Perfect Dark Zero Xbox 360 Review

Attention all gamers, whip out your wallets, bulge out your eyes, and crane your necks eagerly in the direction of the nearest retailer. Rare is back and ready to impress, giving you not one, but two tastes of excellence for the next generation of consoles (those titles being Kameo: Elements of Power and Perfect Dark Zero). As many already know, Goldeneye and Perfect Dark were two of the many Rareware games to hit outstanding sales and attention on the Nintendo 64. During the last generation, we’ve had an absence of quality Rare titles as Rare had gone through a dry spell since the developer was sold to Microsoft and only released a minimal amount of titles on consoles. However, with the coming of a new generation and two launch titles for the Xbox 360 and two unnamed IP’s announced to be in development, Rare seems to be back and is once more climbing the mountain of glory starting the generation strongly with a sequel to one of their most memorable games.

Gameplay

WOW. What an unexpected surprise – the game is smooth as can be without lag in my experience with the title. The fact that this game is able to support 32 players with online/LAN connectivity at launch can only be promising for future Xbox 360 titles (it should be noted that the number will increase to 50-64 in due time with an update for online players). The game begins with three initial single player difficulties – Agent, Secret Agent, and Perfect Agent. Agent is generally for all of the novices out there wanting to get a feel for the game. Secret Agent is your moderate setting to play on, while Perfect agent is the one that will ultimately challenge your skills as a gunwoman until you complete that entire difficulty thus unlocking the Dark Agent mode which will ultimately dwarf your efforts.

In addition to many other new features that Rare has pumped PDZ up with like a decent reload time, there is also the inclusion of a common FPS feature – co-op play. Co-op is generally the same as single player although you should expect some things to be different like the number of enemies in levels. Co-op is available on your console, in LAN, and online which allows for people to play together in a multitude of circumstances. When playing in the co-op mode, each player will be given specific objectives to complete throughout Perfect Dark Zero’s levels.

One thing that you will ultimately notice is that the AI of units in all single player/co-op difficulties will be pretty freakin’ dumb. Whether they be enemy units or units you’re escorting/allied with, they’re certainly not the Einsteins of the AI universe. You’ll probably be able to use some of the tactics you used in the original on them ala letting them chase you then killing them from behind.

What I found to be quite surprising is that the game offered two types of control – the traditional dual analogue that is sported by many first-person shooters (I was disappointed until I discovered the second option) and the classic one-stick analogue that we had in the Goldeneye and Perfect Dark games. It was hard to choose which to use as both have their benefits. I’ve never controlled a character in a FPS so smoothly before with such a smooth animation.

There is so much that is new in the game it is unbelievable – an easy crouch system, secondary weapon modes, rolling, stealth, and more. What I found most compelling was the secondary weapon mode as it was different for each weapon – silencers, decoy holograms, and even a secondary move where our heroine, Joanna, removes the gun cartridge, throws it, and lets it explode by the enemy dealing a hefty share of damage in the process. Amid beating down opponents like we did in Halo, shooting while flying in a jetpack, rolling to avoid live gunfire, dual-wielding a multitude of weapons, and crouching to snipe off her opponents, really all Joanna Dark can’t do is jump. I found it to be quite odd as she’s able to achieve so many feats other than possess the ability to simply lift both feet from the ground at once – oh, and she doesn’t have kung-fu grip either, but we can forgive Rare on that one!

Graphics

Anyone can easily tell by looking at some of the more recent widescreen-enabled PDZ screenshots that this is definitely a next generation title, however playing the game is a much more invigorating experience than taunting yourself with mere images of Rare’s full-chested Joanna Dark. As I mentioned nearer the beginning of the review, I experienced no lag while playing, however I did not participate in any enormous 50 player online matches. I would assume that the performance in those cases will be determined on how good your broadband connection is and how many people are being displayed on your screen. The game is HD compatible for all those graphics-whores out there, runs at 60Hz, and is also available in widescreen.

Camera angles in the FPS genre? There’s more than one in PDZ. In addition to the obvious first-person perspective adopted by most shooters, the player is now able to shoot around corners from the third-person perspective at enemies, vehicles, cameras, or whatever else you feel needs to die or explode. We’ve seen successful transitions from first-to-third person work in the past with games like Metroid Prime and although the transition isn’t quite as smooth, it is barely noticeable when you’re getting ready to shoot the approaching goon in the head or blast away the nearby security cameras. You also enter the third person mode when rolling, but that is a very short time frame.

As for the actual graphics of the game itself – they vary quite immensely. Some effects will have you wanting to blow some more junk up, and others will disappoint you enough that you’ll go find something to explode to make up for the lame effect. As you can probably guess, explosions are one of Perfect Dark Zero’s greatest features as I found them to be quite realistic – or at least what I imagine an explosion should look like!

As with many games – an odd feature too – everything in the future is shiny. From dirty metal to southern ruins, the future is literally shining and gladly it’s not affecting Ms. Dark’s vision. While in some areas such as metal/machinery-based levels, this effect is perfect in creating a futuristic metal touch to the game, others it will seem a very odd effect to have like on that vehicle you just exploded, showering dust everywhere. What I did first in multiplayer while learning the controls was go shatter some glass and boy was that disappointing – had I not known better I’d have thought I was staring at a series of poorly-drawn falling icicles.

Sound

BAM. BAM. BAM. It’s either the sound of Peter Griffin or the variety of guns in Perfect Dark Zero. I give thee the latter of the two. Generally a great feeling in shooter games, the guns are incredibly loud and obnoxious beasts that will immerse you in the game. The louder the better as it takes away from the background music which can sometimes come into effect at the most inappropriate of times although in most cases it fits quite well with what is going on. A nice techno song to act as a filler in many places, and a hard rock tune bellowing as you’re hammering down enemies with a variety of guns.

Voices in the game are pretty clear, although sometimes you’ll be firing at an enemy and the sheer noise of the gun itself will drown out the person talking to you which can get annoying if it’s something you want to hear. People will usually speak after the action dies down though, so it’s not all bad. Clarity in these sequences and during mediocre cut scenes is important as the voices aren’t deafening but emit an unmistakable wave of corniness. You should also beware the multiplayer announcer – or just ignore him seeing as he won’t go away.

Lifespan

Seeing as the game spans a mere total of thirteen (some are fairly long) levels and has three initial difficulty settings, the game should take between 12-14 hours depending upon how quickly you’ve progressed, how talented you are at pulling our heroine’s fingers against a trigger, and how many of the optional objectives you’ve chosen to complete. While there are optional ones, those are more or less something to do in a fairly uninteresting storyline and should bring about some sort of a sense of completion.

Like many other FPS titles with an expansive multiplayer, Perfect Dark Zero also enables a lot of choices in custom play with a decent selection of weapons and game types. You can set bots to play like the original and can set nearly everything custom. You should be able to play as much of this title as you did the original if not more due to an expansive online mode which will pit you against people all over the world via Microsoft’s upgraded Xbox Live service. However, with only six multiplayer maps available (there are three variations of each), you may begin to get tired of the game quickly although I wouldn’t be surprised if Rare releases a few additional maps online in coming months as they were probably cut back on to allow the title to make launch.

Overall

Rare is definitely back and packing heat with their titles, and as much as Perfect Dark has proven this, more was expected of the highly acclaimed developer. Don’t get me wrong – the game set up a great atmosphere with great multiplayer replay value, although it seemed as though it was trying to measure up to Halo a bit too much while trying to retain what made its renowned predecessor almost holy. While the game could have had a better storyline (again, it was expected of Rare to improve on this), the game has a very decent multiplayer feature (something the fans adore) with stunning sound effects and decent visuals considering it is a launch title. Perfect Dark fans rejoice, you have a worthy sequel to your beloved game of days past – just don’t let any magpies watch you play.

8.7 out of 10

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