reverse. Whoever held the base for the longest wins overall. Then there's infection where skeletons try to kill human players, thus infecting them. Finally there's sabotage where the destruction of another team's goods is the main draw.

If you wish to play with other people, you can do so with co-op-- which has two players playing through the single-player missions. Additionally, multiplayer is where the online action is mostly at. The community is still active and for good reason. Unlike other Xbox titles, the multiplayer is so robust and allows for so much customization that there's a lot to go back to. Plus any patch added to the online play actually helps the community and gameplay! Crazy! Are you listening, Epic Games? Take an example for once.

Now to the aesthetics... Graphically the game is quite impressive even two years later. There's beautiful textures and character models which are fairly detailed. Explosions are some to marvel at as well. Sound-wise the voices can be annoying. Killian is the prime example of this. However, the soundtrack, composed by David Clynick is incredible and retains some of the themes from the original Perfect Dark.

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Sniper scopes are just one of the many
functions your weaponry can serve.

Overall, is Perfect Dark Zero a worthy successor to the original Perfect Dark? Well, it certainly isn't better ultimately, but at the same token it isn't horrible like some avenues wrongly play it out to be. The single-player is enjoyable, co-op is rewarding, and multiplayer allows numerous hours to be spent creating games with players all around the world. For only $29.99 USD now, Perfect Dark Zero is a game that most gamers won't regret purchasing. There's a lot to do, explore, and shoot at. Perfect Dark Zero may have missed the mark on being perfect, but it certainly didn't miss the target completely.

[SuperPhillip Says: 9.0/10]

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