With the advent of this generation of consoles we have seen the rise in prominence of digital downloads thanks to Xbox Live Arcade, Playstation Network, and the Wii Store. Not only are we seeing the release of really great original titles like Shadow Complex but we are also treated to classic titles from older consoles that, until now, have been unavailable without delving into the depths of your local used games store, or taking a chance on ebay. Arguably one of the most demanded titles would be the N64 classic Goldeneye, a game that is renowned for popularising first person shooters on home consoles thanks to it’s spectacular four player deathmatch mode.
Unfortunately the legal wranglings to get Goldeneye on current consoles are too gargantuan, not only would Microsoft have to broker a deal with Activision, the current Bond licence owners, but they would have to deal with Nintendo too. Thus, Microsoft offer us the next best thing: Perfect Dark. When Perfect Dark was released on the N64 it was considered to be the spiritual sequel to Goldeneye, with the same fantastic multiplayer mode including a number of Goldeneye’s best levels and fantastically imaginative new weapons, such as an alien riffle that can shoot enemies through walls.
This re-release of Perfect Dark has been given an HD make over. Although the graphics are recognisably of the N64 era, they do look very smooth and polished. When Perfect Dark was originally released, a big feature of the game was that every character in the game had a real person’s face. With this being an HD remake, the character faces have been reworked to look clearer than ever. Joanna Dark in particular has had a lot of attention paid to her face.
In terms of controls, the game has three pre-set schemes. These are the original controls transferred across to the 360 controller, Call of Duty style controls, and Halo style controls. The ability to adjust the controls according to your shooting game of preference is a good feature, and it would be nice if more shooters took this approach.
As a way of compensating the gamers for their inability to broker a deal that would see Goldeneye being released on Xbox Live Arcade, this version of Perfect Dark has all of the weapons from Goldeneye available to be used in multiplayer. In essence, the multiplayer is exactly the same as Goldeneye’s, but with new weapons and levels. While the original Perfect Dark only had split screen multiplayer, this version has online multiplayer as well. Offering games with up to 8 players, as well as 4 player split screen, the multiplayer is as great now as it was back when it was on the N64. The game features a generous auto-aim feature, thanks mostly to particularly sensitive aiming and the extreme speed that the characters move at.
The guns themselves have two modes of fire. Some guns’ secondary fire mode makes the gun in to a melee weapon, while others can be turned in to proximity mines, or sentry turrets. Even now Perfect Dark has some of the most imaginative guns of any game; the only contender in my eyes is the Ratchet and Clank series. The Alien guns in particular have some very innovative features, such as the ability to see and shoot through walls.
Whilst arguably the multiplayer is the biggest selling point of this game, there are a ton of other features. As well as a shooting range, in which you can try out every weapon in the game, there are combat simulation challenges; essentially multiplayer games against computer controlled opponents with specific goals, and the story mode. Story mode can be played in single player and two player co-op, as well as the innovative Counter Operative mode. The Counter Ops mode has the second player take on the role of the nameless enemies in the story mode. Your objective is simple, kill Joanna Dark and stop her from achieving her goals. While the guards have a very small health bar, if you are killed you can respawn without being penalised indefinitely. Joanna, however, only has one life, and if you are successful in killing her then you win.
The story mode itself is a bit uneven by today’s standards. In particular the levels, while being fairly small, are designed in such a way that it is rarely clear where exactly you need to be going. There are no radars, map markers, or guidelines of any sort in the story mode, which only really highlights how much modern games hold our hands and guide us. There are over a dozen levels in the Story mode, but for the most part they can be completed in less than five minutes on the default difficulty. Playing each mission on the higher difficulties not only makes you more vulnerable to bullets, but adds new mission objectives, which serves to increase the length of each mission.
As good as the game looks and as fun as the multiplayer is, the game still has a very old fashioned feel to it. The free aiming is too sensitive, which makes sniper sections of the game more challenging. Having said that, the same could be said of Perfect Dark when it first came out, and you can always adjust the sensitivity in the menu.
Graphics: 4/5 The HD makeover gives a very clear, smooth look. They still manage to maintain that typical N64 look that the original had.
Sound: 3/5 Voice acting is, for the most part, fairly generic. The music has a very recognisable Sci-fi sound to it that is reminiscent of John Carpenter movies.
Gameplay: 5/5 The addition of online multiplayer is fantastic. Anyone that spent hours and hours playing Goldeneye on the sofa with their friends will love it. The inclusion of Co-Op in the story mode is a welcome feature, and the Counter-Operative feature, where the second player must try and stop the first player from finishing their objectives, is inspired.
Longevity: 5/5 The Story mode is about a dozen levels long, and can be played through on three separate difficulties, each with their own unique objectives. The real meat of the game comes in the form of the multiplayer, both online and splitscreen.
Overall: 4 Proximity Mines out 5. While Perfect Dark does feel like an old game, with archaic level design and slightly wonky controls, the inclusion of all the multiplayer modes, including the co-op/counter-operative modes, makes Perfect Dark a wonderfully nostalgic experience for anyone that sat up all night shooting their friends on Goldeneye. Younger players may well be less impressed with this game thanks to it being so old fashioned, but considering the low price of 800 Microsoft Points (about £6.50) it is hard not to recommend Perfect Dark to all 360 owners, both young and old.