Perfect Dark Zero

November 8, 2006

It seems as though Rare tripped over a major rock when the last generation of consoles came into being. Compared to its golden days of [i]Goldeneye 007[/i], [i]Perfect Dark[/i], and other hits on the Nintendo 64, Rare’s offerings to the Gamecube and then the Xbox have been less than stellar. With Microsoft’s newest console on the market, Rare has tried to turn around its sleeper period by reviving Joanna Dark in [i]Perfect Dark Zero[/i], and it is probably one of their best efforts since the N64 died. Even so, that doesn’t stop the game from being a bit under whelming as a whole. The online multiplayer and co-op modes do offer some good fun, but [i]Perfect Dark Zero[/i] just doesn’t feel quite like the prequel-sequel to one of the N64’s greatest offerings.

[i]Perfect Dark Zero[/i] chronicles the events that occur three years before Perfect Dark, and features Joanna Dark’s transition from working as a mercenary-for-hire into becoming a member of the Carrington Institute. Strangely enough, Joanna has not only lost her British accent, but has grown wild, fiery red hair as well. At any rate, you’ll be taken through 14 missions in a number of different environments ranging from a nightclub to the jungles of South America. Similarly to its predecessor, the game also gives multiple different difficulty levels of Agent, Secret Agent, and Double Agent, each offering a fairly good challenge.

Unfortunately, the single player experience is a bit lackluster, starting with the storyline. There isn’t a whole lot that’s compelling about the storyline, and it seems to be tailored to people who have played the original Perfect Dark, which might leave some out in the cold with references to the original. General mission settings are explained in the mission briefing and subsequently tear at the threshold of boredom when combined with the poor voice acting, and cutscenes don’t really add a whole lot other than establishing the start and end of the level. Mentioning the voice acting again, they only manage to up the cheese-factor and make the story that much more boring.

Other problems also hinder the game play aspects of single player mode. Namely, the game doesn’t seem to offer up any advancement from Perfect Dark in terms of A.I. intelligence. It’s not so much that the A.I. is so dumb that they can’t shoot, because they do prove to be quite a threat, especially at higher difficulties. The problem lies in that enemies will see you, try to shoot you, and just chase after you. There are no real tactics used by the enemy, and they seem to just run around randomly while shooting at you, hiding behind the closest thing they can find (even if their melon is in full view of your crosshair).

The biggest problem with the campaign mode is simply that it lacks any real originality or any new improvements over old formulas. [i]Perfect Dark Zero[/i] seems to play almost identically to it predecessor, and it is so tedious that by the time you’ve made it to the last couple levels, you might not want to finish the game, much less go back to play the other difficulty levels. Probably one of the few high points for the single player game go to the co-op mode (which, ironically, isn’t even ‘single’ player), which is much better than trudging through the campaign by yourself. Simply put, if you can’t find someone to co-op with, you might just want to forego the campaign entirely.

To say that [i]Perfect Dark Zero[/i] doesn’t add some new things into the game isn’t entirely true. One of the most prominent features is using cover to hide from enemy fire while still having access to your crosshair. This is actually a very helpful feature and helps the game convey a small bit of third-person shooter into itself, although sometimes cover can be difficult to manage. The guns also give you secondary options, and while some simply add silencers, others have some pretty cool options like hologram projectors, enemy scanners, and remote-controlled rockets, making the firearms in the game pretty fun to use. These two things don’t help the single player any more, but they were fortunate enough to make it into the vastly superior multiplayer modes.

While the single player element of [i]Perfect Dark Zero[/i] isn’t exactly as interesting as it could have been, the multiplayer options provide a huge number of possibilities and fun. You’re given the standard split-screen multiplayer as well as system link options, but the online multiplayer is where the game shines the most. The seemingly endless game customization options will probably make your head spin, and there are room for up to 15 people on smaller maps and 32 players on larger maps, plus bots. While there aren’t a whole lot of maps to play, the level design on most levels is pretty good, making for some enjoyable deathmatch, team deathmatch and capture the flag games.

Deathmatch options are well and good, but the DarkOps game modes are where [i]Perfect Dark Zero[/i]’s multiplayer is really at. The best way to describe DarkOps matches are to relate them to [i]Counterstrike[/i]. You’re given a set amount of credits that can be used to purchase armor and guns, getting more credits as you kill and complete objectives. Then you have the bevy of fairly interesting game types, such as infection, where one group of skeletons try to infect the other humans players, and sabotage, which has one team defending their property while the other attacks, among others. Impressively, no matter what you’re plying, the online multiplayer is pretty seamless and never really seems to stutter to game-quitting paradigms.

Voice acting was already berated earlier, but excluding that blemish, the sounds featured in the game are top notch. Every gun has a unique and impressive sound to them, and other sounds come across well too. [i]Perfect Dark Zero[/i] is also graphically impressive, although they seemed to have gotten a bit too happy with the futuristic setting and placed an emphasis on shininess. While it doesn’t show up in single player too much, however, in multiplayer you’ll no doubt witness some pretty wild glitches alongside the ragdoll physics, but aside from those, everything seems to hold up both online and off.

Taking a look at the Xbox Live achievements, the majority of them are aimed towards the online multiplayer, which makes a lot of sense. It can be a bit of a pain to get through the single player, much less play through it again on another difficulty. Things are saved by the multiplayer, thankfully, which actually makes it out to be one of the most enjoyable Xbox Live games available. If you can’t get online with the game, or can’t find anybody to play through the co-op, though, [i]Perfect Dark Zero[/i] may end up being a game you wish you forgot.

Score: 2/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.