Perfect Dark Nintendo 64 Review

Perfect Dark is the second FPS that was developed by Rare that graced the Nintendo 64. Many had hailed GoldenEye which was released over 4 years before as the best First Person Shooter to grace a console ever, so the title had a lot to live up to. It was almost an insurmountable task for Rare. Would they better what was deemed at the time to be already Perfect?

Gameplay

This review is from the perspective of the year 2000; let’s just pretend the last 5 years never happened, just for a while! Now onto the story, Perfect Dark takes place in 2023 (this year stuff could get confusing now!) and tells the story of Joanna Dark who is a relatively new agent working for the Carrington Institute. She has been sent on a mission to infiltrate laborites based inside a multination cooperation know as dataDyne. The game itself runs on an enhanced version of the GoldenEye engine and the player controls Joanna Dark as they play through the 17 levels the game has. Single player in Perfect Dark was made up of three distinct (progressively harder) difficulty levels:

Agent – this is the easiest difficulty setting – high health, more ammo, very effective auto-aiming (if it is used) and few objectives.
Special Agent – this is the mid-range difficulty setting – average health, average ammo and several objectives.
Perfect Agent – this is the toughest difficulty setting – low health, less ammo, less effective auto-aiming (if it is used) and many objectives.

Multiplayer mode or “Combat Simulator” as they call it in the world of Perfect Dark, has six game modes:

Combat – Same as the traditional deathmatch
Capture The CasePerfect Dark’s equivalent of Capture the Flag
Hold The Briefcase – Take a briefcase and survive with it for as long as possible. One point is received for every 30 seconds the case is held. If you are killed, you drop the briefcase and the person who killed you can pick it up.
King of the Hill – One area in the map is “the hill”. Locate that area, and stay there for 20 seconds for 2 points. Once this is done, the hill moves to a new location.
Hacker Central – Somewhere on the map, a data uplink can be found. The objective of Hacker Central is to capture the data uplink and use it to hack a computer system which can also be found on the map. The data uplink is moved to a new location when the player carrying it is killed. When hacking the computer system, one cannot use weapons, and is thus a sitting duck.
Pop a Cap – One player is “the victim”. All other players gain two points for killing the victim. The victim gains a point every minute alive.

Multiplayer contains all the weapons seen in the main game and can be played against real players or fantastic computer simulants which are bots that can either be with or against you. The bots have six levels of difficulty: Meat, Easy, Normal, Hard, Perfect, and Dark. Meats Sims are rather stupid and are an easy kill and would be no challenge for people of any age but DarkSims are vicious and could kill you with one shot from across a very large room. There is also a collection of other Sims who have their own agendas such as JudgeSim, who strives to balance the game by targeting whoever is in the lead and VengeSim, who tries to get revenge on the last player who killed them.

Graphics

These graphics were without doubt pushing the N64 to near its limits (infact the expansion pack is needed to run most of the game features). The game looks very similar to GoldenEye but a more high res version with loads of little extras thrown in to make it look beautiful. Explosion are bigger, faces were more detailed, more polygons were used on levels (the remake of GoldenEye’s “Temple” and “Facility” been the most noticeable in terms of change), better lighting is also used with all light sources able to be turned off (usually with a swift shot from your gun) to make the area darker so you can use a bit of stealth. Levels were also much bigger with far scoping. The framerate took a few hits at times, loads of explosions meant a slight drop in the frames per second. Any of the outside levels could cause a lot of slowdown if a lot of enemies were on screen at the one time. This slowdown could affect your aiming at times but it does not happen a lot so it isn’t that big of a problem

Sound

The music is the only feature that is a slight letdown on Perfect Dark. While GoldenEye had the fantastic Bond music to draw upon, Perfect Dark had to have its own compositions developed. While Rare did give it a good try the results are far from spectacular. The main themes the game has have a Synthy type feel to them and have hints of GoldenEye’s music as it has an espionage type feel at times. There is a nice selection of both high and low tempo music included that compliment most parts of the game but nothing really stands out as being memorable.

Sound effects however are a completely different kettle of fish as they are fantastic. First of all the weapons in the game have a great full sound to them; they sound like they could actually injure someone badly. Next is the voice acting which seems top notch with loads of one-liners from some of the baddies in the game. Joanna with here heavy English accent and all the other main characters sound good as well. All of the games’ sounds are in full Dolby Surround which is great if you have the equipment to take advantage.

Lifespan

Okay, we’re back to 2005 now, and I am still playing this game. Infact before writing this review I just had a multiplayer match with a load of DarkSims. I lost miserably but I sill want to play again. That’s 5 years of loving the game; if that’s not good value for money I really don’t know what is! Multiplayer is full of setting, after an intensive game you get a load of stats to mull over. Infact I have just cheeked and I have fired over a million shots over the course of playing the game, but my accuracy is only at 23% which I will admit is terrible. I am not sure how many hours I have racked up playing the game (is it in the stats?) but I am sure it is over 1000 since I bought it in May 2000 and that is something I cannot say about any other game.

[b]Overall
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Even though it is now a 5 year old game there are still loads of features in Perfect Dark that no other companies have improved on since it released. Has the genre been better? Yes it probably has with the likes of Half Life 2 and Halo 1 and 2 offering a better overall experience but I personally believe the likes of Perfect Dark will be remembered more fondly years down the line for now. If you go back to Perfect Dark now and play some part of it you will find something new to do, something you did not do the last time you played it whether it be 5 weeks or 5 years ago. It is without doubt that the only people that can improve on the original Perfect Dark are the original makers of the game and speaking of which that 5 year wait since the original’s release have not been wasted. In two short months the FPS might have a new Queen to rule over it again.

9.3 out of 10

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